Career Day Keynote: Ignorance Can Be Awesome

As soon as Melanie Lozier Henke ’89 said she was going to tell the assembled students, faculty, alumnae, and trustees why being ignorant can be awesome, she had their attention. When she added that she would give them the secret ingredient to being successful, they were rapt.
Henke, the Senior Vice President of Operations for Freeman, the world’s leading brand experience company, kicked off Foxcroft’s fourth annual Alumnae Career Day Friday with a keynote speech at Morning Meeting. A $3 billion, family-owned company, Freeman has blazed new trails in creating “live experiences” instead of simply producing conventions and tradeshows.
Judging from the cool videos Henke shared, these are complicated, elaborate events. Henke’s message, on the other hand, turned out to be very simple — but nonetheless powerful. The key to success, says Henke, is being able to successfully work with people, all people, and the secret to being able to do that . . .
“People pay tons of money to go to classes and get coaches to learn how to be successful. They spend a lifetime looking for the success ingredient . . . and you already know it!” she said. “It’s right there in your Foxcroft values: respect, integrity, kindness, and service.
“These values 100 percent set you up to work with people. No matter what job you have, at what level, at any time in your life, follow these values. You are going to be successful,” said Henke. “Live your values — respect, integrity, kindness, and service. They are not just for your Foxcroft life. They will carry you through your entire life.”
Speaking about entire lives, according to Henke, she went through most of it oblivious to the fact that, as she ascended the ladder of success at Freeman, she was often the only woman in the room and the ramifications of that. Here’s where Henke claimed ignorance was awesome.
“I was totally ignorant that being a woman could have been a disadvantage to me. It truly never crossed my mind. After all, I am a Foxcroft girl and we can do anything we want,” Henke said, noting that neither her parents nor her early mentors at Freeman treated her as if being a woman would affect her options or success.
Although her eyes were opened in recent years, both in personal, professional conversations and by learning about trailblazers like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Henke says, “What’s it like to be a woman in a man’s world? I don’t think about it.
“I am a woman and it’s my world.”
Melanie’s talk kicked off a morning full of stimulating sessions for students conducted by alumnae who graciously gave their time to share personal stories about their professional paths in a dozen breakout sessions. These women, representing classes ranging from 1969 to 2014, hail from a broad variety of fields, including aviation, marketing, fashion merchandising, conflict resolution, art, geology, education, social work, and counterintelligence. They work at Amazon, Nordstrom’s, Marathon Oil, Americorps VISTA, the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program, and the FBI, and more.
Students attended two sessions and, no doubt, learned a lot about the many, many possibilities for life after Foxcroft. Many thanks to remarkable women who gave their time and to the Office of Institutional Advancement, especially Katherine Murphy, for organizing the event.
An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.