Women’s History Month: CSUF Entrepreneur-In-Residence Recounts ‘Being Under Construction’

By Susan Gill Vardon The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Charlesetta Medina is helping to create the "Titan Women Collective" which aims to mentor and develop the next generation of Orange County businesswomen. She recently shared some pretty interesting thoughts on "failure" at a women's history month event.

The Orange County Register

For Charlesetta Medina, the road to success and leadership was paved with uncertainty, frustration and even failure.

"I learned that some of your best lessons come wrapped in sandpaper," Medina, small business specialist and entrepreneur-in-residence at Cal State Fullerton University's Center for Entrepreneurship, told the audience at the Women's History Month President's Reception at the Fullerton Arboretum March 13.

In her keynote speech on "Women's Leadership: Agency and Authenticity," Medina shared the ways she overcame her obstacles -- learning from and moving through her failures and stretching outside her comfort zone.

She called it "being under construction."

Campus and community members gather for the celebration of Women's History Month.

When Medina transferred to Cal State Fullerton in 2007, she was a single mother of three children, ages 18, 15 and 11. She had no idea what she wanted to major in, she told the audience, but was drawn to business. She wasn't interested in accounting or general management but liked what she read about the entrepreneurship program.

Medina went to school full-time while working two part-time jobs and building a direct sales business.

"Now, I wish I could describe my academic performance as stellar, but the reality was, it was just average," she said.

Things took a bad turn when she was required to take two statistics courses, she said. She failed the first course twice and finally passed the third time. But then she had the second class to get through.

Her GPA fell below 2.0 and she was academically disqualified.

"What concerned me most about failing didn't have to do with the position I was in," Medina said. "It mostly had to do with being an example to my three children. How do you share that kind of news?

"Failing didn't feel good but you know what, it wasn't fatal. My family became the reason for doing what seemed impossible. I found the money to enroll in open university, raised my GPA and was reinstated."

She graduated in 2010 with a bachelor's in business administration-entrepreneurship. In her current role at CSUF she works with students to encourage them to overcome their own disappointments and obstacles.

She has also embarked on a new opportunity = creating the Titan Women Collective, which aims to mentor and develop the next generation of Orange County businesswomen.

Open to junior- and senior-level students at the university's Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, the program provides access to Southern California women business executives and support in developing such skills as negotiation abilities and self-advocacy.

"These students are sharing how excited they are to receive this help and mentorship," Medina said. "And what if I let my discomfort of not having any formal experience in developing a program get in the way? Where would we be?"

"I want to encourage you to get excited about saying yes to things you haven't even tried," she said told the audience. "Things that you may not have even thought you could do. We have the capacity to figure it out, we really do."

Following Medina's talk, Associated Students, Inc. President and CEO Ana Aldazabal led a fireside chat on women's leadership with Tess Buckley, part-time lecturer in communications, and Patricia Palleschi, founder and president of The Executive Agency.

The reception was hosted by President Fram Virjee and his wife, Julie, in partnership with the WoMen's and Adult Reentry Center.

In his welcome remarks, Virjee touted the Titan legacy of progress for women, saying that CSUF's record of female leadership is part of the history-making changes occurring across the nation.

CSUF ranks first in the California State University system for the number of women graduates, he said. In addition, all ASI officers are women, and women hold half of the seats on the university's executive team and two-thirds of the deanships.

"Our 'broken glass ceiling' reverberates beyond our campus," Virjee said. "We are a model for the rest of the CSU, and for the rest of the state and the nation."

Rosalina Camacho, coordinator of women and gender initiatives for the WoMen's Center, closed the event with her announcement of the annual HER(d) awards to recognize campus women and allies who have shown exemplary leadership in their work, while demonstrating confidence, patience, compassion and wisdom.

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