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Perspective....A View From Inside the 205

Judy Gustafson and Chris Magee, College and Career Readiness Academy Coaches at Jefferson and Guilford High Schools.
February 19, 2018 | 11:30 AM CST

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January 2018 RNPW Newsletter Print

President's Message

Happy New Year, friends!


By now, you have bid farewell to 2017 and all that it held, whether good or bad, and welcomed in 2018 with all of its unknowns and possibilities. While I am not one for making New Year’s Resolutions, I do try each year to identify two or three ways I would like to grow, either personally or professionally. Somehow, this feels different to me than a resolution although the difference is only a subtle one. Instead of feeling like a failure when I don’t keep a resolution, I recognize that I’m on a journey of growing in these areas, and any progress is better than where I was before I began.


Entering 2018, the phrases that have struck me are these: to let go of the past, connect with myself, to wake up, and to be present.


Letting go of the past taps into not holding onto grudges for offenses large or small. It’s forgiving those who have hurt me and seeing them as so much more than simply the ones who inflicted pain. It’s letting go of the cynicism that forces me to put people into little boxes based on their past behaviors and see them through fresh lenses of grace. It’s letting go of past successes and failures and not allowing either one to determine who I am today. I can carry the lessons learned from the past into the future while letting go of the past itself.


To connect with myself taps into the reality that as a professional woman, leader, mother, wife, daughter and friend, I can go for long periods of time connecting with everyone else other than myself. In my attempt to juggle everything, do it all well and try to make it look easy (why do we do that?), I can lose myself in the process. My own neglected soul often needs attention, care, refreshment, and I can only do that as I connect with myself and ask myself honest questions about how I am truly doing and what I most need to thrive. I must connect with myself because I can’t give to others what I don’t have.


To wake up encourages me not to live on auto-pilot, not go through the motions, not just try to get through each week to get to the weekend. To wake up means that I live my days full of wonder and gratitude, that I see the beauty and the brokenness all around me, and I am awake enough to respond to what I see. Living life awake means I don’t try to deny or numb the painful parts because I know that if I numb myself from pain, I also numb myself from joy.


To be present once again encourages me to not live in the past, but mostly not to live in the fear of tomorrow’s unknowns. I have a tendency to always be out ahead planning, forecasting, strategizing, envisioning… and while this can be a gift, it can also rob me of ever enjoying the present moment. Somehow, I am seeking to find that tension between setting goals and looking forward and still holding the sacredness of this present moment. Maybe this will be the year I grow more in this area.


How are you hoping to grow and develop in 2018? I wish I could sit down over coffee and hear each of your ideas, goals, and dreams for the next year. If you join us at the January luncheon, perhaps you could meet someone new around your table and you all could share how you are hoping to grow in the next twelve months. We are so excited to hear from our guest speaker, Linnea Kooistra, an inspiring dairy farmer using innovation and creativity to sustainably collect and distribute milk from their farm. It is our hope that her perspective will broaden yours as well.


Also, be sure to mark your calendars for the Professional Development Workshop on April 11. This will be a fantastic opportunity to grow and learn in your own leadership, whatever context that takes. You will find more details in the newsletter, but please plan to join us!


Okay, Rockford Network of Professional Women: Here’s to a great 2018 as we let go, connect, wake up and be present!



Tiffany Staman



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Welcome New Members

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS in December 2017

Monica Krysztopa

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Member News

Rockford Ice Hogs - Rockford Peaches Night
The Rockford Ice Hogs is hosting Rockford Peaches Night on Friday, January 26, 2018 at 7 pm. In the spirit of celebrating the women of the Rockford Peaches, Rockford Network of Professional Women will be one of eight women’s groups recognized that evening. Tickets are $15 and $5 of each ticket will benefit the International Women’s Baseball Center. If you are interested in attending, you can purchase tickets on line at, and you can select Rockford Network as your group of choice for seating. You may also purchase tickets by calling Curtis Tousant at 815.847.6387.


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Website Tips and Tricks

Important guidelines and ideas to get the most

out of your membership and RNPW meetings:


  •          RNPW fiscal year is July – June and membership benefits are during this timeframe for the annual membership dues.


  •          Member-only online directory is real-time and updated as soon as new members have joined and paid.  This directory can be searched by name, company, and business category.  This is a member-only viewable database.


  •          All information regarding RNPW is viewable on the website of including meetings/events, new members, monthly newsletter, board members’ information (all board members are volunteer-based), and member login section, scholarship information, and much more.


  •          Members may submit concise company events/press release information on website for “Member News” and the monthly newsletter at no charge. 


  •          For member-only advertising in the newsletter and website, contact the Communications Chairperson for fees and guidelines.


  •          An annual survey is typically conducted in spring to gather members’ feedback on programming and other details.  If you have suggestions or concerns prior to the survey, please email


  •          Meetings are the third Monday of each month (September – June) from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm.  The September meeting is a kick-off reception and the December meeting is a holiday party.  Both September and December may have different dates and may be evening events instead of luncheons.


  •          It is very important that you RSVP by Thursday prior to the meeting.  Register online at and payment can be made online. Please view cancel policy on website.


  •          Members only are able to provide literature, hand-outs, and company information at the designated tables near the entrance to the meeting room at the monthly meetings.


  •          Before lunch is served, please network and meet many of the amazing women in attendance.  Exchange business cards, learn something new about that person, share information on upcoming events and board positions, etc.  Make a goal to meet new faces each time you come to a meeting and watch those connections grow!


  •          Attendees from same company are encouraged to sit at different tables instead of all together so that a broader integration of company representation is throughout the room. 


  •          After everyone is seated with their lunch, a microphone will be passed around for introductions.  Due to time limitations, introductions are to consist of your only your name, title, and company.  Any announcements or promos can be placed on the designated tables inside the entrance to meeting room.


  •          Members are encouraged to bring guests.  Remember to register them in advance or show them where to register online.  Guests may attend 2 meetings before deciding whether or not to join RNPW.



  •          A Professional Development Workshop is typically planned for April and is normally a 3 – 4 hour more in-depth presentation of a relevant topic.  This event is the main source for our scholarship fund.  Members are encouraged to attend and invite guests to this worthwhile program as well as share our organization with prospective new members.



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Member Spotlight

Brandy Lavender


RNPW:  Tell us about your business and what role you play in its success. 

BL:  Gallagher is an Insurance, Risk Management, and Consulting brokerage. Our services are more than just placing coverage and selecting plans. We provide employers with the tools and resources to help them go beyond their business goals. Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. is the only insurance broker on the Ethisphere Institute’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies.

As an account executive for Gallagher, I am responsible for new business development. I serve as team lead in employee benefits consulting, strategy development and client services. I also assist employers with the development of strategic total rewards deliverables, establish financial modeling, cultivate carrier relationships and program negotiations.


RNPW:  What are the other things outside of work that bring you joy?

BL:  Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and volunteering.


RNPW:  What things do you like best about RNPW?

BL:  RNPW has afforded me the opportunity to meet many new women in our business community.


RNPW:  What one thing do you like best about Rockford?

BL:  My favorite thing about Rockford is our strong support of local businesses and non-profit organizations.


RNPW:  What would you say to others who are considering joining?

BL:  I would tell them that RNPW is a great network to join. The women and community members that you meet, will empower you, enlighten you, and help you grow both your professional and personal network.


RNPW:  Do you have a favorite quote or saying that you would like to share?

BL:  The Gallagher Way, Shared Value #23 – We are a warm, close Company. This is a strength – not a weakness.

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New Year's Resolutions:  Good or Bad?


No matter which camp you're in, starting a new year causes reflection and anticipation.  It's a time when you get start over, forget (and forgive) failures of the last year and make a plan for a better future.  If you're like me, you've resolved a number of things over the years:


2014 - Make more money and lose 25 pounds

2015 - Spend less money and exercise more

2016 - Save more money and fit into a size smaller pants

2017 - Make better use of the money I have and vow not to gain any more weight.  (this may have been me giving up)

In 2018, I've promised that I will make the best use of my time and try to plan for a healthier and more profitable future.  I want to work on letting go of work stress and simplifying life (though to be honest, I tried this in 2015 to no avail).  I think with "experience" comes wisdom and I know that most New Year's resolutions are not kept but as Tiffany said, it's always good to reflect on improvements that we can make.  


Share your 2018 goals in an upcoming inspiration section.  It may just be the catalyst for someone else to be inspired!




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Calendar of Events

Register for the January Meeting:


Perspective....A View from the Farm

January 15, 2018
11:30 AM CST - 1:00 PM CST

Forest Hills Country Club
5135 Forest Hills Road
Rockford , IL 61107
Venue website

Linnea Kooistra is the first woman to receive the Master Farmer award in IL by the Prairie Farmer magazine in 2011





Professional Development Workshop


Mark your calendars for the morning of April 11, 2018 for the 5th Annual Rockford Network Professional Development Workshop, where speaker and author Sharon Swing will speak on “A Leader’s Story Matters, and… We Are All Leaders.”


Some women may not see themselves as a “leader,” but every single one of us influences someone in our life, which makes us a leader (whether we like that title or not!). Our story influences what we do and how we do it. Where did you learn what leadership looks like? What did your “tribe” hand you in understanding leadership? What have you chosen to keep, and what have you chosen to leave behind? Join us as we hit the pause button of our busy lives and practice the critical skill of self-reflection and listening to better understand your own story, how it shaped you, and how it can truly influence others.


The proceeds from this event provide a generous scholarship for a recipient chosen and awarded by Rockford Network. This “non-traditional” student is a woman who is beginning or continuing her education later in life, while often juggling work, family, volunteer commitments and college classes.


This year, we are also very excited to announce we will be hosting 50 young high school women from nine area school districts at the workshop. Each high school young woman will have the opportunity to learn how their story matters, network with professional women, and continue being mentored throughout the year by an Rockford Network Member.  


We invite you to join us, as a portion of your ticket will strengthen this community and invest in our future!  Register today:  Register for Professional Development Workshop

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