Women on Water Conference



My name is Valerie Carter and I am a 2nd year Navigation cadet. I had the tremendous opportunity to be selected by Georgian College to attend the 2017 Women on the Water Conference in Traverse City Michigan, held at the Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy. I want to personally thank the Marine Club for kindly sponsoring myself and 1st year engineering cadet, Ashley Traeger to attend this extraordinary conference.

The conference began on Thursday, October 26. Excitedly, Ashley and I left Owen Sound in our rental car, a Mitsubishi Lancer at 0700 for what Google maps said would be a 7-hour 30-minute drive. After a seemingly longer drive then we expected, we arrived at our destination shortly before 1700. We were pleasantly greeted by cadets attending Northwestern College Marine Academy and given a very generous gift bag, and linens for our beds. We had the unique opportunity to be allowed to stay on the T/S State of Michigan, the former U/S Navy and Coast Guard vessel “Persistent” that is now being used as one of 6 US state maritime academies ships to train future officers.

At 1700-1800 we were invited to attend a networking / social hour. This was a great chance for us to meet the attendees of the Women on Water Conference. The majority of the women present were cadets from the 7 US Maritime Academies, many previous graduates that where now working in the industry, along with sponsors, industry and government officials.

A very elegant dinner was served at 1800 and a welcome address was given by Superintendent RADM Gerard Achenbach ED. D. welcoming all to this exciting conference. A very pound moment for me was when he announced the attendance of the cadets from Georgian College, and that it was the first time that a Canadian Maritime Academy had attended the Women on Water Conference. It was a very special honour to me to know that I was representing at this conference:

  • Canada
  • Ontario
  • Owen Sound
  • Georgian College
  • The Marine Club
  • ISMA
  • Canadian Branch of Women on the Water and
  • The Canadian Marine Industry.

After dinner, the evening was just getting started, as Judy Druskovich, the woman mainly responsible for planning this year’s conference had organized nightly networking activates. The first being a walk to lovely downtown Traverse City to their one screen movie theater to watch Blade Runner. After the movie, we returned to the T/S SOM to get some rest.

Friday started off with an early morning yoga class, followed by a delicious breakfast at 0800.   At 0915 was the start of the presentations and seminars. We had 4 seminars/presentations that we could choose to attend; Labour Relations and Union Halls, Non-traditional Shipping Opportunities, Lake Companies or Ocean Companies.   I chose to attend Non-Traditional Shipping Opportunities. The panel was made up of five women, two of whom where speaking about careers as pilots on the lakes and oceans and I got to meet the first ever women pilot! Another woman spoke about many different and unique careers with NOAA. I was a bit disappointed that the next speaker who talked about tugs and barges was included in the Non-Traditional Shipping Opportunities, as I do not feel that it is Non-Traditional choice. That being said it was a very informative talk and I admire this woman greatly. Last but not least was a delightful presentation given by a former Georgian College graduate, Amanda Gibson, who is now working with Hornblower in Niagara Falls. She personally sought me out before the presentation just to say Hi!

During a short break, we were able to do more networking and had the opportunity to talk to many of the sponsors from the great lakes shipping companies. It was great to be able to ask questions and find out more about some of these companies as well as get some great swag. The second round of seminars began at 1030, and again we had the choice of attending talks on Ocean Companies, Lake Companies, Maritime Academy Graduates or Labour Relations and Union Halls. I decided I wanted to hear more about the companies that operate on the Great Lakes. The panel consisted of representatives from Interlake Steamship Company, American Steamship Company, Great Lakes Fleet, Polar Tankers and Grand River Navigation. While these are American companies some of them do have Canadian counterparts. I especially enjoyed this talk as many of the representatives gave practical advice as to what they were looking for when they interviewed and hired cadets.

After a very informative morning, a very healthy and delicious lunch was served. All the meals where prepared by the Culinary students attending Northwestern Michigan College and generously supplied by the many Great Lake sponsors attending the conference. A talk on current maritime affairs, addressing the potential mariner shortage was given while we ate.

At 1315 everyone was invited to hear Connie Klusmeyer, Human Resources Director for Polar Tankers speak on How to Prepare for your Maritime Career. She provided tools and insights into the preparation for landing that first maritime job. Immediately after her talk and a short break we got to put these interviewing skills into practice. We were going to be doing mock interviews. Much like a speed dating game, the interviews lasted 8 minutes and at the sound of a bell cadets rotated to be interviewed by a different professional/company/representative and were critiqued on our answers and given many tips.

Having some free time to ourselves after the excitement of the interviews, myself and a few girls went to explore downtown Traverse City again, it sure is a pretty little town!

Dinner was once again provided and was as elegant as the first. After dinner, we were all transported to Lucky Jacks for some bowling and more chances to network.

Saturday began at 0800 with a final breakfast and a very well received talk given by Tina Carter on “Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, Response, and Policies. Followed by closing remarks from Judy Druskovich. That was the close of the formal portion of the conference, but it was not over, we were all then invited to have a fun day with a bus trip and ferry ride to go and explore Mackinaw Island. A beautiful island that has no motorized vehicles except one fire engine and one ambulance, all other means of transportation is done by foot, bicycles and horse drawn carriages. The island is also known for its many different award winning types of fudge! After an exhausting and exhilarating day, we returned to stay aboard the T/S SOM for a final night.

Early Sunday morning Ashley and I said our final goodbyes to some of the great women we had met and started our road trip back to Owen Sound. I am so very grateful for being able to attend the 2017 Women on the Water Conference and look forward to attending future conferences either as a cadet, graduate or future Women on the Water speaker.

I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to the Women on the Water Club, and the Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Maritime Academy for hosting this year’s amazing conference. To the generous sponsors, panelists and the speakers for sharing their time, expertise’s and talents with us. To Georgian College, which I am very proud to attend. The Marine Club for generously sponsoring us to attend this year’s conference. And a personal Thank you to Captain Colin MacNeil to whom none of this would have happened. And a final thank you to administrative team at Georgian College for all the little details.

Thank You!

Valerie Carter,
Georgian College Student