The Women’s Network: Fostering Connections, Empowering One Another

The Women’s Network: Fostering Connections, Empowering One Another

Cochairs Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA) and Abby Zabrodsky ’14, ’19S (MBA) lead the group to connect, support, and engage women.

Abby Zabrodsky '14 and '19S (MBA)

Abby Zabrodsky ’14 and ’19S (MBA)

Amidst the historical significance of 2020—a year marked by Susan B. Anthony’s 200 birthday and the centennial milestone of the 19th Amend­ment to the US Constitution—the University launched its global Women’s Network. Today, Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA) and Abby Zabrodsky ’14, ’19S (MBA) lead the group, which is made up of alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, and allies. Members develop programs to facilitate mutual support and explore shared interests among women who have similar goals, challenges, and life experiences.

“Women have made such an impact on history and in all of our lives,” says Waller, retired chief financial officer at Coca-Cola Co., a member of the Simon Advisory Council, and a University trustee. “The network provides a structure and a community to unite us, from virtual programs that serve the global community to in-person events that build relationships, to our strong presence on The Meliora Collective, the University’s online platform for personal and professional growth.”

Zabrodsky, the director of business development for the engineering and manufacturing systems firm Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Inc.; a member of the University’s Alumni Board; and a mentor within The Meliora Collective, underscores how the network also serves as a catalyst for cross-generational mentor­ship and networking. “The University has played and continues to be an important part in our lives,” she says. “We encourage and invite everyone to get involved.” She and Waller first met as cochairs of the network’s personal and professional development committee.

Kathy Waller '80, '83S (MBA)

Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA)


At its official launch, Gail Lione ’71, also a trustee, initially led the network alongside Tiffany Taylor ’91 and recruited fel­low women trustees, Gwen Greene ’65, Liz Bruno ’89, Joan Beal ’84E, Betsy Ward Chicaras ’86, and Waller. A few years later, Waller became the Women’s Network’s cochair, and Zabrodsky replaced Taylor earlier this year.

Although officially launched in 2020, Kathy Murray ’74, also a trustee, planted the network’s early seeds. In 2013, she started the Metro New York Women’s Network to connect and support alumni living in and around New York City. Soon after, other regionally based women’s networks formed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC, building momentum for the global network that was to come. Today, there are six regionally based women’s networks. Rochester and New England were added a few years ago.

“Early on, these women leaders and others saw the positive impact they could make in one another’s lives through the Women’s Network, says Karen Chance Mercurius, vice president of Alumni Relations and Constituent Engagement. “The global Women’s Network launch came at the height of the pandemic, fostering a sense of belonging by providing support, guidance, connection, and community.”

Giving back

Waller’s and Zabrodsky’s dedication to their alma mater is deeply rooted in their desire to give back. Zabrodsky says her family “instilled a strong wish to do whatever I can to improve the places that are important to me, including the University.”

Waller was a recipient of an undergraduate scholarship. That opportunity, combined with n1ixed experiences at the University, fuels her determination to drive change and support women and underserved students, aligning with President Mangelsdorf’s vision for a more inclusive University.

“I believe that if you want to see change, you have to help make that change,” she says. “I will continue to lend my voice and show my support to women and underserved students so that all 18-year-old Black women who come here have amazing experiences and then want to raise their hands to help the next person.”

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Join the Women’s Network

Be part of a vibrant community focused on connecting and supporting alumnae through dynamic programming and engaging conversations. Learn more about the University’s Women’s Network.

Learn more about Kathy Waller and Abby Zabrodsky.

–Kristine Kappel Thompson, Rochester Review, Fall 2023