Natalie Elisha, ‘09, an entrepreneurial attorney, author and motivational speaker, came to the Harpur Edge office on Friday to discuss how women can become empowered and seize the various opportunities available to them to achieve success.
Elisha, who was granted an Alumni Association award for her demonstrated leadership and commitment to service last year, graduated with a dual degree in philosophy and philosophy, politics and law after two years at Binghamton University. She returned to the University to hold a conversation on women’s empowerment with Harpur College Dean Elizabeth Chilton, telling her story and offering insights gleaned throughout her post-undergraduate experiences.
Wendy Neuberger, director of Harpur Edge, said Elisha had recently reached out to the University with the idea of organizing the discussion alongside Chilton. Ultimately, Neuberger said she hoped that students could derive inspiration from Elisha’s insights.
“I think she is so inspiring — I get inspired listening to her and I’ve been around the block a few hundred times, so taking charge, understanding what your passion is and just going for it, not hesitating,” Neuberger said.
Elisha said she has always been obstinate in pursuing her goals, and said she found it important to surmount obstacles at an early age.
“That is how I live my life,” Elisha said. “You tell me it can’t be done? Watch.”
After suffering a hit-and-run accident at the age of 15, Elisha was left seriously injured, with multiple broken bones on the left side of her body. As she healed, she said she resolved to become a lawyer and fight for justice. According to Elisha, passion and determination are crucial to achieving any endeavor.
“What makes the one percent different? I’m not just talking about financial abundance, [but] abundance in your heart — doing what you love, finding your purpose,” Elisha said. “Here’s the thing — if you’re not jumping out of bed in the morning to live your life, what are you doing?”
Deeva Robles Kuriplach, a freshman majoring in biology, said she felt inspired by Elisha’s discussion of her injuries and how she recovered from them.
“I had a pretty rough week between exams and I felt really unmotivated, but I felt very inspired by her injury especially and how she just bounced back from that, because I would feel so defeated and devastated,” Kuriplach said.
Elisha guided the students through a series of motivational exercises, including one in which she made the entirely female group stand firmly with their hands on their waists and their chests stuck out, in a stance reminiscent of the Fearless Girl statue that stands in front of Wall Street’s Charging Bull.
Chilton, who also contributed her story and knowledge, related her account of growing up on Long Island in the 1970s during the women’s movement in a family where education was emphasized. As a woman and a first-generation college student, Chilton said she had, at times, faced challenges to her academic and professional positions.
“I’ve had many moments like that, including since I’ve been dean, really reflected discriminatory attitudes toward the fact that I’m a woman rather than a man in a position of some amount of importance,” Chilton said.
Elisha encouraged students to dream big, and added that the local area is prospective for success. According to Elisha, entrepreneurial possibilities for students are endless.
“The future is happening at Binghamton,” Elisha said. “It’s very exciting. You could be a multi-million dollar CEO by this time next year. It’s not funny — it’s amazing. But it can happen to you.”