Jason Wu/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Imani McGee-Stafford speaks during Cornell Women's Resource Center's REALTalk speaker series event.

October 24, 2022

Women’s Resource Center Hosts Inaugural REALtalk Event to Discuss Mental Health

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Former Women’s National Basketball Association player Imani McGee-Stafford and podcaster Cameron Rogers shared personal stories and mental health advice at this past Thursday’s inaugural REALtalk speaker series event, hosted by the Women’s Resource Center.

REALtalk — “REAL” standing for Relatable, Empowering, Authentic Leaders  — will invite speakers to campus once a year, made possible by an endowment gift from the Delta Gamma sorority. Shura Gat, interim associate dean of students and director of the WRC, said that additional support from other campus organizations, such as the President Council for Cornell Women and C.U. Tonight, allowed for more professional production quality, including professional photography, videography and sound engineering.

Gat explained that the series aims to invite speakers, with whom they feel Cornell students will identify, to share their wisdom and advice.

“[REALtalk] is the opportunity for Cornell students — particularly women-identifying folks — to learn from people who are a little farther ahead in life, who have faced challenging issues, particularly around mental health and hear the strategies that they’ve been using to develop their own well-being,” Gat said.

Event organizers from Delta Gamma recommended Rogers as one of the speakers, as she had recently spoken to the chapter. Organizers searched for a second speaker who would bring a different perspective to the table.

“We wanted to have multiple perspectives because we’re committed to working with the intersections of identity,” Gat said. “That really allowed us to think, ‘what does it mean to have mind, body, spirit?’ We knew from some of what Imani had spoken about that spirituality is really important to her, and we were hoping she’d share some of that perspective with the audience.”

Laura Chang ’23, WRC staff member, and Brittany Coffman ’22, M.B.A. ’23, former Vice President Foundation for Delta Gamma, moderated the talk. Rogers began by introducing herself and how she defines mental wellbeing.

Formerly working in the finance industry, Rogers now hosts the Freckled Foodie and Friends podcast, in which she discusses making healthy living approachable.

Rogers initially began to share her struggles with mental health on social media, through which she found a community of users sharing similar experiences. This community, she said, was essential in overcoming mental health challenges. Rogers continues to share wellbeing tips with over 77,000 followers, including ways in which she cares for her mental health as a mother.

Rogers said her favorite ways to cope with mental health challenges include meditating, journaling and exercising. She also urged audience members to reflect upon their interpersonal relationships and recognize how they feel after spending time with the people in their lives.

Like Rogers, McGee-Stafford also found a community when she began to open up about her struggles with bipolar disorder. Rather than podcasting, McGee-Stafford writes and performs poetry, an outlet she developed to express her emotions and mental health challenges.

“I’m always passionate about anybody sharing their stories, because I think the more stories we have, the easier it is for people to see themselves in those colors,” McGee-Stafford said.

A former member of several WNBA teams, McGee-Stafford is currently in her third year at Southwestern Law School. In her future career, she hopes to research and raise awareness on mental health in the Black community.

“I worked with the University of Georgia Department of Behavioral Health Services, and I had to do a workshop on decreasing the stigma in the Black community around mental health… and I could find no statistics,” McGee-Stafford said. “My goal is just to research, be a little nerd and figure these things out.”

Gat said that she and the other organizers felt mental health was a main theme for REALtalk’s inaugural event, but that they may expand to other topics in the future. Ultimately, the goal is to invite speakers to campus with whom students will resonate.

“We chose mental health because it’s such a huge issue, in general, and particularly because we started planning in the depths of the pandemic,” Gat said. “If we continue to have really amazing speakers — those who can and speak to people in ways that change their lives and impact how they’re seeing the world — we’ll probably keep doing that.”