Women in Public Service Leadership panel discusses experience, taking risks

Allec Brust

The Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership and Woman and Gender Advocacy Center hosted a Women in Public Service Leadership panel Wednesday afternoon in the Lory Student Center.

About 40 students and faculty listened to panelists Donna Lynne, lieutenant governor of Colorado, Darla Sidles, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Penelope Culbreth-Grath, former city manager of Colorado Springs.


Courtenay Daum, a Colorado State University political science professor, acted as the moderator for the all-female panel.  Panel members opened up about multiple aspects of public service and their personal experiences in their differing fields.

Four women are speaking in front of an audience.
Darla Sidles, Penelope Culbreth-Grath, Donna Lynne and moderator Courtenay Daum speak at the Women in Public Leadership panel Wednesday afternoon in the Lory Student Center. (Brandon Mendoza | Collegian)

The panelists, who are all advanced professional women in government, answered numerous questions about working in public service from the female perspective.

Lynn, who is currently campaigning to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper at the end of his term in 2018, was passionate about stepping outside of the box as a woman in government. 

“I am often asked what it takes to be a great leader.” Said Lynn. “Hands down, it’s taking risks. You cannot be a good leader if you do not take risks.” 

“I am often asked what it takes to be a great leader. Hands down, it’s taking risks. You cannot be a good leader if you do not take risks.”-Donna Lynne, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado.

Panelists also spoke on the difficulties of public service and their journey to where they are today. According to Culbreth-Grath, public service is often difficult, but not unrewarding. 

“When you serve (in the public sector), you are always serving others,” Culbreth-Grath said. “There’s no better place to be in my opinion.”

Although the women on the panel came from different backgrounds in the private sector, each woman had their own message on stepping outside of the norm. 

Sidles has worked in national parks for most of her time in public service. Sidles said she believes women should not have reservations when it comes to making an impact. 

“Take every chance you can to do something and get out of your comfort zone,” Sidles said. 

Allec Brust can be reached at abrust@collegian.com or on Twitter @allecbrust.