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Bentley University student Kary De Jesus speaks at the Gearing Up Conference hosted by the Center for Women and Business at Bentley
Photos by Frank Monkiewicz

Kary De Jesús ’25 says that she has “come a long way from being an anxious, quiet girl to one who is ready to take risks.” Her path includes being the first of her family to leave Bayamón, Puerto Rico, to attend college at Bentley. She is majoring in Marketing with a minor in Experience Design while working toward an MBA as part of the Advanced Standing Program; she has also served the Bentley community in roles such as public relations chair and senior adviser of La Cultura Latina student organization and helped plan a popular annual conference, Gearing Up, hosted by Bentley’s Center for Women and Business (CWB).  

De Jesús, who also presented at the conference held in June 2024, shares her experience with and the long-lasting impact of Gearing Up and how she sees it influencing her future. 

I joined the CWB in my second semester of sophomore year. Initially, I worked with both the student engagement programs with the CWB and the Gearing Up Conference. This year, I was placed as a co-lead for the Gearing Up Conference. It has been a stressful yet rewarding journey. This change allowed me to develop leadership skills, manage a team and overall become more confident in my abilities and myself. 

The theme “Stretch to the C-Suite” was suggested by Razan Haddad [CWB program manager].  In a meeting, she shared how one of her young children had just learned the word “stretch” in school. This led us to decide on the “Stretch to the C-Suite” theme. We aimed for something dynamic and catchy, and I think this did just the job. 

Planning for the conference began last fall with finding speakers who aligned with our theme, checking their availability and developing new ideas to make this year’s conference different from the last. As we gathered more information on the workshops and speakers, everything started to fall into place.  

I really liked the fact that committee members took turns each week to lead the meetings. I think this helped the team understand that we are all on the same level, but also helped us further develop some professional skills. Planning required a lot of research and reaching out to different professionals. Through this process, we were able to connect with many alumni and interesting individuals — many of whom became our mentors along the way. 

Throughout this process, I improved my ability to work with various software platforms in a short amount of time. I also had the opportunity to put my problem-solving skills to the test and practice my communication skills with the CWB directors and Gearing Up speakers, sponsors and corporate partners. 

The event was a great success. We had a lot of fantastic speakers and activities throughout the day. One of the highlights was the opportunity to have professional headshots taken, complete with hair and makeup services. Everyone, including myself, enjoyed this activity, which also provided a nice break from the workshops. While waiting in line, everyone had the chance to network and engage with each other. 

One of my favorite moments was the keynote speech by Lisa Sun [founder and CEO of Gravitas New York]. Lisa captivated us from the beginning, sharing her personal journey from her childhood to corporate life. She discussed how her boss told her she lacked gravitas, and how that inspired her entrepreneurial journey to instill confidence and gravitas in others through fashion. Her speech was truly inspiring and engaging, as she also discussed how to identify and utilize our own “superpowers” and develop new ones. 

Every year, the CWB has a tradition of selecting a student ambassador to deliver the opening remarks at the conference. When I first learned that I was chosen to speak, the news was overwhelming and filled me with anxiety, as public speaking has always been a challenge for me due to my lifelong struggle with anxiety. Despite years of progress, speaking to a large group remains an off-putting task for me. So, at the beginning, I doubted my ability to take on this role.  

My perspective changed, however, as I started to work on the content of my speech with Becky McDougal [CWB director of programs and engagement]. She advised me to connect the theme of “Stretch to the C-Suite” with a personal experience. This led me to reflect on the idea that taking the first step toward achieving your goals requires taking a shot at it. This concept reminded me of something my grandfather and father used to say to me when I played basketball: “Si no tiras, no metes,” which translates to “If you don't shoot, you won't score.” 

During my speech, I shared how I was the first in my family to come study outside of the island, and even though I always miss home, it was the best thing I ever did. Coming to Bentley has given me confidence in myself and opportunities to develop new skills, learn new software platforms and find creative solutions to any obstacles in my way. Taking the risk to come to Bentley has led me to challenge myself to take even more risks and make the most of my time here.

Bentley student Karina De Jesús ’25
Coming to Bentley has given me confidence in myself and opportunities to develop new skills.
Kary De Jesús ’25
Marketing major

After completing the speech, I felt extremely glad that I did it. Throughout the process, I kept thinking, “I am helping to coordinate an event about being confident, taking a chance on yourself and stretching toward your goals, and I won’t even do it for myself?” It was a great opportunity for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and it helped me become more confident in myself. 

Following the speech, many people shared a lot of positive feedback, but the comments that stood out to me the most were from two women who approached me separately. One of them shared her own experiences with anxiety and found it inspiring to see someone like her who struggles with similar issues go in front of a large group and share her story. The other woman, a fellow Puerto Rican, mentioned that we share similar experiences and, as Latinas, we persist against the odds. She expressed how proud she was of my accomplishments and how far I have come.

Having these personal connections made this entire experience worth it. I am glad to have resonated my story with those at the event, and I hope others had similar meaningful experiences from the Gearing Up Conference. I am extremely grateful and proud of everyone on our team who made this event a success. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next year for the 20th anniversary of the Gearing Up Conference.

Watch a behind-the-scenes recap of the Gearing Up Conference by Kary De Jesús ’25

RELATED: Meet Gearing Up speaker Amy Pocsik MSA ’11