Law Alumnae Explore Entrepreneurship, Empowerment at Georgetown Women’s Forum

March 7, 2024

Documentarian Dawn Porter (third from left), L'93, spoke during the "Hoya Changemakers" panel.

A finalist from the TV show “Survivor,” a family caregiving attorney, an award-winning documentarian and a divorce financial analyst represented Georgetown Law at the Georgetown University Women’s Forum on Feb. 23, which brought together some 325 guests and speakers to celebrate women graduates and strengthen the alumnae community.

This year’s pan-campus forum, the first held in person since 2019, featured panels and workshops on a range of timely topics, from social media to sustainability. The university-wide forum is hosted alternately with the biennial Georgetown Law Women’s Forum, which was created in the 1990s to acknowledge the contributions of and address the challenges faced by women in the legal field.

Featured Law Center speakers included documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter, L’93, civil rights lawyer and “Survivor” finalist Katurah Topps, L’15, family caregiving attorney Allison Wyman, L’12, and wealth manager and certified divorce financial analyst Kimberlee Davis, F’80, L’83.

In her opening remarks, Georgetown University Alumni Association Executive Director Julia Farr, C’88, urged attendees from each of Georgetown’s schools to find common ground amid their varied backgrounds and experiences. “I encourage you to be a part of the conversation,” she wrote in the event program distributed to attendees. “[A]sk the tough questions, dive deep into the issues at hand, and connect more deeply with yourself, each other, and with Georgetown.”

‘A love of the law’

During the “Hoya Changemakers” keynote luncheon, Porter discussed the power of documentaries to examine pressing social and political issues. Her documentary series “Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court,” which she discussed in a recent interview and at a campus event, premiered on Showtime last fall.

Porter also reflected on her experience as a law student, noting that the Law Center’s emphasis on practical learning was “instrumental” in coming to view her work — whether as a lawyer, journalist or filmmaker — as a way to enact meaningful change.

“From law school, I bring a love of the law [to filmmaking],” she said after the panel. “I like to say, you criticize the things that you love because you want them to be the best they can be — and that’s how I think of my work.”

Katurah Topps, L'15, speaks about her career and reality television experience during "Surviving Survivor."

Katurah Topps, L’15, discussed her experience on CBS’s “Survivor.”

Topps similarly discussed the motivation behind her work as a civil rights lawyer as part of the conversation “Surviving Survivor.” After escaping an abusive religious cult as a teenager, Topps made her way to Georgetown Law, completed a federal clerkship and later served as policy counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Topps spoke candidly about how the resilience she developed as a child helped her prepare for the challenges of civil rights practice and her time as a contestant on season 45 of the long-running CBS reality competition show “Survivor,” during which she withstood 25 days in the Fijian jungle and advanced to the season’s final episode.

“I walk through the world every day as a Black, queer woman and a child of poverty,” she told the audience. “I don’t think you can go through the world with those backgrounds and not find a way to survive.”

Gratifying ‘beyond words’

In addition to highlighting the accomplishments of Hoya women, many of the day’s events were intended to empower attendees with practical guidance from alumnae experts.

Allison Wyman, L'12, leads a caregiving workshop at the 2024 Georgetown University Women's Forum.

Allison Wyman, L’12, guided participants in a caregiving workshop.

As part of the workshop “How Your Family Wins in Caregiving,” Wyman, a family caregiving attorney, consultant and coach, helped participants create personalized caregiving roadmaps based on research-backed findings about issues families often face in coordinating care for aging, ill or disabled loved ones.

For Wyman, who established her practice after serving as a two-time cancer caregiver to her parents, the forum was not only a chance to share her expertise, but also an opportunity to learn from others. “Feeling the energy and the collaboration of all of these women who are not only Hoyas but who are truly cheering for each other has been amazing,” she said.

That was a sentiment echoed by Davis, managing director and partner at The Bahnsen Group and the host and author of The Fiscal Feminist, a book and podcast about women and their relationship with money and finance, who spoke on the panel “Women as Wealth Creators.”

“To see so many accomplished women sharing their experiences, knowledge and expertise with each other was very uplifting,” said Davis, whose work aims to equip women with the tools for financial success at all stages of life — or, as she puts it, to help them become the CEOs of their financial lives.

The forum also had special meaning for Davis: her daughter Allison Berkowitch, C’13, L’18, was in the audience, watching her speak.

“That shared experience and love of Georgetown is a very special bond,” said Davis, who was the first person in her family to earn a college and then a law degree. “Georgetown changed my world and trajectory, and to be able to build on that with my daughter as the next generation is gratifying beyond words.”

Kimberlee Davis (second from left), F’80, L’83, speaks on the panel "Women as Wealth Creators"

Kimberlee Davis (second from left), F’80, L’83, offered advice during the “Women as Wealth Creators” panel.