2021 5th Annual Montana Women’s Leadership Conference

2021 5th Annual Montana Women’s Leadership Conference

The vision of the Junior League of Billings’ Annual Montana Women’s Leadership Conference is to empower women to become mindful leaders in the community.  The conference will span themes of professional, personal, and community leadership to inspire and elevate Montana.  This conference will offer exposure to diverse, nationally recognized speakers and accomplished female role models.  In addition, through our workshops, attendees will learn practical applications to take back to their businesses, homes, and community organizations.

Keynote Speaker: Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW

Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW

Since her first National Keynote at age 14, Ashley Rhodes-Courter has shared her story with thousands in the United States and in over 7 countries.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW, is the quintessential American success story. Born in 1985 to a single teen mother, by the age of 3 she was in Florida’s foster care system where she spent almost ten years being shuttled between 14 homes—some quite abusive—before being adopted from a Children’s Home at the age of twelve.

Despite her ordeal, she excelled in school because she believed that, “my education was the one thing nobody could take from me.” Early in her life she felt compelled to advocate for herself and the other children she lived with, particularly in the abusive foster homes.

Her efforts and academic achievements landed her Eckerd College’s Trustee Scholarship where she graduated with honors and ahead of schedule earning a double major in Communications and Theater and a double minor in Political Science and Psychology. Ashley then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

During her undergraduate studies, she was one of 20 college students selected for the USA Today All-USA Academic Team and was named one of GLAMOUR Magazine’s Top Ten College Women. She was also selected as one of the four Golden BR!CK Award winners for outstanding advocacy for community change by DoSomething!. As part of their campaign, she was featured on 25 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.

By the age of 22, Ashley had become a New York Times Bestselling Author.  Her first book, “Three Little Words” is now an International Bestseller and has been published in at least 4 countries. Her second book, “Three More Words” debuted at #1 on Amazon Bestseller’s List. Both books are used in classrooms across the country in various community and First Year Experience Collegiate programs.

Ashley has received State, local, and National awards for her speaking, advocacy, and philanthropy. She has spoken on Capitol Hill and has been invited to the White House twice. “Three Little Words” is now being made into a major motion picture.

To learn more about Ashley please visit her website here.

Read on to learn more about our fabulous local workshop speakers!

Kim Lewis

Kim Lewis assumed the President and CEO role at United Way of Yellowstone County in July.  Her three-decade career has been devoted to philanthropy and giving back to the community.  She has raised millions of dollars to improve the health of communities, help find a cure, empower youth, provide leadership opportunities, create safe environments for those that can’t save themselves, and deliver hope for medically fragile children and their families.

Kim started her fundraising career in Kindergarten when she sold her first box of Girl Scout cookies.  She quickly progressed to an entrepreneur with lemonade stands benefitting her local animal shelter.  She spent most of her career as a successful fundraising and marketing executive.  She is a strategic leader who has orchestrated innovative marketing and fundraising campaigns through powerful relationship-building and generation of significant business and collaborative opportunities.  

Kim is best known for her community connections.  Whether it is connecting someone to something they need, someone they need to know or something inside themselves that is waiting to be brought forth.  She learned early on that community support is empowering, and that guides her today.  

Kim received her MBA and Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications from Pepperdine University. 

Kim is a southwest girl at heart and loves Montana!  She lives in Billings with her husband and fur babies.  When she isn’t wearing her “pastor’s wife” hat, Kim enjoys wine and live music, hiking, kayaking, and volunteering. Her greatest joys are her grandsons.  She is creative, adventurous and is always down for physically challenging adventures!  She considers herself a peace, love and social justice ambassador and is currently pursuing a Deaconess certification from the United Methodist Church.  She is a self-published author of They’ve Always Been Nice to Me, which is a tribute to her Uncle Randy lives a meaningful life with intellectually challenges and Cerebral Palsy.  

Workshop Topic:  Creating Intentional Connections


Nicole Biondich

Nicole Biondich is co-author of Stepping into the Light: A Guide to Clearing Limiting Core Beliefs. She is also the HR Director at The Northern Hotel, and has her own business, Healing Biond Limits. Nicole lives in Billings with her husband Michael.

Workshop Topic: Believing by Example

  • How I came to belief work
  • How beliefs affect our lives, health and relationships/ how I have used this to make a career transition
  • How to identify your own limiting beliefs and methods to clear them
  • Rewiring the brain- tapping in new beliefs- How that works/ why it’s important
  • Future book projects 
  • Question/answer


Akvilina Rieger
Motivational Speaker, Healthy Finance Advisor, Writer

Akvilina Rieger’s story began on the shores of the Baltic Sea in the bucket-list-worthy country of Lithuania, while it was still under the Soviet regime. She lived to see her country break out of the Soviet Union and become the Independent Republic of Lithuania, transitioning from communism to a free-market society. College scholarships brought her to Montana where she created a family with her husband and two daughters and now calls Montana her home. A big believer in the American dream, Akvilina will speak on how she achieved her “American dream with Lithuanian accent” (literally and figuratively) and how she makes it her mission for people around her to see their highest potential to live their American dream. 

Workshop Topic:
Your Money and Your Dreams


Karen Grosz

Karen Grosz has been described as a a dynamo and a catalyst for change.  Growing up near Mt. Rushmore gave Karen a passion for high ideals, living in Alaska for 25 years, and now Montana, have given Karen a frontier spirit full of can-do, will-do and let’s-do-it-together energy.

Deciding early on that she wanted learning and adventure, Karen has lived her life as a series of Nexts, each experience growing into the next.  This philosophy is the inspiration for her book, speeches and workshops, “What’s Next?” 

Highlights of her career include:

  • Too shy to talk to three people at once
  • Public speaking awards
  • Housekeeping and daycare businesses
  • Top car salesperson
  • Direct Sales Company sales and recruiting record holder
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Sales Manager with a $50 million dollar field
  • Insurance Agent for just long enough to know she would rather coach than sell
  • Co-Owner In Good Glazes
  • President and Developer of Canvas Creek Team Building
  • Author of What’s Your ExcuseWhat’s Next and Seasoned
  • Married for 39 years— to the same guy

Karen is a Rotarian and RYLA Director, an active Chamber of Commerce member,  a Boys and Girls Club board member, Founder of “I’ll Help”,  Founding member of 100 Strong.   Mission statement – “My mission is to inspire others to be their best, to try the next thing, to know that they are worth every effort it takes to live their Next.”    

Workshop Topic:  What’s Next?  What kind of leader do you want to be?


Karen Baumgart

With a BA in History, a Master’s Degree in Public Relations, and a certification in Brain-Based Coaching, Karen Miller brings a multifaceted perspective to her work. Born, raised and educated in Montana, Miller is committed to the advancement of the Big Sky state. Karen currently serves as the Director of Strategic Advancement and Communications for St. John’s United. Her role is to facilitate solution-focused conversations, implement innovative strategies, and add volume to the organization’s voice to ensure the mission of St. John’s is continuously being fulfilled. Previously, Karen served Yellowstone County as the Director of BillingsWorks, the workforce development branch under Big Sky Economic Development. Prior to, she was employed as a coach and facilitator for Elation, Inc.-a start-up company in Billings dedicated to organizational performance. While her career has ventured into different avenues, no matter the position, she is dedicated to collaborating with communities to create better methods for achieving great outcomes. By combining the different aspects of her education and professional experience, Karen has the perspective and insights that elicit enthusiasm for innovation and excitement for action

Workshop Topic:  “Why that one colleague drives you nuts”: The science behind relationships and how to better understand and build them.


Juli Pierce   Workshop Topic:  Leadership and Crisis

Lynn Mullowney Cabrera

Leif Welhaven

Michelle Buehring

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