Women College Presidents Share Perspectives on Leadership WASHINGTON
Women college and university presidents and chancellors came together to discuss leadership and ways that women leaders can affect higher education at the American Council on Education’s Office of Women in Higher Education (OWHE) Fourth Women Presidents’ Summit last month in Washington.
“The Summit enables women presidents and chancellors to examine ways in which they can use their knowledge and creativity to bring new leadership perspectives to their campuses, our country and the world at large,” says Dr. Claire Van Ummersen, vice president and OWHE director. Van Ummersen said the summit is necessary because “we want to create a world in which women’s leadership is unquestioned and partnerships between women and men flourish for the betterment of society.”
The summit, “Living the Present, Shaping the Future,” brought together educators as well as legislators.
Among the speakers were Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson, the Clarence J. Robinson professor of anthropology and English at George Mason University; Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Bennett College president-elect; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii; Dr. Betty Siegel, president of Kennesaw State University; Sally Stroup, assistant secretary for postsecondary education; and Ambassador Linda Tarr- Whelan, chairwoman of the Center for Policy Alternatives.
One of the highlights of the conference was a conversation between Cole and Bateson who teamed up to deliver a dialogue titled “Choosing to Lead.” Both Cole and Bateson agree that in their experiences choosing to lead has resulted from a choice to connect to others, and that embracing and addressing difference at all levels of teaching, leading and administrating should be high priorities in higher education.
Cole and Bateson are both anthropologists with a long interactive history with one another. While president of Spelman College, Cole invited Bateson to teach a seminar on community women’s life writings as a part of a special seminar series, and also enrolled in Bateson’s class.
Leading by example, Cole encouraged all presidents and administrators to participate in life long learning, and to connect with their students and the populations they serve. In her speech, Cole argued that “we (educators) are responsible for preparing people to go out in the world to begin learning all over again,” and presidents belong in the classroom listening and learning as well as leading.
Cole also addressed her recent appointment as president of Bennett College. Though she enjoyed her time as professor emerita at Emory University, Cole says she also looks forward to returning to a presidency and has chosen once again to lead and connect because being a college president “is a voyage of discovery.” — By Kaylen Tucker
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