Insights From Women’s College Coalition Presidents

Posted By Sue Anne Morgan - 05/12/2017

President Dr. Campbell of Spelman College

Dr. Campbell
Spelman College
Atlanta, GA 

Why did you choose to lead a women's college? 
I chose to lead Spelman because I saw not only a campus wide commitment to the ideals and values of Black women's success and ascension to leadership, but I also saw practices and mind sets determined to carve out a path forward for each and every student. I thought this is an institution that needs to exist in this country and it would be extraordinary to contribute to and learn from that environment.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a women's college?
Spelman is a Black woman's college and the intersection of race and gender makes us unique in the educational landscape. As a place designed expressly for that intersectionality, Spelman offers a singular educational experience that anchors academic excellence firmly to a sense of belonging, pride in identity and confidence in capacity in short supply outside of the Spelman gates. Sisterhood - the network, sharing and connections that characterize all women's colleges - continues post-graduation and is a sustaining lifetime asset.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women about to graduate?
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." --Samuel Beckett 
Women often want to be perfect in the world. Perfection undermines risk taking and risk taking is necessary for creative invention. Learning how to fail, recover and keep going is a valuable lesson. 

What is your favorite aspect of working at your institution? 
There is a collective purpose on campus so that everyone believes that each in her way has a role in making Spelman better and serving the students more effectively. Purposefulness makes coming to work feel like a mission instead of a job. 

What books are you currently reading?
Several:
Alec Ross' "The Industries of the Future" 
Emmanuel Carrère's "Limonov"
Helen Rappaport's "Caught in the Revolution"

 


 

President Dr. Mumm of Brescia College

Dr. Susan Mumm 
Brescia University College
London, ON, Canada 

Why did you choose to lead a women's college?
Brescia is Canada’s only women’s university, which makes leading it a unique honour.  I came to Brescia because I believe passionately in the transformative power of higher education for everyone, but especially for women, who are still woefully under-represented in the social, cultural, and economic life of our society.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a women's college? 
I think graduates from women’s universities and colleges are better prepared for the hurdles they may encounter in the workplace, thanks to the extra dose of self-assurance they acquire from taking leadership roles routinely during their undergraduate years.  As young women, it is critical that they are able to experiment with leadership in an environment that is safe and invigorating. A women’s university provides that for them.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women about to graduate? 
In whatever path you choose for your life, vow to leave the world a better place than you found it.

What is your favorite aspect of working at your institution?
Knowing that we are planting seeds of change that will be germinating for years in the lives of the women we educate.

What books are you currently reading?
The History of the World in 100 Objects, which was based on a British Museum/BBC radio coproduction. I also ‘read’ several audiobooks a week, mostly for fun.  Right now I am re-reading The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope.  It is a long but beautiful novel which Trollope wrote in a time when he feared crass self-interest was corrupting British society.

 


 

President Dr. Jann Rudd Weitzel of Cottey College

Dr. Jann Rudd Weitzel
Cottey College
Nevada, MO

Why did you choose to lead a women's college?
Prior to coming to Cottey College, I served as Provost at a larger, private coed institution that had, until the1960’s, been a women’s college.  Over my 20 years with that institution, I had the opportunity to speak with many alumnae who had the women’s college experience, and I was intrigued by how close they were to the college and to their former classmates and how prepared they reported they were for the lives they were to lead.  Women reported that their experiences were fundamental to their future successes.  Think about this:  All clubs and organizations at a women’s college are led by women.  Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities and to discover or further hone their leadership skills.  Students learn from each other, by observing the positive role models they see all around themselves, in a supportive environment.  Once Cottey found me and I found Cottey, I knew we belonged together.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a women's college? 
When I interviewed for my position at Cottey College, I was asked this question.  My answer was that while I could repeat back all of the research on the advantages of attending a women’s college, I would, instead, share what students themselves have told me.  They speak to the sisterhood they experience, the life-long friends and networks they create with strong women around the world.  They speak to the spirit of comradery in the classroom, rather an atmosphere of competition.  At a smaller women’s college, such as ours, they speak about the individual attention they receive, the opportunities to participate in research early in their educational experiences, to delve into academic areas typically “owned” by men, such as the math and sciences.  They talk about being prepared for graduate school, finding themselves academically ahead of students who attend larger and/or coed institutions.  And very importantly, they talk about the sense of community, having so much in common with the other students on the campus.  

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women about to graduate? 
I advise students to set an achievable first goal, and when they reach that goal, set the next goal; thus, rather than student deciding at age 22 where they will be in 50 years, they continually move forward while also being open to new opportunities.  We don’t always know when we leave college what that final destination will be; in fact, we don’t even know what options will be available! I advise them to keep stepping up while also looking around!

What is your favorite aspect of working at your institution?
Without a doubt, my favorite part of my job is spending time with students- past and present.  While I truly love all aspects of my position as President, spending time with students is at the top of the list; hearing stories from our alumnae about their experiences at Cottey College, the difference the institution made in their lives, is absolutely awe-inspiring.  Further, spending time with current students, talking about classes, activities, and life in general helps keep me informed on what they need, want, and think about.  Next in line would be sharing our institution with all constituents, internal and external.  Our faculty and staff are so dedicated to our students and our campus: I am motivated by them daily. Further, as I travel to meet with groups and organizations, it’s a true honor to share Cottey College with each person I meet.  

What books are you currently reading?
Most recently, I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which will serve as the freshman reader for the 2017-18 academic year at my institution.  I also completed The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade by Charles B. Dew. Both of these books were recommended to me by faculty.  

 


 

President Krista Newkirk of Converse College

Krista Newkirk
Converse College
Spartanburg, SC

Why did you choose to lead a women's college? 
I chose to lead a women's college because I am a firm believer that education is the single-most important thing a person can do to improve their life and to improve the lives of their family and I am passionate about helping women become empowered so that they can become a voice for other women and can serve as leaders to promote equality.   

What do you think are the benefits of attending a women's college? 
Although I did not attend a women's college, I have had the opportunity to watch how women behave at a large coeducational institution versus at a women's college.  The difference is remarkable.  At Converse, the women are more focused on their work, they are more likely to take the initiative, they are more engaged, they are more likely to step up and lead, and they are more likely to voice their opinions and argue for what they believe.  Converse College develops leaders!

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women about to graduate? 
Don't let your fear of failure inhibit you.  Try the things that scare you.  Apply for the job for which you aren't sure you are qualified.  Believe in yourself and advocate for yourself.

What is your favorite aspect of working at your institution?
The students.  I love having the opportunity to be more engaged with students on a small campus, to see first hand what they are learning, to watch them grow, and to cheer them on when they succeed.

What books are you currently reading?
I am currently reading, "Hillbilly Elegy," and "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis."