Building the Village

Women’s Tidal Leadership

Inspiring, connected and recharged—just a few of the words women from more than one hundred different walks of life used to describe their experience at the first WSU Women’s Transformational Leadership Symposium last fall.

In a day devoted to equipping women with tools and strategies to successfully lead in their homes, communities, and workplaces, participants from ages 19 to 94 came together to share and learn with one another. “It takes a village,” said event moderator Kim Kidwell, associate dean of academic programs and director of the proposed Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership. “We are the village.”

Tapping into values

Mary Kay Patton talking in front of people.
Mary Kay Patton

Kidwell, along with her friend and colleague, Human Development Instructor Mary Kay Patton kicked off the event by asking the women to think about what brought them to the symposium. Faculty, students, community members from near and far, and alumni worked together to build a list of words often associated with leaders. The discussion continued with identifying, reflecting, and targeting individual values and understanding their influences on decision-making. Participants also had the opportunity to pair off for a one-on-one exchange about values, and then discuss what they learned within small groups.

Keynote direction

WSU alumna Colleen Nolan (’82, Animal Sci.), the CAHNRS 2013 Women’s Professional and Academic Leadership honoree and dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Shepherd University, gave the keynote address on women from the past, present, and future. She explored how leadership is framed in different organizations, and the importance of supporting, mentoring, and connecting with women on their journeys to becoming influential leaders.

“Go out, find that advocate. Find that mentor,” she said. “Be proactive and seek them out.”

Nolan also explored women’s leadership in higher education, pointing out the high percentage of women in their 60s who are presidents at colleges and universities will result in a high turnover in the next few years. One of the challenges is not having women in the pipeline to fill those roles, she said.

“We are making progress,” she said. “It’s slow, but we are making progress.”

Bringing generations together

Women’s Transformational Leadership Symposium participants

Where does that progress come from? How do we bring women into positions of leadership? Part of it will take building bridges across generations, said moderators and Human Development Instructors Abbie DeMeerleer and Anna Whitehall, who led the afternoon sessions. Participants looked at both different and shared values across generations and discussed how building supportive communities can start conversations across age boundaries.

While women left the symposium with unique, transformational ways to integrate the skills they learned into their lives, they also took away small inspirational cards with words of encouragement designed by CAHNRS student leaders.

The symposium was facilitated by the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership.