Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Women of Color, Unite! with Its Third Annual Conference, Spelman College Builds on Its 125-Year Legacy of Producing Female Leaders

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Women of Color, Unite! with Its Third Annual Conference, Spelman College Builds on Its 125-Year Legacy of Producing Female Leaders

Article excerpt

ATLANTA

At a time when divisive issues like race, class and immigration reform have become the hot topic of the day, leadership and dialogue on these issues can make all the difference.

That's why Spelman College spent two days exploring not just how to lead, but also how to include others in the conversation. The 2006 Leadership and Women of Color Conference: Building Bridges Among Us and With Others, was held last month at the college's renovated Sisters Chapel and at the Georgia World Congress Center. The conference was designed to examine and identify skills that can aid in the critical bridge-building process to foster change in the global and domestic sectors.

"Spelman College was founded in 1881 by women who were, by definition, bridge-builders," says Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum. "They believed that if you educate a woman, you can educate the world"

The third annual conference, organized by the college's Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, or LEADS, brought together approximately 1,000 people from different races, cultures and countries. The gathering is the major focus of LEADS, which is responsible for program development from the perspective of African-American women in the areas of leadership development, economic empowerment, advocacy through the arts, and dialogue across difference and service learning, says Dr. Jane E. Smith, the center's executive director.

"The leadership center is Spelman's strategy for identifying leadership models through the experiences of African-American women leaders," says Smith, herself a Spelman graduate. "We can't do that by ourselves. We must be inclusive. ... We want to create conversations that allow us to see ourselves not only through our eyes but also through the eyes of others"

One of the major tasks for LEADS is to examine the individual stories of Black women leaders to see if any patterns emerge within their different leadership styles. In essence, the center is working backward to see what makes a great leader. In the larger sense, women in general--and women of color in particular--struggle to compete because corporations and organizations fail to recognize or validate their unique strengths and abilities. Finding ways to make those strengths more noticeable is : a charge that Smith finds particularly important. …

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