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U.Va. Program Promotes Leadership Skills In Women

Feb. 9, 1999 -- Encouraging young women to become leaders is the goal of a University of Virginia program that begins this month.

Created in part because national research shows that women on co-ed campuses doubt themselves and their abilities more than men do, U.Va.'s Women's Leadership Development Program gives first- and second-year female students a chance to learn from successful role models.

During the program's three segments, held on Feb. 13, March 6 and March 25, participants will learn about the risks and rewards of leadership from faculty, student leaders and community activists. About 60 women, recommended by University organizations as having leadership potential, will participate.

"The Women's Leadership Development Program is a one-of-a-kind program at U.Va.," said Leah Friedman, a fourth-year student and past participant. "It teaches important lessons that cannot be found in any classroom. In a school where so many professors and administrators are

men, the program is a place where women students can celebrate their successes and accomplishments while motivating and teaching each other that the world is theirs."

Gail Blanke, president and CEO of Lifedesigns, a company that advises people how to take charge of their lives, will be the keynote speaker at the first session on Feb. 13. The best-selling author of "In My Wildest Dreams, Living the Life You Long For," Blanke will begin her talk at 10 a.m. in Maury Hall.

Following the talk, participants will attend three panel discussions. In one session, entitled "What I Wish I'd Known," students Liz Gagliardi, Tameka Simmons, Peggy Boutilier, Yen Shek and Danette Wolpert will describe their experiences and offer advice about assuming leadership roles at U.Va.

Students Cabell Vest, Jim Steichan, Josh Scott, Kazz Pinkard and Rhodes Ritenour will share their thoughts about how men and women communicate and work together during a session titled "Men are From Mars; Women are from Venus." A third session, "Making Your Wildest Dreams Come True," will offer guidance and encouragement.

"With U.Va.'s long tradition of student self-governance, we see the University as being a 'leadership laboratory.' The women's leadership program offers insights to female students on how women have been able to balance their lives, negotiating personal, family and career goals and needs," said V. Shamim Sisson, associate dean of students.

An important component of the program, Sisson says, is the mentoring opportunity. At the conclusion of the first Saturday program, participants will have an opportunity to establish mentoring relationships with the community and University leaders.

The program's second segment will be held on Saturday, March 6. Among the three topics the students will consider that day are "Balancing Career and Family." During that session couples will describe the challenges of working and maintaining quality family-time.

The program will end on Thursday, March 25, with a dinner and an inspirational speaker.

The Dean of Students Office established the Women's Leadership Development Program in 1990 after a female vice president of Student Council expressed concerns about the challenges she faced. A concurrent study by U.Va.'s Office of Career Planning and Placement showed that

female students often had greater reservations about their abilities than their male peers.

Past participants have indicated that the program was effective in encouraging them to pursue leadership roles. Many describe rewarding mentor relationships that have developed.

"The Women's Leadership Development Program taught me the meaning of 'limitlessness,'" said Friedman. "After I met female student leaders and local women who were extremely successful in their careers,

I knew that I could do anything I wanted here at the University and in the world, for that matter. I just had to find my passions and go for it all."

For more information, contact Shamim Sisson at (804) 924-7427 or Leah Friedman can be reached at (804) 923-3287 or

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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