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Leadership U: At Maryland colleges, women presidents mentor, support, dream

LEADERSHIP U_no textThe numbers truly are a point of pride, President Tuajuanda Jordan of St. Mary’s College in Maryland said.

In this state, small in geography, but prominent in the world of education, eight women preside over one of Maryland’s 21 four-year colleges or universities.

Across the nation, 26% of presidents at four-year colleges and universities are women, according to the American Council on Education, a Washington, D.C.-based association that represents more than 1,600 colleges and universities. But in Maryland, that number is 38%, more than 10 points above the national average.

“That’s so impressive, especially for a state our size,” said Jordan, who credits the women in her family with pushing her to remain in school to earn bachelor’s and graduate degrees, and to start a path that eventually led to a college presidency.

At Coppin State University in Baltimore, 75% of students are women (In the U.S. overall, 57% of college students are women), and when Maria Thompson’s appointment as president in 2015 was announced, social media greeted the news with #girlpower. Thompson said she is more than happy to be a role model for students and believes the different ways that women lead are getting more appreciation these days as world problems become more complex and new solutions are needed.

“We listen … well, because that’s what we do,” she said. “It’s not ‘my way or the highway,’ because we don’t lead that way.”

In the U.S., 33% of community colleges are led by women, while in Maryland 55% of community colleges – or 10 out of 18 schools – have a women president. (See a full list of the women who preside over Maryland’s community colleges on page XX).

As students returned to classrooms last month, we talked with all eight women who lead a four-year school in the state, plus two community college presidents, and asked them about their mission, what students need to know before they graduate and what best prepared them for their jobs.

The presidents are: Sheila Bair, Washington College; Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Andrea Chapdelaine, Hood College; Janet Dudley-Eshbach, Salisbury University; Kathleen Hetherington, Howard Community College; Tuajuanda Jordan, St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Sandra Kurtinitis, Community College of Baltimore County; Kim Schatzel, Towson University; Maria Thompson, Coppin State University and Marylou Yam, Notre Dame of Maryland University

Here is what they shared with us:

What do you feel is your mission as a college president today?

“I want to make sure our students are well prepared, both academically and financially, to enter the world once they graduate. Being prepared academically means having critical thinking skills, having strong communication skills, and being able to adapt in a rapidly changing global economy. Being financially prepared means carrying as little debt as possible and being knowledgeable about how to manage that debt.”

Sheila Bair, Washington College

“My job as a leader is to create momentum – to either support people or to clear the path.”

Kim Schatzel, Towson University

“Also important is to be a spokesperson and advocate for the value of private liberal arts colleges, which has been the target of increased public skepticism. Research has amply demonstrated the significant return on investment of an education like the one Hood provides, not only financially but also in terms of societal benefit and personal well-being, yet that message does not seem to be heard. We need educated citizens who feel obligated to contribute to the public good.”

Andrea Chapdelaine, Hood College

“Workforce development. Whether you want to be a poet, an engineer or a nurse, we get your ready for the world of work.”

Sandra Kurtinitis, Community College of Baltimore County

What do today’s students need to know before they graduate?

“Students need to know how to be leaders ̶ leaders in their own lives. How to organize their time and their careers. How to lead once they leave here. We make sure there are plenty of opportunities here for our students to have leadership roles.”

Maria Thompson, Coppin State University

“When I ask leaders in business, government, and other organizations what they want to see in the individuals they hire, I always hear the same thing: Employers want graduates who excel in critical thinking and reasoning. They expect that new hires will have excellent speaking and writing skills, and that job candidates will present themselves well. Obviously they want a strong work ethic with the ability to operate independently as well as collaboratively.”

Janet Dudley-Eschbach, Salisbury University

“We need to equip our students with both the hard and soft skills to do well in the world of work. I was an English major and all I wanted to do was to study John Donne or Milton. What I wasn’t doing was thinking of myself as someone who had to go to work. We’re way more practical now, especially at the community college level, helping students make connections, whether through internships or externships.”

Sandra Kurtinitis, Community College of Baltimore County

“The basic message is don’t worry. Prepare to be innovative and creative. Obtain international experience so you can be a global citizen. Expect to change jobs.”

Tuajuanda Jordan, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Why education?

“I’ve always wanted a career in education. I wasn’t sure whether I’d teach classical guitar, geology, or Spanish (all fields I studied before finally settling on the latter), but I saw myself in a university or school setting. I believe there is no higher calling than teaching; through teaching we are building the foundation of future generations. I also love the arts, but don’t think I had the talent to make a living as an artist.”

Janet Dudley-Eschbach, Salisbury University

“Given my previous experiences working for the New York Stock Exchange, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the FDIC, I could certainly have remained in banking and finance. I was drawn to the presidency at Washington College because I was looking for an opportunity to give back. I’m a member of the Baby Boomer generation that’s had the lion’s share of the opportunities and the responsibilities over the past several decades. And I’m concerned that we’re not giving our young people a particularly robust economy. I’m concerned that we’re not giving them a financial system that’s as stable as it should be. So I wanted to do my part, at least for the students of Washington College, to prepare them well for the next phase in their lives.”

Sheila Bair, Washington College

“If you want to see the American dream in action, visit your local community college. Opportunities abound and the focus is on the students at community colleges because of their access and affordability. If I weren’t in education, I probably would have gone into health care. My life’s focus has been on service to others, and I believe education and health care are two key areas where one can best help other people.”

Kathleen Hetherington, Howard Community College

“Having spent the better part of 25 years in higher education, I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Marylou Yam, Notre Dame of Maryland University

What best prepared you for this job?

“The position I held directly previous to this one – as provost of a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. In that role, I was fortunate to have a brilliant and supportive boss (the president) who gave me many opportunities to learn aspects of this job and who was always willing to guide me (and still does). I do believe being a faculty member was important as well because you gain a true understanding of the core of this enterprise – teaching and learning – in the classroom.”

Andrea Chapdelaine, Hood College

“The lessons I learned as a child – fairness, respect, hard work, compassion, self-discipline – are ones that help me to carry out my job as a servant leader every day.”

Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore

“Prior to Notre Dame, I spent much of my career at a similar institution in New Jersey. With my experience in nursing education serving as the basis of my leadership skills, I had the opportunity to work across different divisions of the university. Over time I progressed from being a faculty member to Associate Dean of Nursing to eventually Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. I frequently sought after and learned from mentors and my many colleagues, and I understood that everyone’s role on a college campus matters.”
Marylou Yam, Notre Dame of Maryland University

What was your college experience like?

“I had two college nicknames, ‘Power’ and ‘Quiet Storm.’ I didn’t do a lot of talking, but I had a lot of focus.”

Tuajuanda Jordan, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

“I attended a small, private, historically black college in my hometown of Talladega, Alabama. I had a wonderful college experience where I had many opportunities to grow and develop. I had wonderful faculty who encouraged and challenged me. It was in college that I fell in love with science and research. I graduated with a degree in chemistry in 3.5 years as valedictorian of my class. Subsequently I went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry as a result of my undergraduate experience.”

Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore

“I have attended a community college, a state college, and two private universities on my educational path, culminating with the attainment of my doctorate degree. My community college experience was the most transformative. I attended college during the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the end of the Vietnam War. My classmates were from all walks of life and the classroom experience was rich and vibrant with perspectives from many different points of view.”

Kathleen Hetherington, Howard Community College

“It was really transformative for me, because I was able to meet people from all over the country and live someplace I had never lived before.”

Kim Schatzel, Towson University

“I was a first generation student so I was overwhelmed and homesick at first. I struggled to find my niche. Academically, high school was not terribly challenging and thus I had not acquired the study skills I needed. Although it was a difficult transition, looking back I am grateful for the struggle because it helps me better understand what my students may be experiencing. Eventually I found my interests both in and out of the classroom, great friends and a wonderful faculty adviser who became a lifelong mentor and friend. There is no doubt that college had a transformative effect on my life, just as we hope it does for all students.”

Andrea Chapdelaine, Hood College

Women who lead Maryland’s community colleges

Cynthia Bambara, Allegany College
Mary Way Bolt, Cecil College
Elizabeth Burmaster, Frederick Community College
Charlene M. Dukes, Prince George’s Community College
Kathleen Hetherington, Howard Community College
Sandra Kurtinitis, Community College of Baltimore County
Dawn Lindsay, Anne Arundel Community College
Dianna G. Phillips, Harford Community College
DeRionne P. Pollard, Montgomery College
Barbara A. Viniar, Chesapeake College

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