Women's Leadership Initiative @ MNU
| by Carol Best email@example.com
Lisa Wallentine (‘94) and Jamie Myrtle (‘87) have dreamed about a comprehensive plan to promote leadership skills for young women at MNU. Recently others joined their crusade. Coupled with increasing interest among female students and a new endowment, We Lead—A Women’s Leadership Initiative @ MNU was founded.
Increasing the number and breadth of opportunities for young women is the goal of We Lead – A Women’s Leadership Initiative @ MNU. Birthed from a growing interest among female students, and the dream of two professors, the initiative includes academic, experiential and service options for women starting as early as their junior year in high school.
Dr. Lisa Wallentine (’94), chair, Department of Business Administration, and Jamie Myrtle (’87), interim dean, College of Arts and Sciences, are spearheading the initiative. They co-direct We Lead with the assistance of an advisory board comprised of MNU faculty, staff and alumnae from nursing, science, education, student development, athletics and counseling, as well as numerous volunteers.
The friends and colleagues have talked about women and leadership for years. But their ideas gained clarity after evaluating the university’s mentoring efforts. Women, they found, both approach and benefit from the mentoring relationship differently from men. Wallentine’s research for her doctoral dissertation gave the pair additional evidence.
“The literature agreed that women need mentors and certain training to be assertive in leadership,” Wallentine said.
The professors also held focus groups to understand where gaps exist in training and opportunity.
“Immediately, there was high interest in the idea,” Wallentine adds. “Participants said they would join that day if the program existed. All of this is founded on the literature and the primary research we did.”
With the creation of the Women in Leadership Endowment Fund by Brent (FS ‘85) and Lynette (FS ‘84) Barkman and Candace Moss (‘07), along with focused gifts from individuals and Husch Blackwell law firm, We Lead was born.
We Lead has three main components—launch, empower and engage. Each component plays a part in developing women as leaders by strengthening one’s natural gifts and abilities while identifying, educating and building skills where gaps exist.
Last spring, initiative organizers piloted the first event called Launch—a Girl’s Preview Weekend at MNU. Registration filled before it was widely promoted prompting organizers to make room for more to attend.
The theme was “Belonging” and will rotate with “Becoming” in the second year with new content and structural changes to the program. Attendees were treated to a weekend of engaging seminars, pampering, homemade goodies provided by staff and fellowship with MNU student hosts.
Myrtle says engaging with the girls was just the beginning.
“A big part of leadership is having confidence in one’s ability to lead,” she says. “Confidence is a by-product of having the requisite professional leadership skills and the support of a community. Launch builds both and we were excited to show young women how MNU could come alongside and help them.”
Once enrolled at MNU, women can participate in leadership development through two paths; the participant track and the certificate path. Both paths cultivate a holistic perspective on womanhood while encouraging each student to reach her own unique leadership potential.
Certificate students may take a wide variety of leadership focused coursework for 12 credit hours. They also participate in The National Society of Leadership and Success, mentoring and a program portfolio. The certificate and associated credit hours will be documented on the student’s official MNU transcript.
Certificate track students will also join in participant track activities such as
- Strengths Finder
- Conflict resolution
- Body image
- Health & nutrition
- Annual events: Launch, retreats and celebration
The leadership certificate uses a balanced scorecard approach to ensure a focus on the whole person – soul, heart, mind, and strength. The primary goal is to cultivate a holistic perspective on womanhood while encouraging each student to reach her own unique leadership potential.
Community outreach and alumni involvement form the third component of the initiative.
“The community and alumni component of this creates a continuous cycle of giving back,” Wallentine says. “We anticipate graduates of We Lead will take leadership positions in the program, providing sustainability.”
Contrary to the voices of division heard across society, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Nancy Damron (’95, MED ’98) says MNU offers mission-fit programming designed to benefit all people through messages of hope and unity.
“We Lead is a positive response to concerns regarding how we connect with self, others, and God. The program focuses on empowerment through Christ and developing the whole person—mind, body, and soul,” Damron says. “This initiative cultivates leaders who will create solutions and opportunities for others. We are grateful to all who support it and invite others to join us.”