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Colorado Women's College

Dean's Message

2012 State of the College Address


The invitation to our Annual Fall Luncheon, and this State of the College address, carries a subtle—and not so subtle—message. The quote on the invitation, from a company you may have heard of called Apple, spoke about the "crazy people"—and the quote ends with the phrase, "Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." And the picture on the invitation, the picture of the red apple in a sea of green apples—is that the different apple, the "crazy" apple?

In some ways this Women's College is a red apple in the midst of all the green ones, a very unique college in the midst of so many other colleges and universities. What makes us deliciously different? What are our points of pride?

  • We are a women's college, one of only 46 women's colleges in the United States and Canada, and the only women's college in the Rocky Mountain West.
  • We are Colorado Women's College, founded in 1888, and on the cusp of celebrating 125 years of educating women who are bold leaders in the communities where they live, work, and engage.
  • We are this University's women's college, the only undergraduate women's college in the country to exist as its own college following a merger with a larger, coeducational institution.
  • We welcome students into a rich learning community; we are the most racially, ethnically, and age-diverse student body of any college inside the University of Denver.
  • We engage students in applied research; our college is home to the country's first undergraduate program in community-based research.
  • We educate from the head and the heart; our faculty and staff care about your intellectual, professional, and personal development—we know you and we walk the path of your educational journey with you.
  • We produce research that matters; our faculty, alumnae, and students are authoring the second edition of Benchmarking Women's Leadership, a national study examining women's positional leadership—benchmarking where women are in leadership roles, and where we are not.
  • We partner with people who care and invest; our college is supported by dedicated, generous, and engaged donors and alumnae, who have given nearly $5 million since 2007, most of that designated for endowed student scholarships and academic program support.
  • We "lift as we climb;" our work with the Girl Scouts, the Girls Athletic Leadership School, Mi Casa, Florence Crittenton School for Girls, and our commitment to Project Education Sudan and their Ayek Anguei Girls School—as well as the annual Half the Sky fair—are evidence of our students' commitment to girls and women locally, nationally, and globally.
  • We serve our veterans; our college is a home to women who have served in our nation's armed forces and our veteran population grows steadily each year.
  • We elevate women's thought leadership and issues that matter to girls and women as well as boys and men through our distinctive Leadership Salon series, where issues of the day are addressed in our community—inside and outside of the college—by women who are our community's thought leaders.
  • We collaborate with community organizations; seniors in capstones serve community-based organizations and as this University's community-focused college, we reach out to partners like RedLine, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Women Veterans of Colorado, and others.
  • We encourage entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking; we have the state's only entrepreneurship center dedicated to advancing women as entrepreneurs.
  • We explore the world; we open opportunities for our students to visit other countries—Mexico, Taiwan, Uruguay, South Africa—with a focus on the policies, issues, and needs of their girls and women.
  • We are inclusively-excellent; our college is committed to creating an environment where all are welcome, respected, and honored.
  • We are a red apple in a sea of green apples; a unique learning community that educates women to, as Gandhi famously said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

I too, am a graduate of a women's college, and I know that, even today, women's college graduates have an important role to play in the leadership of this nation. Across most sectors women, on average, comprise only 18% of those in positional leadership roles—presidents of companies, of colleges, of non-profit organizations. Of those leaders, women's college graduates still comprise a larger than average percentage of women who attain positional leadership roles. In fact, Tiffany Dufu, president of The White House Project and the college's strategic partner in addressing the gaps and opportunities for women's leadership nationally, says that women who are leaders often have three things in common—they were Girl Scouts, they played organized sports, and they attended a girl's school or women's college.

As I prepared for this address today I found myself thinking of a leader I admire greatly, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Raised here in Denver, she is a graduate of Wellesley College, one of the country's original women's colleges. A green apple in a sea of red apples as the nation's first woman to serve as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright is a woman committed to creating the change she wants to see in the world. Let's take a moment to hear from Secretary
Albright about her service and her views on women and women's leadership.

As I think about the importance of women's college's in general, and this women's college in particular, I think about the themes of Secretary Albright's remarks, and how those themes relate to who we are as women, and who we are as members of this Women's College community.

First, speaking out, stepping out, and having our voices heard.
How often do we diminish ourselves, think that what we have to say is unimportant, or worry we won't be liked? Women's colleges are places where you are expected to have voice! Secretary Albright, a women's college graduate herself, said when she saw the sign "United States" in front of her she knew she had to speak for her country. When I see the "Colorado Women's College" sign in front of me I know I have to speak out for my college and for each of you.
As a Women's College student, what is the sign you see in front of you that encourages you to speak, to have your voice heard?

Second, Secretary Albright placed women and girls in the center of her work as secretary of state.
Why? She knows, as we know, that the political and economic empowerment of women and girls is the key to better, healthier, and more resilient societies. Women's colleges place women at the center, and this college places you at the center.
What will you do to continue to place women and girls at the center within your own spheres of influence?

Third, we heard Secretary Albright state that having more women at the leadership table changes the tone and goals of any conversation, creating opportunities and solutions that may not have otherwise been considered.
She then spoke of the need to train women for political office and develop political voices. Did you know that, in fact, over the past 30 years there have been relatively minor increases in women in leadership roles across all sectors? At this flat to slightly increased rate, it will be 2085 before women are at parity with men. 2085—can we afford to wait that long?
How will you use this educational experience at Colorado Women's College to accelerate the rate of women in leadership roles by claiming one of those leadership positions yourself?

Finally, Secretary Albright said "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."
It saddens me to know that women do not support one another. Yet I have hope, for I have often heard Women's College students say that for the first time in their lives, they are in an environment—in this college environment—where women actually help one another, instead of put each other down. Does this sound familiar to you?
How will you take this Women's College experience, from inside and outside the classroom, to help other women, and to advance the lives of women and girls?

Remember the quote on this luncheon invitation about the "crazy people"—and the quote ends with the phrase, "Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Changing the world. That seems like a tall order, doesn't it? But if we don't work to change the world, to open up a wider range of possibilities and solutions, to place women and girls at the center, we may have to wait until 2085 for parity and a voice at the table. Can our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, any of our loved ones, wait that long? Can our nation wait that long? Can the world afford waiting all that time for women to be part of the solution?

I say "no" to waiting.

I say "yes" to each of you.

You could have attended any college, but you didn't. You said "yes" to this college, this women's college dedicated to the advancement of each of you, to elevating women and girls, and to creating in each of you the capacity for bold leadership, to accelerate the rate of women achieving leadership parity in this nation.

Colorado Women's College is more than just a college education; this college fosters a different way of thinking and being in the world, a place where the sign in front of you says "change the world for the betterment of girls and women," for I believe that changing the world for girls and women makes the world a better place for us all—women and men, girls and boys.

Be the green apple in a sea of red apples. Be the crazy person who believes she can change the world. Be the woman Secretary Albright will see in heaven because you have helped advance the lives of women and girls—I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Remember the sign "change the world for the betterment of girls and women" and to that end I close this state of the college address asking three things from each of you:

  1. Please, remember to vote on November 6—it's a right and privilege we all must exercise.
  2. Invite a woman you know to enroll at Colorado Women's College and share this powerful educational experience—our biggest recruiters are each of you.
  3. Be the change you wish to see in the world—no matter what your issue, speak up, stand up, and like Secretary Albright, remember that sign in front of you that compels you to make a difference in the world!