Women’s Leadership Council Supports Diverse Initiatives Focused on Empowerment
The University’s Women’s Leadership Council recently awarded a series of grants to students, faculty, and staff to support their initiatives that will empower and support women across the University community.
March 6, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Endeavoring to help women reach their full potential by elevating undergraduate and graduate students at the University and strengthening their connections, the WLC’s new Women’s Leadership Council Philanthropy Fund is a way for the organization to expand its outreach.
The WLC, which was first conceived when Moran was named chair of the Pompea College of Business’s Advisory Board in 2018, has awarded several grants to students, staff, and faculty members as part of its initiatives to empower women.
“The Women's Leadership Council is absolutely thrilled to participate in such an inspirational initiative,” said Moran, who serves as president and chief banking officer for Ledyard Financial Group, as well as a member of the University’s Board of Governors. “We understood the significance the grants represented to the students, faculty, and staff who requested the grants, as well as the impact these projects will have throughout the University.
“The response from this program has been overwhelmingly positive,” she continued. “We look forward to the tremendous outcomes that will ensue. Creating a venue that supports the efforts of our women students, faculty, and staff is an important priority of the Council and the University, and our hope is to inspire, motivate, and support our future generation.”
Moran spearheaded this initiative with Brian Kench, Ph.D., dean of the University’s Pompea College of Business. The grants were awarded to members of the University community who represent myriad academic colleges and schools and departments. The awards will support their important initiatives to empower women in the University community.
“The Women’s Leadership Council’s grant program is fueling widespread grassroots women’s leadership programing,” said Dr. Kench. “The WLC believes this programing will develop future women leaders from all corners of the University community.”
Learn more about the grant recipients and their projects.
Vanessa Ort, assistant director of financial aid
Vanessa Ort’s project will include a literacy series that will focus on women and financial topics such as retirement, banking, credit, debt management, and investing. The events and featured speakers will engage women in the conversation about money and enable them to network and develop important educational resources.
Ort will collaborate with the University’s Financial Wellness Committee, which includes the Financial Aid Office and the Office of Residential Life. She looks forward to helping students develop their financial wellness, which, she hopes, will promote positive lifelong behaviors that foster success. Ort hopes to continue a conversation about financial insecurity, awareness, resources, and the wide scope of support available to University of New Haven students.
“Helping students understand steps they can take to financial wellness has always been my passion, stemming from my own experiences and desire to help others,” said Ort. “Today, I see more women who have access to a college education, but they are still struggling with other finances, including student loan debt, income disparities, and long-term planning. The Women’s Leadership Council’s initiative supports the opportunity through this grant to foster the conversation about a sometimes intimidating topic such as finances, opening doors to empowering women to take control of today and their future.”
Claire Glynn, Ph.D., associate professor, research coordinator for forensic science, and director of the University’s Graduate Certificate in Forensic Genetic Genealogy
Claire Glynn, Ph.D., is developing “Women Leaders in Criminal Investigations,” a speaker series and expert panel. A series of four online/webinar events will include panel discussions featuring women leaders in crime scene investigation, the forensic science laboratory, the courtroom, and in post-conviction review and Innocence Projects efforts.
Partnering with Lisa Dadio, M.S., MSW, Maria Torre, M.S., and Bridget Brosnahan, M.S., Dr. Glynn endeavors to recognize trailblazing women who are paving the way for current students while encouraging and motivating students to pursue leadership positions. The hope is that it will foster the inclusion, advancement, and recognition of women as members of the forensic science community, focusing on bringing women in science together.
Dr. Glynn hopes the initiative will offer opportunities for professional exploration, networking, and growth while inspiring students to become future leaders. Although a majority of forensic science graduates are female, the majority of leadership positions at local, state, and federal agencies and crime laboratories are held by males.
“We are incredibly thankful to the Women’s Leadership Council for awarding us this grant,” said Dr. Glynn. “Women make up approximately 80 percent of our forensic science student body. It is our duty as their professors to inspire our students by showing them just how powerful and impactful they can be in their own future careers.
“We will hold two online events in the Spring semester where we will bring together women leaders in the fields of crime scene investigation and the crime lab,” she continued. “This will give our students an insight into how these empowering women found success in their careers. Our goal is to motivate and encourage our students and alumni to become future leaders in the fields of crime science investigation and in the crime lab.”
Robin Salters, M.A., deputy director of athletics and senior woman administrator, and Jonathan Mays, Ph.D., associate director of athletics
Despite significant progress, female student-athletes nationwide report facing unique challenges related to their social identities, leadership characteristics, and career ambitions. Robin Salters and Jonathan Mays are concerned that, because strong female athlete leaders are often stigmatized by the broader society and sports culture, they are typically less likely to pursue meaningful leadership positions while in college or to display outward demonstrations of leadership, despite having the required experience and skills to do so.
Working with Matt Caporale, executive director of the University’s Career Development Center, Salters and Mays hope to empower Chargers through the Female Student-Athlete Leadership & Career Series. It will connect passionate and successful female student-athlete alumni with current female student-athletes to drive leadership development while providing mentorship and career and networking opportunities for current female student-athletes.
The series endeavors to elevate and empower female student-athletes to achieve their full potential on the field, in the classroom, and in their personal lives – both as students and in their careers.
The funding will provide opportunities for female student-athlete alumni to travel to the University to meet in-person with current female student-athletes. It will also allow the Department of Athletics to sponsor a current female student-athlete to attend the Women Leaders X annual event hosted by Women Leaders in College Sports.
“We are excited that the University has established this grant program and are honored to have been a selected recipient,” said Salters. “Charger Athletics has a proud history of success for female student-athletes on and off the field of play. With this being the 50th anniversary of Title IX, this grant will provide opportunities for more than 220 female student-athletes to interact with successful alumni, engage in leadership training, and empower one another to enhance their leadership capabilities while on campus and beyond continuing the legacy of Chargers success for years to come.”
Aliza Johns ’23, mechanical engineering major
Aliza Johns ’23, vice president of the University’s Society of Women Engineers chapter and vice president of communications for Alpha Sigma Kappa, is excited to create opportunities for current students to network and engage with professional engineers.
Johns, who will be collaborating with fellow engineering students Madison Liguori ’23, Malaika Matumbu ’22, and Allison Sawicki ’22, plans to help students form relationships with professionals. By creating a speed-networking event, Johns looks forward to creating a meaningful way for students and professionals to connect, and they hope it will aid students in their job searches, while enabling them to reflect on the impact women can have in engineering, which is still a male-dominated field.
“The Society of Women Engineers is an all-inclusive registered student organization (RSO) on campus that empowers people to reach their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders,” said Johns, who serves as president of the University’s Class of 2023. “With the generous funding from the Women’s Leadership Council, the Society of Women Engineers will be able to host a speed networking event that will allow students to reach out to professionals within specific fields and gain valuable knowledge.
“The Society of Women Engineers hopes to open doors for students and allow them to follow their dreams without letting a lack of connections or professional development get in the way of their success,” continued Johns. “We will be able to host STEM professionals on-campus and receive that face-to-face connection. The Society of Women Engineers would like to thank the Women’s Leadership Council for allowing us to make this event the best possible speed-networking event to date!”
Vaishnavi Balaji ’23 M.S., cellular and molecular biology graduate student
Vaishnavi Balaji ’23 M.S. will partner with Scientista, a hybrid recognized student organization at the University and a chapter of the National Scientista Foundation, to offer a screening of the PBS Nova documentary Picture A Scientist. The documentary depicts the work and daily lives of a female biologist, chemist, and geologist – all of whom are potential role models for students.
After the screening, students will have the chance to discuss it, creating opportunities for networking. They will explore the challenges that women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields face.
“I'm so excited and honored to receive this grant and to screen Picture A Scientist,” said Balaji, a graduate teaching assistant in the University’s biology department. “The move is an important milestone for women in STEM, and Scientista has the same mission as the team behind the documentary: to show people what's it like to be a woman in STEM.”
Danielle Cooper, Ph.D., CPP, associate professor of criminal justice and director of research for the Tow Youth Justice Institute
Danielle Cooper is developing Leaders in Action: Power Networking Rounds, which she envisions as an opportunity to host meaningful conversations about a variety of challenges that impact women’s roles, such as leadership opportunities, prejudice, and mentorship.
“The project will take a multi-stage approach that allows for various stakeholders to engage in conversations that will help them in their roles while encouraging future female leaders,” said Dr. Cooper. “By attending these networking rounds, participants will have an invitation for empowerment and belonging on campus that we hope not only impacts their work, but also how they see themselves leading in the future and mentoring other leaders. Not only can we foster inclusion, but we can amplify the belonging they feel as leaders on our campus, and, more importantly, the world.”
Kristine Horvat, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical engineering and chemical engineering program director
Kristine Horvat will be using the grant to support Girl Power in STEM, a symposium to focus on the strides women have made in the STEM fields in recognition of International Women’s Day. Observed every March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates the myriad achievements of women around the globe.
The virtual symposium will include workshops, keynote speakers, and hands-on activities for middle and high school and college students as well as the general public, enabling them to learn about careers in the STEM fields.
“I am grateful for this grant to help us enhance the event with additional speakers and a personalized event website,” said Dr. Horvat. “We are organizing this event because we want to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM fields. We are also hoping to create an opportunity for current STEM women to discuss their career journeys and the challenges that they have faced, with the opportunity to give and receive advice from each other.”
Gabrielle Tayag ’21, ’22 MBA
Gabrielle Tayag ’21, ’22 MBA hopes to empower women through educational opportunities and confidence building. Her project, “Let’s Grow, Girl: A Series on Professional and Personal Development,” will include an informational series culminating in hands-on work experience for participants, as well as a formal and long-lasting informational and support system that endeavors to help women – including minority women – succeed in business.
The professional and personal development series will include information seminars on a variety of topics related to business and the challenges that minorities face while enabling speakers and attendees to network and interact. Tayag, who will be collaborating with Khadija Al Arkoubi, Ph.D., envisions “story circles” in which members can share their personal experiences in a safe and supportive environment.
The Community of Practice for Women Empowerment, the second part of Tayag’s initiative, aims to foster a community with shared academic and professional objectives that will foster collaboration. It will provide information to members on topics such as financial literacy, interviewing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
“I am so excited to receive this grant because it represents an opportunity for institutionalized change,” said Tayag, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University. “I cannot wait to create something so unique and meaningful to this university, and I hope that it will impact the lives of students for generations to come.”
Emily Watkins ’24
Emily Watkins ’24, a finance major with a minor in accounting, wants to help women and minorities achieve more representation in leadership positions around the world. Treasurer of the University’s Women in Business Club, she will be collaborating with the club’s e-board to develop the Women ‘n’ Pride Leadership Program. She hopes it will help underrepresented genders learn to navigate challenges to leadership positions and opportunities for advancement.
Watkins plans to collaborate with the University’s Pompea College of Business to develop an in-person leadership program certificate focused on the requirements of today’s workforce, making students “hire-ready,” with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed as leaders as they enter the workforce. Focused on sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students, the program will emphasize topics such as negotiation, emotional intelligence, and DEI.
“I believe that the University of New Haven is moving forward in ensuring that all students, regardless of race and gender, can succeed in the workforce,” said Watkins, vice president of the University’s Accounting Society. “The University is supplying women with the tools that they need to break through the glass ceiling that so many past women have had issues breaking through. This grant has allowed me to aid the University in this movement forward and upward, helping women succeed in male-dominated work forces.”
Shamare Holmes ’22 MPA
Shamare Holmes ’22 MPA believes it is critical for women to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, but she acknowledges that it can, at times, be difficult for women to encourage themselves – let alone others. She is developing “Confidence Club” to provide women with positive, professional role models and a safe space to develop self-esteem and social/emotional intelligence.
Confidence Club will be a discussion group that meets regularly with a professional mentor. The curriculum-based program will enable women to develop confidence and leadership skills.
Holmes envisions the club as an extension to the Confidence Clubs offered by LiveGirl, a nonprofit based in New Canaan, Conn. These Confidence Clubs are offered to middle school students, and she plans to design the club for college women.
"I am truly looking forward to creating a brave space on campus for women who don't have the luxury or confidence to be vulnerable in the classroom, workplace, or even the comfort of their own residences,” said Holmes. “As women, we have every right to allow ourselves grace and to gas ourselves up when we make power moves. What better way than to be surrounded by a network of like-minded women who endure the same pressures and stressors as it pertains to all things gender suppressive? Confidence Club: College Edition will serve as a reminder that women can do and have it all if they so choose to – especially when they're supportive and uplifting of one another."