Transforming the Face of World Leadership
For more than 160 years, Saint Mary’s has been preparing women to be leaders. A new program, the Intercultural Leadership Certificate, builds on that tradition.
By Scot Erin Briggs
This year, four students became the first Saint Mary’s graduates to earn the Intercultural Leadership Certificate: Sarita Fritzler, Adriana Lopez, Chelsea Iversen, and Razia Stanikzai. The program was developed by the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership (CWIL). CWIL was established through a Transformative Grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., in 2000.
“What we have is a unique program,” says Joy Evans, assistant director of scholarship and research for CWIL. The program borrows from the Women’s Intercultural Leadership Model that was developed as a part of Community Connections programs spearheaded by Bonnie Bazata, associate director of CWIL. The program is designed to give students cross-cultural and intercultural competence, which according to Bazata, is a powerful way to “prepare students for a global world.”
When the certificate program was being designed, the faculty and administrators at CWIL gathered their information and their resources. They looked at over 170 schools nationwide and their leadership programs to survey best practices.
They looked at programs like Duke’s Baldwin Scholars and at Rutgers University’s Leadership Scholars Certificate Program. Rationale for the all-women’s environment of the Baldwin Scholars notes that, “Research has consistently shown that graduates of women’s colleges outperform their peers in achieving career goals.” And they looked at successful programs that promoted leadership on campus and in the community such as the University of Arizona’s Leadership & Involvement Transcript.
CWIL found programs that shared ideas and components, but none that combined women’s leadership and intercultural leadership. The final program was the result of collaboration between faculty, staff, students, and CWIL’s International Advisory Board. The program didn’t need to replicate an all-women’s environment as Duke’s had. And they wanted to create a program where students would explore leadership within many spheres: in their communities, on campus, and globally. The program was developed to integrate students’ experiences at Saint Mary’s in a meaningful way, with both curricular and co-curricular aspects to it. Students’ classroom work is complemented by many forms of experiential learning including studying abroad, going on the Catalyst trip, mentoring with local and international women leaders, a student-designed leadership project, and 50 hours of community-based learning.
This combination of learning experiences allows students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real life situations. “Part of what they develop is real confidence,” says Bazata. “We want students to learn who they are as leaders both through reflection and engagement. Students gain confidence and competence in ways that they can articulate and demonstrate, and that gives them a real edge in today’s intercultural world.” Evans agrees that this is part of what makes the program powerful.
“The whole key to civic engagement is to get students to want to change their world, and then to feel like they can,” says Evans.
Razia shares her “future profile,” a visual representation of what she hopes to do in their future, working to advance girls’ education in Afghanistan.
Adriana Lopez ’08 says the program has had that kind of transformative effect on her: she says she’s become more assertive, volunteered more, and has generally become more involved. “I can definitely tell the difference in my personality then and now,” says Lopez. “I’m more likely to speak up and be comfortable communicating, whether it’s at my internship at the congressman’s office or with my coworkers in the dining hall.” Lopez gained experience working with people on issues of immigration, social security, and veterans affairs at Congressman Joe Donnelly’s office, where she completed her social work field placement.
Lopez first came to Saint Mary’s through the Encuentro: Encounter Yourself summer program, a program designed to help prospective college students—women who would be the first generation in their family to attend college—make college a reality.
Lopez is acting with confidence too. She was a chair on the Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference committee and the vice president of the Student Diversity Board. Lopez is interested in pursuing issues in immigration, economic development, and public policy. She will be leaving in August for a year internship in Puerto Rico through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, giving her important field experience.
Sarita Fritzler ’08, says that a combination of confidence and competence prepared her for a career in international development. “It is now more important than ever to be competent in intercultural exchanges because of the globalized world we live in,” says Fritzler. “When I work in international development, I will be better able to work with all people, from the rural community organizers to the top government officials, to ensure all voices are brought to the table...”
Razia Stanikzai ’08, who will return to Afghanistan after graduation, wants to return to work promoting access to education for Afghan children and increasing opportunities for women. They are causes she worked for previously and to which she is deeply committed. But now she thinks she will have an edge. “The Intercultural Certificate has a strong emphasis on developing students’ insight and understanding of the oppressive structures in any society, be it in terms of gender, race, or socio-economic class, and how these structures shape access to opportunities,” says Stanikzai. “In Afghanistan, we have problems that are compounded by the chronic war. It is important for me to reflect on these hierarchical structures within Afghanistan, as well as globally, which create hurdles in terms of access and control over resources,” says Stanikzai.
Graduates of the program leave Saint Mary’s with, in addition to their Intercultural Leadership Certificate, an electronic portfolio. The portfolio is a collection of their work organized into six areas of competence: Recognize the Leader Within, Articulate Your Ethical/Spiritual Center, Engage With and Value Diversity, Dialogue on Power and Privilege, Create Inclusive and Equitable Community, and Make Your Difference in the World.
Chelsea Iversen found the process of compiling her portfolio brought revelations of its own.
“Until I began zeroing in on my leadership projects and cataloguing them in the portfolio, I didn’t recognize how it all came together,” says Iversen. After graduation, Iversen will continue a collaborative research project funded by a CWIL grant. The project’s focus is the Potawatomi Indians and the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Iversen is collaborating with Marchell Wesaw of the Pokagon Tribal Council and member of CWIL’s International Advisory Board and Kate Shoupe, chair of the anthropology department here at Saint Mary’s. “Now I can see that there is a line beginning to form in my experiences, and I know that it is leading somewhere into my future.”