Saint Mary's College, rooted in its history of pioneering change, its position within the Catholic tradition, and its commitment to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, established the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership in 2000 with the generous support of the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
The Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) advances Saint Mary's College's mission of “preparing students to make a difference in the world” by empowering women to realize their call to leadership and to develop the intercultural knowledge and competence critical in today’s increasingly interdependent world. In the spirit of the College’s sponsors, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, CWIL promotes human transformation and systemic change, from the local to the global context, by providing challenging, justice-based educational opportunities.
To develop intercultural knowledge and competence, CWIL promotes transformative intercultural engagement across the Saint Mary’s campus, and connecting with communities at the local, state, national and global levels. We understand intercultural engagement to consist of two essential parts which combine to result in growth: one is interacting across the boundaries that define identities, circumscribe participation, and shape encounters, and the other is reflection on and interpretation of the complexities of those interactions. Such boundaries include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, area of origin, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, educational level, sexual orientation, age, varying ability, and language. Rooted in a developmental approach, we challenge and support individuals and groups to take the next steps toward deeper intercultural experience, more sophisticated grappling with issues of difference such as power and privilege, and greater appreciation for the diversity and richness of human experience.
To empower women to apply their intercultural competence as leaders, CWIL helps them recognize the leader within. In this fluid approach, women identify their own potential and take their unique place as agents within the larger context of the history of social change, but also encourage the leadership capacity of those around them. Given our Catholic context, we see leadership as flowing from one’s well-examined spiritual and ethical center. We provide opportunities for students to apply their intercultural and leadership skills in practice to create inclusive and equitable processes and communities.
To achieve this CWIL mission, we build collaborative relationships throughout the campus and community, and encourage partnering across departments, disciplines, and other traditional dividing lines. We organize our work into the distinct, but richly synergistic components of Research and Scholarship, Leadership Education, and Global Education. We bridge global and domestic diversity issues, remaining mindful of the distinctions between these but also of their commonalities. We highlight the roles of women in relation to these issues, study the interconnections between gender and culture, and conduct all of our work with the goal of developing the next generation of women leaders.
Our work is firmly rooted in the tradition of the Sisters of the Holy Cross who have a long history of intercultural leadership flowing from their mission to “reflect on the signs of the times, discern needs, and respond”. Today the Sisters work actively around the world to promote non-violent systemic change to end intolerance, inequity, and gender discrimination against women, standing in solidarity with the powerless and building communities of justice.
Member Center of the National Council for Research on Women