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CWIL celebrates 10th anniversary

Anna Boarini | Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), which educates women at Saint Mary’s College and develops their leadership skills.

The center was founded in 2001 with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, CWIL Director Elaine Meyer-Lee, said.

“The Lilly Endowment was giving out a series of transformation grants to build upon a college’s strengths,” she said. “We have a long history of women’s and intercultural leadership and this center allows us to foster the intercultural competence that is so critical to the next generation of women leaders.”

Meyer-Lee said CWIL offers the Saint Mary’s community a variety of events on campus, as well as study abroad programs and research opportunities.

The Center is based around the core components of leadership education, global education and research, she said.

Some initiatives, like the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, give students the ability to work with a female business owner in the community and create a business plan, Meyer-Lee said.

CWIL also works with incoming international students, sponsors the Around the World Club and has grants available for both study abroad and undergraduate research, she said.

In addition, CWIL sponsors the certificate in intercultural leadership, Meyer-Lee said. This certificate brings together courses, study abroad experiences, mentoring and a self-designed project.

“This [intercultural leadership certificate] is an umbrella that brings together in an e-portfolio all the work a student has done in a concrete way to show future employers or graduate schools how they are an intercultural leader,” Meyer-Lee said.

CWIL is also responsible for a variety of on campus events each year. They host a bi-annual Women’s Intercultural Leadership Conference that creates a forum for dialogue across multiple disciplines, but focuses on women’s studies, leadership and intercultural education. The conference brings guest speakers, film series and artists together to discuss these issues.

Meyer-Lee said CWIL is unique because of its interdisciplinary nature.

“We really do have connections with all the departments across campus,” she said. “The wide range of research is exciting,” she said. “It’s a very unusual combination — the intersection of gender and culture in one center.”

While CWIL truly believes in their intercultural mission, Meyer-Lee said it also completely supports the Catholic mission of both the College and the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

“Throughout our history we have connected with them,” Meyer-Lee said. “We feel indebted to them, they have been involved in intercultural leadership and education from the very beginning.”