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Council honors work of intercultural leadership center

Bridget Feeney | Thursday, April 12, 2012

The National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) recently named Saint Mary’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) the recipient of the 2012 Diversity and Inclusion Award.

According to the organization’s website, the NCRW is composed of a team of researchers dedicated to creating informed policies and debates to explore issues prevalent to young girls and women.

The Diversity and Inclusion Award is presented to organizations that expand upon its leadership, programs, policies and research activities in order to include minorities, the website said. This year, CWIL was one of two centers chosen for the award.

Elaine Meyer-Lee, director of CWIL, said the recognition is a great honor for Saint Mary’s.

“NCRW involves many highly accomplished women leaders and institutions, and this award affirms Saint Mary’s national leadership role in improving the lives of women and girls,” she said. “It highlights our success and commitment to the challenging issues of diversity.”

Meyer-Lee said the group’s mission to promote diversity has only become more prominent at Saint Mary’s since the center was founded in 2000.

“Inclusive excellence is infused through all that CWIL has done over the past decade, attracting, engaging and mentoring diverse staff, students and participants on and off-campus to foster intercultural competence in the next generation of women leaders,” she said.

Meyer-Lee said this award is especially important, because it comes from a national level.

“It is a great honor to have the creative, passionate, and sustained work towards inclusive excellence that CWIL staff has dedicated themselves to … rewarded by not only successful achievement and local impact, but also recognition from such an esteemed national organization as the [NCRW],” she said.  

Meyer-Lee said some of the noteworthy programs CWIL offers include a national “Women as Intercultural Leaders” conference, unique study abroad opportunities in Africa and Asia and the creation of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. All of these programs achieve the goals outlined by the NCRW, she said.

“We have been quite successful in the criteria the award addresses, such as incorporating diverse leaders, attracting and engaging diverse participants, building in mentorship, having an impact on our broader community and establishing sustainable and replicable diversity and inclusion strategies,” she said.

Despite the award and recognition that comes with it, there are still some challenges with promoting diversity on campus. Meyer-Lee said.

“At Saint Mary’s, as in other higher education institutions, any kind of institution-wide change process moves slowly, given the complexity of all the different aspects it will have an impact on, on top of the normal human comfort with familiarity,” she said. “Keeping a persistent, creative and multi-faceted approach is necessary to move the whole institution forward.”

Saint Mary’s and CWIL will formally receive the award at the opening night of NCRW’s annual conference, “Agenda Setting 2012 Nationally and Globally: Leveraging Women’s Voices,” in Washington on June 20, Meyer-Lee said.

“Winning this award is important to us because Saint Mary’s has invested so much effort into our commitment to diversity and inclusion, including through CWIL, and our results do deserve national recognition,” she said. “I hope this award might bring additional support to Saint Mary’s for the College’s great commitment to this area.”