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Women in leadership: inspiring positive change

| Tuesday, September 25, 2018

“Control is a mirage. The most effective leaders right now — men and women — are those who embrace traits once considered feminine. Empathy. Vulnerability. Humility. Inclusiveness. Generosity.”

Leigh Buchanan

Empathy. Every year, The Posse Foundation and Posse Scholars facilitate an annual weekend-long PossePlus Retreat attended by members of the larger student body, faculty and administration, with the goal of discussing an important campus issue identified by Posse Scholars. The theme of this retreat was “Us vs. Them.” In one of the activities, everyone was instructed to write who they perceived as their “them.” We were then instructed to walk around the room, look at what other people wrote, and find our “them.” I, being a young African-American man raised in an urban setting, wrote down “law enforcement.” When I found my partners, we began to talk. As I was describing a troubling experience with Notre Dame Security Police, I began to cry. I was comforted by the two women beside me. Elly Brenner, a first-year advisor, was there to mediate the discussion. Keri Kei Shibata was there because she is the NDSP Chief of Police. They both listened to me and comforted me. Thank you, Elly and Keri Kei. After the conversation, Chief Shibata took multiple steps to make me feel safe at Notre Dame. She introduced me to several NDSP officers, who have been valuable resources. She provided her cell number in case I ever needed comfort or an advocate. She has gone above and beyond to make me feel safe and welcome at Notre Dame.

Vulnerability and humility. At the PossePlus retreat, I also shared a story about my struggles in the College of Science. I had no adequate AP classes. I went to a public school. I felt like I could never compete with students from some of the best schools in the United States. After I shared my story, a woman gently comforted me and said “thank you.” This woman was Mary Galvin. We reconnected after my retreat, and she began to tell me a story. She told me, “During my time at Manhattanville College, I was the only woman in almost all of my science courses, and I felt like I was not cut out for college.” She is an MIT graduate. She is the owner of five U.S. patents. She is a former member of the National Board of Chemical Science and Technology. She was the director for the Division of Materials Research in the National Science Foundation. She is the dean of the College of Science. She didn’t have to share her story with me, but she did. In addition, she gave me the platform to work with her to address academic gaps in the College of Science. This year, they had the courage to begin a pilot program aimed to help students from underprivileged backgrounds succeed. This is the type of courage and innovation that changes the world. When presenting this idea to our science advisory council, they gave me the platform to speak about this issue to some of our most distinguished alumni. Thank you to Dean Mary Galvin, Małgorzata Dobrowolska-Furdyna and Allison Slabaugh for making me feel special.

Inclusiveness. Generosity. I am extremely grateful for the financial aid that made it possible for me to attend Notre Dame. With this, I knew coming in that I would need to work every week. I knew that work was a part of my life, and it took up 10-15 hours of my week. As a pre-med student, it was difficult to find time to study. As a student leader, it was even more difficult to find time to make positive change at Notre Dame. I was privileged enough to serve on student government’s executive cabinet for the Blais-Shewit administration (headed by two incredible women) beginning in my freshman year, and I did not want to carry the burden of work. So after my freshman year, I worked all summer so that I did not have to endure this burden during the school year. However, financial struggles back home placed significant strain on my ability to support myself. Every day was a struggle to get through. Mary Nucciarone, director of Financial Aid, has been a tremendous resource and friend to me. She helped me get through a tough time, and she is a huge reason I am still here. The Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) staff, comprised mostly of women, was there for me. Thank you to Iris, Yvette and Paige for your support. Eventually, I was afraid that I was going to have to resign from my position in student government in order to begin working again. During an unrelated meeting with Erin Hoffman Harding in Student Affairs, she invited me to work in her office. It would give me the opportunity to work on things that I cared about while receiving compensation to help stabilize me. It is important to emphasize that she owed me nothing. Her generosity goes beyond anything that the general public could ever know.

I am forever indebted to all of these strong, powerful women. Our connections are much deeper than than the casual administrative-student partnership. These are my mothers away from home. They went above and beyond to make me feel welcome at Notre Dame. To anybody I failed to mention, please know that these interactions make me powerful. To all the women here at Notre Dame, you are inspiring positive change every day. Thank you.

Kaleem Minor is a junior sociology major serving on Diversity Council board as vice chair. He can be reached at [email protected]

The Diversity Council of Notre Dame advocates for awareness, understanding and acceptance on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other intersectional identities in the Notre Dame community. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Diversity Council, but are the individual opinions of the author.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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