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She's Got It!*
August 4, 2011 - 9:15pm

Work has radically changed...

We will have several different careers over the course of our working lives...

We just need to follow our passion to find meaningful work...

Recent cuts to spending in the US are going to further escalate the unemployment rates...

Not only is the news overwhelming, it’s paralyzing.

How do we take advantage of these changes? How do we prevent ourselves from becoming frozen like deer in the headlights? In May, several of the writers at University of Venus co-hosted a Live Talk at the Guardian focused on Promoting Womens Leadership in Higher Education. It was a fantastic discussion that left us wanting more. This talk inspired me to reach out to senior leaders in education, to hear their stories, and get their advice on how to succeed. A spin-off from University of Venus, She’s Got It! is a career column launching Monday, August 8 at Inside Higher Ed. It will feature interviews with executive-level women in the education sector; we will be talking with people who have made it, who have gotten the job, who have what it takes to be successful, who have that seemingly elusive “it” factor. (The column will also include interviews with minority men as we view their stories of overcoming challenges as valuable lessons.)

If you know me, you know that at the end of the day, I’m an optimist.

Anyone who advocates for change has to believe that it can get better (even in the depths of the current horror movie scenarios being played out in Washington). However, even the most oblivious of optimists need inspiration; we need to see what success looks like and demystify the paths that people have taken. This holds true across multiple dimensions of our lives: from learning to ride a bike to maintaining a successful relationship and from finishing a Ph.D. to landing a fantastic job.

Even if you don’t think you want to be a college president, publisher, CEO, or Executive Director; it’s important to know that these options exist and to find out how people have made it to the executive level. When these folks are women and men of color, it’s even more crucial to uncover the strategies they used to break through barriers that have prevented others from advancing. On one level, their stories are inspiring and on another, they provide concrete strategies for work/life integration and finding ways to succeed in an unpredictable job market. The interviews will highlight how leadership can be done differently and how that difference is often the main component of what makes these leaders successful. What makes a person successful is not magic but is instead a combination of strategic decisions made throughout their career; intense and ongoing networking and leveraging of connections; and the ability to take risks, be flexible, and think differently.

I am interested in discovering what we can learn from these leaders that can help us navigate the reality of the rapidly changing education sector. I’ll be asking them about the qualities they look for when it comes to hiring and promotion, what they believe are the most important skills we should be developing now and what types of opportunities they think we should take advantage of (and challenges we should watch out for).

In response to conversations with Ph.D. students and recent Ph.D.s who have voiced a desire to expand their career alternatives beyond the “box” of traditional tenure-track faculty positions, She’s Got It! will take a broader look at the education sector. In addition to interviewing college presidents, I will be moving outside the comfort zone of academia to interview executives in publishing, education technology, K-12 systems, education management companies, and policy-based think tanks. I firmly believe that the talent we are developing within higher education needs to make a stronger impact in the off-campus world and many of you have told me that you need help in figuring out how to do that. You hate feeling trapped by the tenure-track mindset and you believe that academics should be more publicly engaged.

I realize that solutions to the challenges we face in higher education will require much more than individual-level changes. However, I also believe in tackling problems from every angle possible and part of that requires providing people with tools and strategies for dealing with change in their day-to-day lives. I want She’s Got It! to inspire us, to show us the great work that’s being done, to give us strategies for everyday success, and to help us see the positive ways in which the education sector is changing.

Ultimately, this column is for you. I want your input. Who should I talk to and what should I ask them? Send me your thoughts at marylchurchill@gmail.com or share your ideas in the comments below (or @mary_churchill on Twitter).

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Look for She’s Got It!: Lynn Pasquerella. From Factory Worker to College President, debuting Monday, August 8, 2011 at Inside Higher Ed.

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*And Venus was her name. She's got it. Yeah, baby, she's got it. (Bananarama, 1986; Shocking Blue, 1969)

 

 

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