Alumnae Bulletin
November 2010


"by, for and with all women and girls and our male allies and friends."
—Catharine Stimpson '58

Conference puts women's education in a global context

Educators, policy makers, activists, students and alumnae from around the world explored collaborative ways to advance opportunity for girls and women at "Heritage and Hope: Women's Education in a Global Context," a conference held in honor of Bryn Mawr College's 125th Anniversary from September 23 to 25.

Six moderated panel discussions addressed strategies for meeting the challenges that women continue to face as professional academics, the obstacles that have hindered the development of girls' and women's learning around the world, the connections between all-female secondary schools and colleges, the rise of global networks of colleges and universities, expanding access to education for underserved female populations, and potential links between women's colleges and the international organizations that work to promote women's rights and educational opportunities. (Each discussion is covered in more detail on the following pages.)

Facilitated working groups for each panel met three times during the conference to develop recommendations.

"Justice, justice, justice—by, for and with all women and girls and our male allies and friends," said Catharine Stimpson '58 in summarizing the overarching themes of the conference.

The working groups identified issues that need to be discussed more openly and deeply:

  • the use ‘radical imagination' in reinventing the academy; it is not just a community of scholars, but of artists, performers and staff;
  • the difficult balance of work and family life, and the need for more conversations about race, class, gender and sexual orientation;
  • strategies to transform the elitism, inequality and exclusion that have characterized many universities through their histories;
  • the necessity of honest conversations between U.S. colleges and universities and potential partners in other countries about their mutual goals. We don't all bring the same values to the table but we all have the moral responsibility to stand up for what is right. These exchanges must be a two-way street, even mutually transformative;
  • strategies to integrate liberal arts learning with pre-professional and vocational training; and
  • the implications for gender equity if the current trend is to look at the different ways that men and women are "hard wired."

Women's institutions and their image are changing, but perception has not caught up with reality. "To much of the world, we're still viewed as not accessible to students with limited resources and living in elite ivory towers, when in fact our students bring a broad range of experience to the table," said participant Susan C. Bourque, E. B. Wiley Professor of Government at Smith. "We do a first-rate job of providing substantial financial aid, including a more limited amount for international students, and we have a lot of first generation students from the United States."

A repeated recommendation was for schools to set up websites with information about scholarships, domestic and international, and about opportunities for alumnae/i to participate in service opportunities and school collaborations.

Lingering bias against educating women

In opening the conference, women's education historian Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz "channeled" M. Carey Thomas, voicing her concerns about lingering medical and scientific bias against higher education for women. Thomas made her remarks 100 years ago at the anniversary of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (now the American Association of University Women).

Since then, there have been "waves and waves of scientific and pseudo-scientific writing that made cases for the biological and psychological wrongness of women's intellectual and worldly ambitions," said Horowitz, who first became acquainted with Bryn Mawr's first dean and second president more than 30 years ago to prepare her biography, The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (1999).

"We've heard arguments that women do not have the capacity to make creative contributions in math and science all too recently in the remarks of Lawrence Summers when he was president of Harvard," she said. "The trend now is to revisit the way that men and women are differently hard wired. But also in the news are the levels of discrimination women still face. Thus we have this conference! I've given you a taste of the ‘heritage'; let the ‘hope' begin!"

Women's rights and world security

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer stressed the intrinsic link between women, peace and world security in her keynote address for the conference, given at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. "As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton constantly reminds us, the suffering and the denial of rights to women and the instability of nations go hand in hand," said Verveer.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof closed the conference on the same note. "Because of budget pressures, there's not going to be a lot of money available for humanitarian purposes, but there will be for security," he said. "Educating girls in Afghanistan would have a better record of suppressing violence and be incomparably cheaper than the cost of the current war. For the price of one soldier in Afghanistan for one year, you can start about 20 schools."

Kristof told several stories from his book, Half the Sky, written with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, about girls who survived forced prostitution and violence. (The title is taken from the Chinese saying, "women hold up half the sky.")

He emphasized two points. The first is that gender equity around the world is the foremost moral challenge of the 21st century. "In any one decade, there are more females who are discriminated to death than all the people who died in all of the genocides of the 20th century," he said. Secondly, "practical arguments get more traction among doubters than the moral ones." The most cost-effective way of addressing global problems such as poverty, climate change, public health, sanitation, terrorism and civil conflict is to invest in girls' education, bring those educated women into the formal labor force, and see a virtuous spiral unfold of development, jobs, lower birth rates, education and stability. Women and girls aren't the problem. They're the solution. This is the argument that resonates with finance ministers."

Kristof expressed his distress over the political polarization between U.S. Christian evangelicals and secular feminists, particularly in the area of reproductive health, that prevents them from joining forces to combat abuses such as human trafficking.

"There are a lot of Christian evangelical groups in Sudan and Congo that have done fabulous work," he said. "At the end of the day, everybody believes passionately that 14-year-old girls should not be kidnapped and locked up in brothels."

Squeamishness over talking about sexuality also concerns him. "One of the impediments to girls' staying in high school that most people have learned about only in the last decade is the difficulty of managing menstruation," he said. "Girls never raised it with school authorities or aid workers before because the subject was taboo. If you can keep a girl in high school by providing her with sanitary pads, that is such a cheap intervention," Kristof said.

Asked why he has focused on girls and women's rights, Kristof said, "People are often surprised that a man is writing about these issues, but I think it's important, just as it's important for straight people to write about gay rights. For a man to write about women's rights on the New York Times op-ed page gives them a credibility that they otherwise might not have. That's sad and unfair, but it's the reality. It's also incredibly important that men are brought into these kinds of causes. The Holocaust wasn't a Jewish issue, civil rights weren't a black issue, and when you have 100 million women missing around the world, that's not just a women's issue. These are all profound human rights' issues, and it takes everybody to address that."


Women have made progress toward their goal of parity in U.S. academic institutions, yet significant obstacles remain, concluded scholars from MIT, University of Nebraska, Columbia University, and University of Oregon who comprised the panel, "Leveling the Academic Playing Field: Strategies for Change that Work."

In her opening remarks, Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe set the tone for the discussion, noting that female recipients of doctoral degrees in the United States outnumbered their male counterparts as early as 2006, but pointing out the "abiding imbalances among specific academic disciplines. While female recipients of doctoral degrees in education, health sciences, and social and behavioral sciences now surpass 60 percent, they lag significantly in engineering, math and computer science, and physical and earth sciences."

Women's leadership "is hugely important in keeping the U.S. academy vital so that it can lead on global issues such as energy, climate change, health, disaster mitigation, and food and water security—by incorporating the best minds, including women and minorities," argued moderator Janice Hicks '80, a physical chemist, who serves as deputy director of the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation.

And yet, several panelists amplified McAuliffe's concerns as they presented statistics indicating that women scientists are underrepresented in leadership roles at colleges and universities, as well as professional societies.

For example, over half of women faculty are off the tenure track, said Judith Glazer-Raymo, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 2007, women made up 41.8 percent of full-time faculty and men composed 58.2 percent, while the proportions were flipped for part-time faculty positions: 50.1 percent women to 49.9 percent men.

"It is ironic, but perhaps not coincidental that, at a time when women are becoming the majority of candidates for faculty positions in many fields," Glazer-Raymo observed, "recruitment is being confounded by the trend to non-tenurable appointments and persistent inequities across disciplines and institutions."

Indeed, while opportunities are expanding and women are entering academia in large numbers, "the bridge seems to be collapsing beneath their feet," observed Ann Mari May, a feminist scholar and professor of economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In particular, May argued, the "feminization of academic labor" has resulted in the concentration of women in positions with the lowest pay, in the lowest ranks, and in the least prestigious institutions. Moreover, the economic downturn has added to the pressure in the academic labor market, especially for women and other "outsiders."

Some institutions, however, have addressed the minorities issues and taken the lead in changing the status of women.

Can the academic playing field be leveled?

Take MIT. "While there were no women in the academic administration of science or engineering 15 years ago, today the president of MIT is a woman, two of the five academic deans of MIT are women, and two of the six department heads in science are women," said Nancy Hopkins, Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology at MIT. Hopkins has studied the institutional expressions of gender bias and worked for change as a member of the Committee on Women Faculty in Science at MIT since its founding in 1995.

Moreover, "today there are few, if any, inequities in resources, space, salaries, et cetera, for women faculty at MIT, and equity is monitored continuously," Hopkins said.

Hopkins acknowledged, "Progress for women in science at MIT has been spectacular, but we aren't quite there yet" in terms of true parity.

"We have learned that in order to maintain the progress, you must continue working on it," Hopkins said. "If you stop, it stops, and even goes backwards in both the numbers and the equity."

Two major problems remain at MIT and elsewhere, Hopkins said: family-leave policies that make that make it difficult for women to succeed in academia and raise a family; and unconscious gender bias, such as the persistent notion that women are genetically deficient in science and math skills.

First, May said, women need to recognize that higher education is an institution like any other, in which insiders in power seek to hold on to it.

Echoing Hopkins' call for change, May said, women need to work to make the academic labor market more humane by providing a better balance of work and life. She added, "most of us view our own situation as simply a result of the bad choices we make as individuals rather than viewing it as a systemic problem."

Thus, May called on her peers to act both "collectively and creatively" to make the infrastructure of higher education more inclusive.

Geraldine Richmond, the Richard M. and Patricia H. Noyes Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, offered one collective and creative model for change: COACh, an advocacy, career development, mentoring, and networking program founded in 1998 by a group of senior women faculty in the chemical sciences from across the United States.

To date, more than 5,000 women scientists and engineers have participated in COACh programs. Participants say that the career development workshops have made an impact: 94 percent have applied what they learned to advance their careers; 92 percent have mentored other women in these skills; 70 percent of postdoc attendees have attained faculty positions; and 83 percent say their stress level is lower "because, Richmond says, "they are learning how to take control of their lives."

Glazer-Raymo's research suggests effective strategies to maintain forward momentum, including encouraging women to serve on governing boards; structured mentoring of women students, faculty and administrators; removing barriers for women of color, gay women, and women who have pursued non-traditional academic paths; and "... once and for all declaring a moratorium on rhetoric that perpetrates racial and gender stereotyping and bias."

At the end of the day, Glazer-Raymo observed, true gender equity in higher education is still "a work in progress." —Dorothy E. Wright


Global gender equity in education is more than a numbers game. Focusing on the numbers of girls and women in school—even where the overall number or proportion of females to males has increased—often obscures persistent inequality related to money, power, race, and place. These were among the conclusions of scholars from the United States, United Kingdom, and Kenya on the panel "Contemporary Issues in Access and Equity."

"This is an incredibly important time to consider the disparities that remain in educational attainment for both girls and young women, boys and young men," said moderator Mary Osirim, a professor of sociology at Bryn Mawr. "Although many nations of the world have made tremendous progress in closing the gender gap ... a recent report by UNESCO indicated that two out of every three nations in the world still face gender disparity in elementary and secondary education."

Looking a few years ahead, Osirim said, "The U.N. Girls' Education Commission notes that by 2015, some 28 million girls might still be out of school." Trends in the United States show a more complicated picture.

Building on the observations of the previous panel, Janet L. Holmgren, president of Mills College, presented higher education trends for the United States from 1929 to 2005. These data show a relatively equal number of women and men attending college in 2005, but women are disproportionally represented at the levels of associate's and bachelor's degrees. And while they are still in the majority at the master's level, the gap begins to close there, and men take a slight lead at the first professional and doctoral levels.

"What these numbers demonstrate, however, is counterintuitive to the image that we have in this country of college-going students," Holmgren argued.

"For the last decade, the average college-going student is a woman between 25 and 30 going to college part-time, and working her way through school on a combination of federal and state loans, as well as some financial aid," Holmgren said, "but they are not the predominant numbers at those schools that are offering the best financial aid." As a result, women are graduating with a higher proportion of the debt.

Why? "While women do have access to higher education, they most likely do not have access to the highest levels of financial support at any level of higher education, and they do not have access to the most elite institutions in the proportion that is being ascribed at the national level," Holmgren explained.

None of this surprised Louise Morley, director of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research at the University of Sussex, England, who stated, "the whole history of higher education has been characterized by elitism, inequality, and exclusion."

Voicing the panel's emerging theme of quantity versus quality, Morley said, "What tends to happen in the international arena is that gender equals access. It gets reduced to counting more women in: quantitative change."

Yes, Morley said, women slightly outnumber men in undergraduate higher education, as measured by UNESCO's global parity index, but there are major inequalities across disciplines and regions.

Moreover, Morley said, it is rare in policy discourse for gender to be examined within other structures of inequality, such as poverty. Look at Africa, for example, suggested Caroline Ndarua, a member of the Board of Trustees and the head of Finance and Administration at Kiriri Women's University of Science and Technology (Kenya). "When money is tight, parents consider the potentially low return on investment in education for their daughters compared with their sons, and they invest in their sons," she said. "And in poor rural areas, girls are an important source of income from their labor in agricultural and domestic labor markets. This often takes priority over education."

Not only in Africa, but around the globe, "Women's participation in education reflects their economic position and related factors in society," Ndarua argued. "Although enrollment rates of girls and boys in grammar school have leveled off in some regions, girls' chances of reaching the higher levels of education are considerably less than those of boys."

Picking up on global issues of poverty, race, and sexism raised by other panelists, Elaine Unterhalter, professor of Education and International Development at the University of London, cited statistics from India where, on average, children attend school for seven years. Children in the richest quintile attend for 11 years with slight differences between rural and urban households, and between girls and boys.

Slight differences become stark contrasts, especially for girls living in poverty. "Children in the poorest quintile attend school for just four years, although poor urban boys attend for nearly six years, while poor rural girls attend for only three years and poor rural girls in one of the poorest states, Bihar, attend for less than two years," Unterhalter explained.

"The combination of poverty and gender inequality is toxic and requires solutions that are intensive and extensive, which can work to change deeply held attitudes and build a richer notion of equality," Unterhalter argued.

Unterhalter pointed toward the U.N. Girls' Education Initiative conference earlier this year, where participants adopted the Dakar Declaration on girls' education,

which outlines an approach to address poverty, deliver quality education, and address violence against girls and women. "The Declaration signals a new commitment beyond target setting and minimalist forms of gender parity," she concluded.

—Dorothy E. Wright


All-female educational institutions in the United States have produced disproportionate numbers of high achievers, argue proponents, as the result of their unique classroom climates and communities that give students a competitive edge.

But seniors at girls' schools don't want to attend women's colleges even as they acknowledge their experiences, say their worried leaders. "We have work to do!" said Bodie Brizendine, head of the Spence School in New York City. "How do we help them realize that the truth is that women learning together all the time is very much the real world?"

She and other public and independent school heads on the panel "The ‘Girl Power' of Single-Sex Education" explored strategies for strengthening connections between girls' schools and women's colleges. Rosemary Salamone, Kenneth Wang Professor of Law, St. John's University moderated.

Brizendine recently asked 40 of her seniors to describe the value of their school environment and their perceptions of women's colleges.

The values of their school environment included "more comfortable speaking out, extreme confidence, independent, safer, better for learning, close-knit friendships, open-mindedness, humility and unassuming natures," said Brizendine. But "women's colleges ‘weren't the real world', they said. ‘We won't learn to compete with men.' ‘We want a different experience.' ‘We've already done this once,' as if it were some sort of inoculation or a 50th birthday," said Brizendine.

"Most said they would only enroll at a women's college if they were seeking prestige they couldn't find elsewhere or if they felt the need to be safe," she said.

Increasing access

Baldwin School head Sally Powell said that a single-sex education must be "available to all" regardless of financial need or societal status. "Perhaps we can continue to talk with women's colleges about…special scholarships for our schools, and working both ways with each other to celebrate the opportunities in women's colleges," she said.

Bryn Mawr School head Maureen Walsh sees the socioeconomic disadvantages students face in inner-city Baltimore. "We have terrific girls who are going to need help going to college," she said. "I am so convinced that if our girls were to come to Bryn Mawr College or Smith or Mount Holyoke, they would have an incredible experience," Walsh said. "It would only build on the foundations we created."

Walsh suggested that "vibrant students from women's colleges could hold workshops for our students on how to have courageous conversations about race, sexuality and class," serving as role models and encouraging high school students to consider attending their schools.

The Young Women's Leadership School (YWLS) at Rhodes High School has made single-sex education accessible in a public school setting to encourage opportunity for girls in inner-city Philadelphia. As interim principal, Anna Shurak has witnessed the enormous gains made by students since the school's founding in 2005.

The fourth graduating class of seniors earned almost $500,000 in college scholarships last year, allowing them to transcend socioeconomic status and further their education when opportunity otherwise would not have been available. Out of the graduating class, Shurak said that 94 percent of students went on to college, twice the average for the Philadelphia School District.

"If you save a girl, you save a family. If you save a family, you save a community," Shurak said, quoting a former YWLS principal.

—Amanda Kennedy '13


Maya Ajmera '89 oversees getting resources to the world's most vulnerable children, particularly girls. Cheryl Gregory Faye leads the UN's initiative to educate girls worldwide. Paula Nirschel makes it possible for Afghan women to attend American universities. Mary-Louise Kearney advises UNESCO on higher education. Alyse Nelson leads an organization that empowers women to be civic leaders and successful social entrepreneurs.

Their messages echoed each other's during the panel discussion, "Partnering for Global Justice." Educating girls and women is not just the right thing, these five women leaders proclaimed. It's imperative to global development—and governments can't do it alone.

The impediments to education faced by women and girls around the world are huge, said Faye, head of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI). There are social, cultural, and economic barriers. There's domestic labor, early marriage, and the prohibitive cost of schools. More than half of children who are not in schools today are girls.

Nelson, president and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership, sees this as an exciting time to be advocating for women's education. There is growing academic research and growing investment by countries, and even more importantly, investment by the private sector. Increasingly, educating women is being seen as smart business sense.

"How can a country move forward if half of its population is left behind?" asked Nelson. "How can a country compete in the global marketplace?"

Meeting the demand for women's tertiary education exceeds the abilities of governments, explained Kearney. That's why she sees the solution as three-way: between businesses, governments, and civil society.

Nirschel has committed herself to being one of those partners. In the aftermath of 9/11, she sought to understand more about the Islamic world and learned about the dearth of women's education in Taliban-led Afghanistan. She founded the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, which has since enabled 80 Afghan women to attend college in the United States. One recent graduate has started a school for girls back home.

Inspired by realizing how little money it took for a teacher to educate children living and working on a train platform in India, Ajmera founded the Global Fund for Children in order to get "small amounts of capital to extraordinary grassroots leaders." Nelson's organization Vital Voices has trained more than 8,000 women to make their dreams of leadership into realities.

Beyond culture and economics, Kearney said that lip service is perhaps one of the most serious stumbling blocks to women's education worldwide. Male leaders and politicians who are satisfied with "the token woman" on their boards must be "shown that they're terribly old fashioned," she said.

In a workshop titled "Collaborations for Social Justice," participants discussed ways to strengthen the link between NGOs and educational institutions, and ways to encourage students to engage in community projects around the world. One practical suggestion was to expand the Civic Engagement Office's online database of internships and service opportunities to include international locations.

As workshop members packed up their things to go to lunch, Jessica Kirk '91 chatted intently with fellow working group member Socra Saint Joy, a Haitian woman who founded an organization to help women made disabled by the earthquake in January.

"This is the beginning," said Kirk, after exchanging contact information with Saint Joy. "It's the beginning of many things."

—Margaret Ernst '11


Academic institutions are reaching beyond their walls, both in order to survive and to prepare students to affect social change on a global scale.

"This is no time to hunker down, hoping that we will be able to return to the familiar and the comfortable," said Pat McPherson, Ph.D. '69, moderator of the Friday panel, "Enhancing Global Networks."

"The pressures on academic institutions of a technological revolution, serious financial stresses and strains, and a much wider and more complex world for students to manage mean that we need new models for collaboration and cooperation within this country and globally," said McPherson, who is executive officer of the American Philosophical Society, past vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and president emeritus of Bryn Mawr.

Leaders from Bryn Mawr and Wellesley Colleges, Effat University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Tsuda College in Tokyo discussed their best practices as well as the potential problems for partnerships between colleges and universities in different countries.

HRH Princess Lolowah Al-Faisal, vice chancellor of Effat, recommended setting up guidelines for different forms of collaboration, acknowledging that successful models in some sets of circumstances may not necessarily translate well to others. "It is important to promote cultural understanding," she said. "Can collaboration be measured? What happens to academic programs, research practices and relationships when higher education institutions join consortiums of universities?"

Effat, the first private institution of higher learning for women in Saudi Arabia, was founded by Princess Lolowah Al-Faisal's mother, Queen Effat Al-Thunayyan. The school's leaders have pushed social conventions to broaden opportunities for their students, establishing programs for architecture and electrical and computer engineering, for example.

Collaboration: a two-way street

"Partnerships are moving from trading resources to being transformational, even transcendental transactions," said audience member Susan Sutton '69, associate vice president of international affairs at Indiana University and associate vice chancellor of international affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "What can Tsuda College now teach Bryn Mawr, or Effat teach Wellesley, or any variation on that theme?"

After a long silence, Tsuda President Masako Iino said, "We learn more from you than you learn from us." Princess Lolowah Al-Faisal agreed, adding, "but I think it should be a two-way arrangement."

Emphasizing the benefits of mutual collaboration, Bryn Mawr President McAuliffe pointed out that Tsuda and Effat have better integrated liberal arts and professional education.

"Right from the beginning, you help your students understand that it is an education that is going to form them for certain kinds of professional lives as well as for the broader cultural enrichment the liberal arts offer all of us," she said. "We're finding from parents and students here a great hunger for making those connections more explicit."

President Emeritus of Barnard Judith Shapiro added, "In our own institutions, we're concerned about diminishing attention span, that some of our students seem to be throwing away privacy with both hands, and a lack of dignity. We can benefit from certain values that are more broadly in the cultural context of these other institutions."

McAuliffe noted that these explorations present educational opportunities. "When faculty and students at a place like Bryn Mawr start to think about having more active connections in Singapore or in the United Arab Emirates or other parts of the world significantly different than the United States culturally and socially," she said, "they ask immediately about gender rights, labor rights."

Picking up on the issue of cultural differences later in the day, Shapiro said, "We should approach partnerships with a combination of understanding and critical inquiry. In these multicultural times, leaving our critical faculties at the door when we enter a different cultural room is both condescending and morally vacuous. As my mother liked to put it, ‘It's great to have an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.' "

Building on strengths

Going global takes some thought. "As a small college focused on the education of students, it might be a distraction from our primary mission," said Kim Bottomly, president of Wellesley College. "We wanted to create opportunities that will not only broaden offerings for our students, but will also benefit faculty," An example is The Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs, created last year to prepare women for global leadership. Forty students chosen each year participate in an intensive, three-week program, living together and working in small groups during winter session. Faculty provide insight into global policy issues such as clean water or global health, and credentialed alumnae and practitioners from the fields talk about real-world contexts.

Bryn Mawr is also exploring ways to increase international options and opportunities for students. "We have a strong head start to build on," McAuliffe said. "We have long attracted international students, with 26 percent of this year's entering class coming from 32 countries, a leap of six percent. We have a world-wide alumnae/i network. Bryn Mawr has paid extraordinary attention to foreign language learning its entire history."

McAuliffe travels abroad frequently to visit alumnae/i and parents as well as other educational institutions. "These visits gave me a very strong sense of how often internationalization builds from informal connections created by faculty, students and alumnae/i," she said. "When I visited Turkey, for example, I found a vibrant community in Istanbul, with undergraduate alumnae as well as several generations of Turkish archaeologists who studied and worked with the late Bryn Mawr professor and archaeologist Machteld Mellink."

Iino told the story of Tsuda's founder Ume Tsuda, who studied at Bryn Mawr from 1882–1892, and how she used an early form of global networking with American Quakers to raise women's status in Japan through education. With the help of a Philadelphia Quaker, Wistar Morris, Tsuda established an American support network for Japanese women's education, starting with a scholarship fund for Japanese women to study abroad. Tsuda has graduated more than 27,500 women and today prepares its students to address the grave multinational issues facing the global community.

Open-source learning

Audience member Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told panelists that the possibility of free online universities 30-40 years from now seems a very different idea for globalization than the kinds of programs for enriching their own students they had discussed.

"These [small colleges] remain for the very lucky and the few," Winthrop said. The Clinton Global Initiative and the University of the People, on the other hand, have announced a program in Haiti that will accept 250 qualified students to study online with their peers around the world and earn a degree in either business administration or computer science.

"I do think about open-source learning a great deal," responded McAuliffe. "It could be a worldwide democra­tization of higher education. Broad bandwidth will be coming soon to rural areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, and it would be smart of us to be a part of that social transformation. I don't think it has to be an either/or model, though. A small liberal arts college can use a technically-advanced instructional model within the classroom."

—Jan T. Trembley '75


Hoon Eng Khoo, who spent three years staffing the new Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh as acting vice chancellor and provost, grew up on an island in Malaysia without a telephone, electricity or running water in her home.

Khoo's dream was to study science and medicine abroad, but at the age of 18, in 1969, she knew that as a Chinese Malaysian, her chances of getting a government sponsored scholarship were slim because of affirmative action measures for native Malays being strictly enforced after severe race riots.

"So I rode my bike to the U.S. Information Service (USIS) to meet with a college counselor," Khoo said. "USIS turned out to be a mine of information. I applied to Smith and became the beneficiary of its global outreach in 1970."

A panelist on "Extending Our Reach and Closing the Gender Gap," Khoo shared the strategies adopted at AUW to overcome the obstacles faced by girls and women in Asia.

"If they do obtain schooling, girls are considered disrespectful if they speak up in the classroom," she said. "At the university level, an emphasis on rote learning subverts creativity and critical thinking."

Leadership and entrepreneurial skills empower women and transform societies, but these skills are often not developed at Asian universities, she said. "We emphasized them in our innovative curriculum and made internships compulsory. We made a conscious decision to place women in our leadership positions, and any male staff and faculty we did hire showed a commitment to our mission."

Women's rights need to be modeled in all settings. "We gave faculty and staff generous maternity leaves, nearby housing, and flexible hours," she said. Such a rights-based framework need not be unique to women's institutions, but can be adopted by co-ed schools that want to advance equity for women.

"Today there are still many countries in Asia where water is drawn from a well, light comes from kerosene lamps, the roads are unpaved, and rickshaws are still a mode of transportation," said Khoo, now associate professor of biochemistry at the National University of Singapore. "I'm here to urge you to reach out to all young women in such countries who can benefit from the wonderful education available at women's colleges."

Role models

Other leaders of women's colleges on the panel, moderated by Lillian Wu, program executive at IBM Global University Programs, echoed the necessity of providing role models, innovative curricula, and emphasizing lifelong commitment to social engagement.

Sister Andrea Lee, president of all-women's St. Catherine University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, described her school's network of support systems for international, first-generation college students from the Hmong, Somali and Hispanic populations in Minneapolis. In 2010, 37 percent of entering students are international or domestic students of color, and 40 percent are first generation in college; one out of five speak a language other than English at home.

Lots of role models on campus and among alumnae make women's leadership both an attainable goal and a lived reality for students, said Lee. Most of "St. Kate's" trustees, all 10 presidents, the majority of senior academic leaders, and 80 percent of the 300 full-time faculty are women.

St. Kate's offers associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees and has a weekend program for parents. "A good number of our students admitted to two-year programs are recent immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees," said Lee. "Many have children; most are low-income. All are introduced to laddering options and encouraged to think of the associate degree as a first step. Overall, our graduation rates for associates exceed national averages due in large measure to the commitment of faculty and staff."

Carol Christ, president of Smith College and a co-founder of Women's Education Worldwide (WEW), said that the numbers of new women's colleges in the Middle East, south Asia and Africa reflect an increased sense of urgency about women's education similar to that of the 1870s and 1880s in the United States and the early decades of the 20th century in Asia, when so many were founded. Christ listed some of the 19th and early 20th century partnerships between Asian girls' schools and women's colleges and the Seven Sisters colleges that lasted until the beginning of World War II. "There is a role once more for us to partner with our sister institutions overseas, using alumnae networks, our campuses and perhaps scholarship dollars," she said.

Changing social norms

Kim Sun-Uk, president of Ewha Woman's University in South Korea, founded in 1886 and the world's largest higher educational institute for women, said that although more women attend college than men in South Korea, they earn 63 cents to each dollar for men and make up only 14 percent of the political assembly. "Because of their burden in the household, Korean women leave their jobs, and it's very hard to come back later on," said Kim. "In the beginning in Korea, we thought a lot more about having more equal opportunities for women in terms of educational attainment, but we now realize we have to make more effort to change the structure of the labor market and the nature of the workplace so that women can participate more." Khoo noted that several countries in South Asia have set quotas for women in their parliaments but cannot find qualified candidates. "Women's institutions need to train undergraduate students and reach out as well to adult women who may have the potential so that they can take up these positions," she said.

—Jan T. Trembley '75

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