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Enhancing Vital Life Skills: Insights from Women of Color in Leadership

As part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week at Ithaca College, a co-hosted event took place in Clark Lounge on Feb. 12, attracting approximately 35 attendees comprising students and faculty.

The panel discussion, moderated by Shadayvia Wallace, the program director of the MLK Scholars and First Generation Programs, included Mika Kennedy, an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity; Te-Wen Lo, an associate professor in the Department of Biology; Nicole Eversley Bradwell, the executive director of Admission; and President La Jerne Cornish. The panel shared insights and advice on navigating leadership roles as women of color based on their own experiences.

One of the first-year students, Marian Sanchez, expressed her anticipation of gaining encouragement as a woman of color pursuing higher education, having learned about the event through social media and other channels.

The event commenced with Wallace introducing the panelists and initiating a structured discussion by posing prepared questions for each panelist to address individually.

Kennedy highlighted that leadership entails not only achieving specific goals but also involving and empowering others. She emphasized the importance of leveraging diverse perspectives and talents to enhance projects, underscoring the collaborative aspect of effective leadership.

Eversley Bradwell emphasized the personal nature of leadership, noting that there is no universal template for leadership as individuals are shaped by their unique backgrounds and abilities. She shared her journey of self-acceptance and the realization that authenticity is key in leadership roles, especially in predominantly white environments.

Lo, reflecting on her role as an educator, emphasized the long-term impact of fostering connections between past and current students to broaden their opportunities. She described her advocacy style as gradual and community-oriented, aiming to nurture a generation of scientists who can drive transformative change through their work.

Cornish stressed the significance of cultivating mentor relationships for women of color in professional and academic settings. Drawing from her own experiences as a trailblazer in various roles, she highlighted the personal aspect of mentorship and the importance of seeking guidance from those who inspire and support one’s aspirations.

Throughout her career, Cornish has broken barriers as the first African American in several positions, underscoring the importance of representation in inspiring future generations. She emphasized that her presence in these spaces has inadvertently paved the way for others by demonstrating the possibilities that exist through perseverance and determination.