Nov. 3, 1999





Women Presidents Convene at IFW Dinner
by Greta Petry

   What do four women presidents from area colleges have in common?
   They have eclectic backgrounds. They were exposed to national issues in education early on in their careers. And, they “think outside the box.”
    As Karen R. Hitchcock, president of the University at Albany, said, “I learned early on if you want to advance your program you have to look outside your discipline.” Pulling people together for a common goal and negotiating skillfully in order to build a consensus have long been the hallmarks of her administrative style.
    Jane Altes, interim president of SUNY Empire State College, drew a laugh from the audience when she said, “I never had any career goals at all. First my parents thought I'd never finish college, and then they thought I'd never quit.” She was goal-oriented in coming to SUNY administration, but attributed some of her career success to “being in the right place at the right time.”
    Hitchcock and Altes were joined in conversation by Jeanne H. Neff, president of the Sage Colleges, and by Jamienne S. Studley, president of Skidmore College, at A Celebration of Five Women Presidents, a fund-raising dinner for Initiatives For Women, October 26, at the new library atrium. The atrium was packed with about 300 people. Gloria DeSole, chair of the IFW Steering Committee, was the moderator. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was unable to attend. There are five women presidents of four-year colleges and universities in the area. Nationally, only 18 percent of college presidents are women.
    IFW has made monetary awards to University students, faculty, staff, and programs, and has raised funds towards several significant endowments. Addie Ann Elizabeth Jenne, recipient of the Lena Tucker IFW Award, and an undergraduate political science major, spoke on behalf of the 27 award recipients. For a complete list of this year's IFW award winners, see the Sept. 8 issue of the Update, available on the University Web site.
    The presidents mentioned some of the attitudes they encountered along their career paths.
    “I expected someone older. I expected more of a. . .woman,” was one reaction Studley once heard upon being introduced as a college president.
    Hitchcock recalled being one of the few women in medical school. “Every single time I was on a committee, I was the secretary,” she said.
    Neff said that when she was a dean entertaining faculty at her home, she heard thudding noises upstairs.
    “I raced upstairs to find three male faculty members jumping on my bed and chanting, ‘Here we are in the Dean's boudoir.’ ”
    And Altes recalled a time in the late 1960s when her colleagues didn't know of any women in academic vice president's jobs.
    When moderator DeSole asked what difference gender makes in administrative style, there was silence for a moment.
    Said Altes, “I would not say my administrative style is different in any definitive way because I'm a woman.” She added that women are good at handling many tasks simultaneously. “It's not so much style, but a competence to do this work.”
    President Hitchcock said women may bring a different approach to work, that of consensus building and negotiation, but that as soon as she said that she could think of  “10 male role models” who were good at building partnerships.
    Answering the question of why there are so many women college presidents in the Capital District, Studley said, “Because there are so many good colleges.”
    And Neff added, “Why not.”
    The five recently met at Shirley Ann Jackson's house. Neff played the piano, and the others sang. 
“You know the old boys' network. We've got an old girls' network,” said Hitchcock to applause. 
     After the singing, “It was clear why we have desk jobs,” joked Altes. Jackson came up with a theme song for the presidents: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
    On a more serious note, Hitchcock said one of her goals was “breaking down the ivory tower.” She said that, over the last 40 to 50 years, people on college campuses have become linked to their specific discipline. The ability to look beyond one's own discipline for the good of the entire institution is needed. “We have so much more to bring to our community,” she said.

University at Albany Named one of Nation’s Leading Colleges in Character Development

   The University at Albany has been recognized for leadership in the field of student character development in The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Development, a guidebook released nationwide on October 22.
    Designed for students, parents and educators who believe that character matters, the Templeton Guide contains profiles of 405 exemplary college programs in 10 categories. UAlbany is profiled in the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Program section for its Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program.
    The Middle Earth program is all about students helping students. Named for the safe place in J.R.R. Tolkein's fantasy, The Hobbit, it is a student-staffed campus agency that operates one of the few surviving campus-based hotlines in the U.S. Middle Earth, which will be 30 years old this spring, also offers four program-affiliated academic courses in peer counseling and peer education. It includes a radio talk show, a campus newspaper column, and a peer theater program.
    “We are very proud of the University at Albany's work through the Middle Earth program to help students develop the strong values that will serve them well beyond their college years,” said President Karen R. Hitchcock. “Character development is a lifelong process, and we believe that colleges and universities have a very important and unique role to play. We are delighted to be among the institutions profiled in the Templeton Guide.”
Through Middle Earth, students provide counseling and education to their peers. And that seems to be the key to its success.
The crisis hotline, which operates from noon to midnight Monday through Thursday and 24 hours on weekends, is located in the Health and Counseling Services building. The hotline, which handled more than 1,000 contacts in 1997-98, is still Middle Earth's most widely used service. Trained student volunteers, working under the supervision of four graduate assistants and a director, handle more than 100 calls per month on everything from test anxiety to peer relationships, depression and suicide.
    “The University at Albany's strong commitment to character development and the strength of its program make it a model for colleges and universities nationwide,” said Arthur J. Schwartz, Ed.D., director of character development programs at the John Templeton Foundation. “With the Templeton Guide, we hope to help prospective college students and their colleges identify colleges that encourage students to understand the importance of personal and civic responsibility, which will help them succeed in college and beyond. UAlbany's work in this area is most impressive.”
    Programs chosen by the Templeton Guide were part of a highly selective process that considered clarity of vision and statement of purpose; institutional resources; involvement of institutional leaders, impact on students, faculty, campus, and community; integration into the core curriculum of academic study; longevity; external awards and recognition; and assessment.
    Middle Earth volunteers are carefully screened and trained in crisis intervention. Only a third of applicants are accepted as volunteers. Some can earn college credit for their work.
    Training consists of a semester-long course and 'hands-on' experience, in which students are trained in listening skills, crisis intervention techniques and specialized topics such as sexual assault prevention, alcohol and substance abuse, AIDS and eating disorders.
    Middle Earth is funded by the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Association.

Top of  Page