BY EMILY HARRISON
The merged center is a natural, say center codirectors Eva Paus and Lee Bowie. "Effective leadership requires the ability to frame, articulate, and advocate for positions. Effective speaking, arguing, and writing require taking control of one's authorial position."
Developing articulate leaders is the center's mission. "This is one way Mount Holyoke is recognizing that we send women out into the world ready to be leaders, but we need to be sure to equip them to do that," says Leah L. Kane '99. "The skills of critical thought and responsible action are useless if they can't be expressed clearly and argued constructively. Students can't learn effective argument construction and public speaking by the wayside. The skills can only be fully developed with a dedicated effort on the part of both students and faculty."
That effort began even before the programs joined forces as the Weissman Center, and there is already much to be proud of. "Students' consciousness has been raised in multiple ways about the necessity of speaking, arguing, and writing; the meaning of leadership; and the importance of thinking beyond their MHC experience," says Paus.
Learning to Lead
Interest has been high for leadership and public advocacy events examining critical public policy issues such as welfare reform, power and gender, and efforts to transform public education. And a semester-long series invited students to ask questions of accomplished graduates in a Web-based "Alumna Leader/Advocate of the Week" discussion.
That force is felt by others, too, especially in community-based learning courses offered through the Center for Leadership. In disciplines such as anthropology, education, politics, dance, and Russian, students combine academic analysis with community action on areas of public concern.
In one such effort, seniors honed their leadership skills in a community-based learning seminar in women's studies by developing and teaching a science curriculum at a local center for disadvantaged girls. Another recent community-based learning course had geology students collaborating with staff at the Quabbin Reservoir to construct a computer model for estimating pollutants.
Speaking of Speaking (and Arguing and Writing)
Most of us can speak and write, but it takes skill and training to do so effectively. The speaking, arguing, and writing component of the Center for Leadership is heavily used and has many claims to fame.
Now Everybody's Talking
With all these activities, the Weissman Center for Leadership is having a profound effect on the College community. Its impact has been felt off campus, too, as national media have found the programs newsworthy. The New York Times included MHC in an article on the upsurge in interest in promoting leadership skills for college students. And a February Boston Globe article about "mallspeak"--the tendency of students to insert words such as "like" and "you know" into sentences--led to other major media coverage for the College's Speaking Program. The Los Angeles Times published an article, and Good Morning America, 20/20, and Fox News filmed footage on campus and ran segments on MHC's efforts to help students be adept with a range of speaking styles. They know a good thing when they see it.
For more information, visit the Weissman Center for Leadership's Web pages.