Part of the mission of Gettysburg College is to produce socially responsible leaders who are dedicated to pursuing their goals and passions. The Eisenhower Institute’s Women and Leadership program enables participants to live that mission and learn to empower themselves and improve the world around them. Regardless of the circumstances, the Women and Leadership program fosters an environment in which participants learn to advance professionally and create their own opportunities.
As a first-year student just settling into college, Sarah Madsen ’22 turned to Women and Leadership for a venue to express herself and deepen her connection to Gettysburg College. When Madsen joined Women and Leadership, it was the first year since the program had been relaunched under the direction of Prof. Anne Douds. Still early in her college career, Madsen was not necessarily in search of the networking opportunities that the program offers, but she did want some guidance. For Madsen, Women and Leadership was the start of her connection with Prof. Douds, which led her to a mentoring relationship that has benefitted her throughout her college career.
Her experiences and conversations throughout the program also gave Madsen guidance and a sense of self that she needed. "It gave me a clear picture about what issues you might face in the workplace," said Madsen. "It made me more cognizant of my own habits and what roles I might fill. Women and Leadership taught me to be more self-aware and take a moment to think."
Women and Leadership also gives participants and guest speakers the chance to be vulnerable and have deep conversations with one another. "It was interesting to hear all of these women talk about different issues in the workplace and how they affected so many aspects of their life, like their relationships and decisions about having children," said Madsen. This chance to discuss challenges people are not often able to talk about gave Madsen and other participants an opportunity to better understand one another and what it is often like for women in the workforce.
Many Gettysburg College students turn to the Eisenhower Institute as a way to get involved and connect with the campus community. Emily Hoffman ’21 did just that with the Women and Leadership program. Inspired by her grandfather, a member of the Class of 1951, Hoffman was excited to follow in his footsteps and continue her education as a full-time student at Gettysburg while raising her child. Since she had to balance school and parenting, it was difficult for Hoffman to find time to get involved in co-curricular activities at the college. Fortunately, she made time for the Women and Leadership program. "As a commuter student, I was not living on campus so I did not have a lot of opportunities to engage with other students, and my involvement with the Eisenhower Institute gave me a chance to feel closer to them," she said. Hoffman participated in the program in the spring of 2020, during the time when the global pandemic began. Despite the challenges of a partially remote program, Hoffman was able to build strong relationships with her peers and developed a reliable network that she plans to use as she enters the workforce. "I’ve continued to follow-up with some of the women we met down in D.C. and managed to stay in touch."
Not only did Hoffman broaden her network, but she learned a lot about herself through the program. "It taught me how to assert myself. I feel better prepared going in to find a new career and being able to negotiate a salary, know what I am worth, and know what I am up against as a woman joining the workforce again."
As a first-year student beginning her college career amid unusual circumstances due to the pandemic, Adriana Quiñonez Solano ’24 struggled with her sense of belonging at the college. Like Hoffman, Quiñonez Solano hoped to form strong connections and develop a deeper sense of self through Women and Leadership. As a first-generation student, Quiñonez Solano was forced to assimilate to the college culture very quickly. At times, she did not think college was in her future. "I am grateful that I am here now," she says, "but there have been times that I have doubted my spot at Gettysburg. Women and Leadership taught me that I am here for a reason, and even if I am not fully aware of what I bring to the table, I still bring something to the table."
Although her program was entirely virtual, Quiñonez Solano still managed to connect with her peers and learn from them. Quiñonez Solano said, "Once we were having a conversation where we each shared a moment of weakness that we experienced, and what we learned from that. It was empowering and reassuring to realize that we all go through the same things, and while we handle things differently, we all experience the same feelings." These personal, vulnerable conversations that the small-group structure of Women and Leadership facilitates give students like Quiñonez Solano the chance to connect and develop professionally in a comfortable setting. To sum up the program and what it meant to her, Quiñonez Solano said, "it has taught me to be confident, assertive, and unapologetically me."
Learn more about how the Eisenhower Institute's Women and Leadership program prepares students to relentlessly pursue and fulfill their goals with confidence and passion.
By Autumn Chassie '23
Photos courtesy of Emily Hoffman '21 and Adriana Quiñonez Solano '24