On April 15, Clark Lounge at Ithaca College was filled with women-identifying faculty and staff. They had come out for the college’s version of an event that traced its roots back to the 1930s: a fireside chat.
Created by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the original fireside chats were a series of radio broadcasts for the country. This spring’s event, called the “Women Leaders in Higher Education Fireside Chat,” had a more personal feel. A trio of panelists — President Shirley M. Collado, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish, and Executive Vice President and Senior Advisor to the President Nancy Pringle — spoke about their leadership styles, what it means to be a woman leader, and how each of them got to where they are today.
The chat was the 15th event put on this year by the Women’s Mentoring Network, a group founded in the fall of 2018 by associate professor of occupational therapy Julie Dorsey with the purpose of connecting women at Ithaca College. Supported by the Center for Faculty Excellence, the network is a continuation of work that was funded by a grant from the President’s Seed Grant Initiative, which was created by Collado to foster and grow cross-disciplinary collaborations and innovations on campus. Currently, the network has nearly 170 members.
Collado began the event by highlighting how sacred and important the space was. “It’s really powerful and humanizing to be in a space where we can actually talk about being people or about being scared or confused,” she said.
She then shared stories from her life, covering everything from her childhood, the lessons that she learned growing up as an older sister and a child of immigrant parents, her experiences in college, and her experience as IC president. While noting that she has experienced bias in her lifetime and been overlooked as a woman of color, she stressed the importance of having a team that you can rely on, so that you have a safe environment to decompress. She added that knowing that she is never alone is “very, very freeing.”