African American Women in Higher Ed Gather at Dartmouth

The annual meeting fosters professional advancement and networking for women of color.

Women of color working at Dartmouth will network with their peers from other colleges this week at the 14th annual conference of African American Women in Higher Education-New England. This year’s theme is “Maintaining Our Identity: Claiming Our Space at Predominantly White Institutions.”

AAWHE helps to connect African American women who want to advance their careers at New England colleges and universities. Speakers and panelists, including presenters from Dartmouth, will exchange ideas and talk about their workplace experiences and about challenges facing higher education.

On Thursday evening, Provost Carolyn Dever will welcome the participants at an opening reception at the Hanover Inn.

On Friday morning, Executive Vice President Rick Mills will kick off the conference with welcoming remarks, and the keynote speaker will be Isa Woldeguiorguis, the executive director of the Center for Hope and Healing, which works to raise awareness about sexual violence in and around Lowell, Mass. She is a nationally known trainer and teacher who has written about such topics as family-centered practice in child welfare, racial disparities, and immigration.

There will also be a panel discussion about leadership and inclusivity in higher education, moderated by Theodosia Cook, who coordinates Dartmouth’s admissions ambassador program. The program relies on 5,400 alumni volunteers to conduct interviews with prospective students.

Rachel Edens, the inaugural assistant dean and adviser to first generation and low-income students at Dartmouth, will be a panelist. Edens was a first-generation student from a rural community in Eastern North Carolina. Her research interests include identifying best practices for helping families and home communities provide first-generation students the support they need to succeed in college.

Dartmouth’s Evelynn Ellis, vice-president for institutional diversity and equity, will give a workshop about how to “keep the career active and moving, the spirit positive, and the body healthy,” at challenging times. Other panelists from Dartmouth include Kari Cooke, assistant dean of students and adviser to black students, and Theresa Hernandez, coordinator of intramurals and club sports.

Theodosia Cook will give a workshop called “Leading While Black,” posing the question: “As a woman of color, how do you lead a team that may not reflect you, your identity, your values?” But even though black women are still in the minority at Dartmouth, Cook notes that those demographics are changing. Over 40 percent of next year’s incoming class members are non-white. And, Cook notes, one doesn’t have to belong to a majority to make a positive difference on a college campus.

“It goes beyond the color of your skin, it goes to your professionalism,” she says. “Hosting this conference shows that Dartmouth is moving toward a place of inclusion.”  

Cook says she’s eager to welcome AAWHE members from other schools to Dartmouth. “And when they go back to their own institutions, they will share the positive changes we are making, and that will encourage more people to apply to study and work here.”  

The conference is sponsored by Dartmouth’s Office of Human Resources. Executive Director of HR Services Cheryl Josler says there is a recruitment effort underway, as part of the College’s initiative for inclusive excellence, to increase the College’s visibility among diverse candidates for employment.