In Women and Leadership: Strategies for Success and Professional Development, there is no right answer. The course, taught by Lori Coakley Professor of Management, Ph.D., examines the approaches used by women to be successful and directs each student to develop their own path to success. Supported by dedicated mentors, a passionate teacher and a supportive community, they develop the skills and mindset to excel in their personal and professional lives.
The class attracts students from a wide range of disciplines, from International trade major to aspiring ophthalmologists. “The lessons I learned during the course relate to everything I have done,” notes Kirsty Beauchesne ’17, now a marketing consultant with Sinclair Broadcast Group and marketing director at PROPEL Portland. “This is such an important course for women entering the workforce. I would recommend it to anyone studying any subject.
“A class like this is so important. It takes everything you’ve worked on over the past four years and helps you figure out how to pack and use it to make a real impact.
Comprehensive professional development
Students work on a range of professional development topics, including defining their leadership style, developing their personal brand, learning professional communication, and building their networks. Guest speakers lead workshops on practical skills like honing your CV, effective interviews, and building a professional LinkedIn page.
“Bryant’s women are smart, they are leaders, and they do extraordinarily well. The course aims to provide them with the tools that will help them get to where they want to go, ”says Coakley. “The students here have studied all kinds of different things and the Women in Leadership course helps them understand ‘What are you going to do with this?’ and why it is important to them.
Experience can be a game changer. “A course like this is so important,” says Jessica Sackal ’20, a Team and project management major who aspires to enter the consumer products industry. “It takes everything you’ve worked on over the past four years and helps you figure out how to pack it and use it to make a real impact. “
“I have a very different perspective on the world and a better understanding of my classmates. I’m learning what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace, and what I can do to help promote equality.
The course also examines the unique situations and challenges women face in the workplace. Case studies of successful women, such as IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Kristen Giest and Shaye Haver, the Army’s first female Ranger, serve as points of reference. start to the discussion. Issues such as negotiating increases and combating discrimination are discussed and organized in workshops. “By discussing and facing these situations now, it helps us determine how we will react to them in the future,” says Marianna Politis ’20.
“We learn to maintain our values and integrity in the workplace, what we stand for and what we believe in,” says Biology major Alaina Scifo ’20.
“It’s so important to know who you are when you’re in college because when you’re in the world, everything is so much more complicated. Through this course, you can say “this is who I am and what I believe in, and these are the expectations I have for myself”.
Although the course is predominantly female, male students are welcome. “It was really instructive,” says Applied Economy student Nate Taylor ’20. “I have a very different perspective on the world and a better understanding of my classmates. I’m learning what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace, and what I can do to help promote equality.
“It’s not about us versus them,” said Literary and cultural studies Maggie Pressler ’20. “It’s about working together and helping us all move forward.
“Rethink what we are capable of”
Moving forward, says Coakley, requires some thought. “Your success as a leader comes from your ability to think,” says Coakley. “I want the students I teach to think about more than how to be successful. I want them to think about their own personal definition of success and who they want to be.
“It’s so important to know who you are when you’re in college, because when you’re in the world, everything is so much more complicated,” notes Sarah Defeo ’17, now head of key accounts at PepsiCo. “Because of this course, you can say, ‘This is who I am and what I believe in, and these are the expectations I have for myself.’ “
The reflections students engage in during the course are often deeply personal and help them determine answers to big questions. “For some of them, this is their first time asking or answering these questions,” says Coakley. “There are a lot of ‘aha’ moments in the course.
“Professor Coakley is helping us rethink what we are capable of,” Politis says. “She’s able to bring out qualities in people that they don’t even know they have.”
“It’s hard for students to see what to expect, to understand what working in their field really looks like. Being able to ask someone who’s been through it, “How did you get from point A to point B, or point C to point D” is extremely important.
A room full of mentors
To broaden their horizons, each student is paired with a professional mentor. “They have the opportunity to interact with a senior female executive in their area of interest, someone who has experience and has taken on challenges,” says Coakley. “They have domain specific experience that I don’t have and they can share that experience. They can tell you what it’s like to prepare for the MCAT exam, work for a marketing company, or go to law school.
For Katy Griffault, vice president and information researcher for Global Consumer Insights & Consumer Care at Hasbro Inc., this is an opportunity to get things done. “It’s important to take women aside and tell them ‘These are the challenges you are going to face in the world of work’ and help them understand how to overcome them,” Griffault explains.
“It’s hard for students to see what to expect, to understand what working in their field really looks like,” notes Sackal, who says the discussions she’s had with Griffault have been invaluable. “Being able to ask someone who has already experienced ‘How did you get from point A to point B, or from point C to point D’ is extremely important. “
“She made a real commitment to each of us. She made it clear from the start that she would always be there for us and she never deviated from that.
At the end of each semester, there is a reception for everyone involved in the course: students, mentors and even alumni return to network and party. “Look around,” Coakley told the students at this year’s reception. “Everyone in this room is here because they believe in you.”
Definition of success
No one believes it more than Coakley, say the students. “Professor Coakley is absolutely phenomenal,” says Jenna Sadecki ’20, major in international business. “She is so passionate about what she does and she is truly invested in the development of her students and everyone around her.”
“I’ve asked Professor Coakley for advice at least a dozen times since graduating,” says Beauchesne, who recalls calling Coakley to help him negotiate his first raise.
“She is truly committed to all of us,” adds Defeo. “She made it clear from the start that she would always be there for us and she never deviated from that.”