Leadership program creates opportunities

By Arthur Smith on August 6, 2018

Towson University’s Professional Leadership Program for Women helps women to increase their capacity for leadership and influence

Towson University's Professional Leadership Program for Women
Towson University's Professional Leadership Program for Women Program facilitator Kathleen Case talking about leadership choice during one of the 2018 sessions.

Leadership programs can help break down barriers for women in the workplace, and in Greater Baltimore, there are multiple opportunities for women to join men in leadership development programs.

Towson University's Professional Leadership Program for Women[BROKEN LINK] is unique.

It is a response to a need expressed by some of the most respected leaders in Baltimore—the special issues and interests of women who are building careers and leadership in the region.

“A program focused on solely on women creates an environment of trust and acceptance, the opportunity to build deep and lasting relationships between participants and the establishment of an extended community of alumni that grows with each successive year of the program,” said program facilitator Kathleen Case.

Since the program began in 2015, 84 women have graduated from the program, with 25 percent being Towson University graduates. The alumnae are happy to see their alma mater take a leading role in addressing the workforce needs of women.

Jennifer Riggs Driban ‘07, vice president of government affairs at the National Aquarium, was a participant in the 2016 cohort.

“I was impressed when I heard about the program,” Driban said. “TU saw an opportunity to engage with and invest in the careers of professional women at a time when others had not taken such a direct approach.”

Having that previous connection influenced Driban’s decision to apply to participate in the Professional Leadership Program for Women.

“I believe, from my experience as an undergrad, Towson University fosters an environment for driven, ambitious young people to learn the skills necessary to excel in the professional world,” Driban said.When I heard they were offering a program for female professionals to continue to learn and develop those skills, I knew I had to participate.”

Michelle Huggins ’95, employer-employee relations manager at the Maryland Department of Transportation, participated in the 2018 cohort and agrees with Driban. “Towson University has always been a leading academic institution, hands down. Now, we get to show the world that TU delivers to the business community,” she said.

“My alma mater continues to grow, building the next generation of formidable women business leaders. To be a part of this great work is exciting,” said Huggins, who sits on the Towson University Public Media Board of Directors and is an active member of the Towson Black Alumni Alliance.

In January 2019, when the fifth cohort begins, the community of participants will exceed 100.

Each cohort meets for seven, full-day sessions in the Minnegan Room, as well as a golf day at Caves Valley Golf Club. Participants learn from subject matter experts and one another. Sessions integrate self-awareness assessments, interactive skills-building and structured application guidance for immediate application and practice.

For Huggins, one-on-one coaching with Case and building deeper, mutually beneficial relationships with business leaders was invaluable.

“We grew personally and professionally as individuals and leaders by sharing our own experiences and accepting the advice, guidance and support of others,” Huggins said. “There is still much work to do, but we are better equipped today to use our ‘super powers’ than we were the day we began the program.”

Guest speakers, both female and male, provide insight and expose participants to real-world life experiences from the position of ‘someone who has been there.’ Past speakers include TU President Dr. Kim Schatzel, wealth adviser Kathleen McQuiggan ‘90, TU Vice President for Inclusion and Institutional Equity Dr. Leah Cox, and Constellation’s Senior Vice President of Fuels Corey Hessen.  

TU Presidential Scholar Nancy Grasmick serves as ambassador for the program and facilitates sessions each year. She notes that TU’s culture is one that encourages intellectual inquiry and critical thinking.

“This program provides opportunities for collaborative, interdisciplinary vision which will enrich our society in Maryland and beyond,” said Grasmick.

TU’s program expands participants’ networks and horizons, often in life-changing ways, according to Grasmick. The program creates opportunities and builds relationships within the cohort and alumni group.

“Through participation I began to better understand my strengths and expand my professional network, or my ‘wolf pack,’ as Abby Wambach so cleverly described it,” said Driban. “Shortly after participating, I joined a board to help other women and ended up taking the next step in my career with a new opportunity.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.