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GAWHE conference at UNG draws women in higher education from across the state

GAWHE conference at UNG
Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges was the keynote speaker at the GAWHE conference.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) is hosting the Georgia Association for Women in Higher Education (GAWHE) during their annual conference Feb. 28 through March 1.

GAWHE is an organization dedicated to providing professional support for women in higher education through networking, professional development, advocacy, and publications. 

More than 125 attendees from colleges and universities across the state participated in the three-day event on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus to listen and participate in a number of presentation sessions, join in GAWHE breakout sessions, hear about state and legislative updates, and network among peers.

The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. She is the first African-American and woman to serve in that capacity. Her career spans more than 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In several of those roles, she was the first African-American and/or woman to serve in those capacities.

The remainder of the conference includes a number of concurrent sessions presented by UNG faculty and staff.

Kate Maine, UNG chief of staff, presented "Effective Leadership Communications," on the traits of successful leaders' communications skills and strategy and tactics to strengthen communications among students, employees, alumni, and community members.

Dr. Sheri Hardee, associate dean of the College of Education at UNG; Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement at UNG; and Dr. Lauren Johnson, assistant professor and coordinator of diversity and recruitment initiatives in UNG's College of Education, hosted the panel discussion, "Re-Writing the Narrative: Creating Structures of Support with Underrepresented Students" on the same day.

Each panelist discussed ways they have helped implement programming to create a more inclusive environment at UNG and shared strategies to work across departments and institutions to support underrepresented students in Georgia.

"This conference presented a significant opportunity to engage in an important dialogue about ways to recruit, support, fund, and graduate underrepresented students here at UNG," Johnson said. "I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this dynamic conversation."

Dr. Chaudron Gille, vice provost at UNG, presented "Weaving the Threads Together,"  examines the challenges women face in trying to find the proper work/life balance, and will offer strategies to be used for self-assessment in attaining a well-balanced life.

"Like putting on your oxygen mask in a plane before assisting others, self-care is an essential dimension of leadership," Gille said. "My presentation focused on a mindful approach to weaving together the threads of one’s professional and personal life in order to create a well-integrated life, and recognizes that this changes over time.  I hope the participants gained some concrete strategies and tools that they can apply in their own lives." 

The final day of the conference, March 2, begins with a breakfast session featuring guest speaker Linda Osborne-Smith, general counsel for the Technical College System of Georgia, who will address leadership and legal issues.

A presidential panel is scheduled with Dr. Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University, acting as facilitator. Panelists include Dr. Cheryl Dozier, president of Savannah State University; Dr. Bonita Jacobs, UNG president; Dr. Anthony Parker, president of Albany Technical College; Dr. Stanley Preczewski, president of Georgia Gwinnett College; and Dr. Alvetta Thomas, president of Southern Crescent Technical College.

The conference concludes with a federal legislative update from Dozier and Dr.Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the division of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, on how policy initiatives in Washington, D.C., will affect Georgia.

"In hosting GAWHE, UNG provides a creative hub in which to continue the work of building and strengthening support networks across the state, while also cultivating a collaborative space to imagine and implement the development of more inclusive environments for students, faculty, and staff across the state of Georgi," Hardee said. "The real goal, for me, is learning from my counterparts about how we can work together to improve our higher education institutions for all."

GAWHE is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to providing professional support for women educators, administrators, and researchers in higher education in Georgia.

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