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Interview: Women’s College Dean Lynn Gangone

"Our job is to provide resources to help women achieve their goals," says Women's College Dean Lynn Gangone. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Lynn Gangone was named dean of the Women’s College of the University of Denver and associate clinical professor of higher education in spring 2007. She is a nationally known writer and speaker on gender equality, with expertise in women’s education and educational equity, as well as leadership development and career advancement for women in higher education.

Q: What is unique about the Women’s College (TWC) of the University of Denver?

A: TWC is one of 55 single-gender colleges in the United States and the only one in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region directly serving the women who live and work here. While this is our centennial year and it is appropriate that we celebrate and reflect on the achievements of the past century, our goal is to be here for the next 100 years. So the focus of TWC, and my personal focus, is to lay the foundation for long-term sustainability while we continue to meet the ever-changing needs of women in a dynamic and changing world. As more women in our state become business owners, policy makers, political leaders and philanthropists, our job is to provide resources to help women achieve their goals.

Q: How important are global women’s issues to TWC?

A: So many of the challenges faced by women around the world are also challenges faced by women in Colorado. The empowerment of women and girls globally is the issue for the 21st century, and education is the key. We have several projects we are working on to expand and continue building our ties internationally to create an array of options for our students as well as expand understanding of global issues for women and girls. This includes our relationship with Project Education Sudan and our sponsorship of Ayak Anguei School for Girls in southern Sudan. We also recently received a grant from DU’s Office of Internationalization to create study-abroad opportunities for Women’s College students that include a community-based research project in Gulu, Uganda, in partnership with the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund and Gulu University.

Q: With women comprising almost 60 percent of today’s college students, is there still a need for women’s colleges or centers?

A: I am often asked about the continued need for a single-gender institution. It’s simply a matter of having an option. When women’s institutions were founded in the late 1800s, it was because there was not a place for women in many of the higher education institutions that are now coed. At the time, women’s colleges not only filled the gap, they were the only choice. Today, the decision to attend a women-only college is one of many options that could include historically black colleges and universities or Hispanic-serving or religious-focused higher education institutions.

The degree and certificate programs at TWC are presented in an evening and weekend format to meet the balancing act required of many women. Additionally, women’s colleges and women’s centers give students a place to practice leadership, so they can move on to have an impact in a world largely shaped by men. In mixed settings, it is difficult for women to bring the whole of who they are to the table. But conversations among women can address the interplay among professional, personal, family and relationship issues. Women still need woman-friendly spaces to find their voice, and the world needs women’s voices. With women constituting only 18 percent of the positional leaders across all sectors, there’s still a role for women’s colleges to prepare the next generation of leaders.

Q: What will be your legacy?

When we built our new building [the Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the  Advancement of Women, opened in 2004], we built it with the notion that it would be  standing a century from now. We intend to live up to the expectation of the structure by  continuing to educate women who live and work in Colorado and prepare the next  generation of women leaders. Our TWC students and alumnae are amazing women  balancing so much to get that degree. I want to continue to have a place for them, for their daughters and for their daughters’ daughters.

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