How Women’s Colleges Shape Strong Leaders

students in front of White House, Washington, D.C.

Leadership is a word that has many definitions and is open to interpretation. When preparing for college, you may think that you need to take on leadership positions to stand out on your college application, within the admission process, or even within your high school.

While finding leadership positions in high school is a significant first step to understanding yourself as a leader and finding your place within your school, there is more to leadership than holding a leadership title. If you have not yet seen a position that speaks to you, or you have already held leadership roles but aren’t sure they’re right for you, don’t worry – leadership means more than you think!

What is leadership?

At Meredith and many other colleges and universities, leadership is seen as an action. Leadership is more than a position or title; it is the idea that anyone and everyone can be a leader and has leadership qualities. It is uncovering, reflecting, and embracing your strengths in the classroom, at home, and in your activities. It is learning how to work in a team while understanding that others in your group also bring their own unique strengths to the team. It is the knowledge that you can impact your community, and take the steps to make positive change happen.

How is leadership development different at a women’s college?  a group of students examining sand at the beach

College is a time to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others and find passions that are important to you. At a women’s college, leadership development is everything that it is at a co-educational college, but with an added focus on building confidence and taking a larger interest in women’s empowerment and advocacy.

Leadership development at a women’s college is about understanding yourself and your power within society, realizing that your power may be affected by stereotypes of or discrimination against women and how to navigate as a strong female leader. It is understanding that your voice matters and you can affect the world on a small or large scale. It is taking steps to understand what you want to say, what you want to change, and what you have the power to change. Leadership at a women’s college is also about learning to be confident in your ability to make a change and that you have the knowledge of how to do it.

Leadership Development at Meredith

Sophie LanneauAt Meredith College, in the Student Leadership and Service Office, we have programs that are named for women who have been leaders at Meredith and in the world. The Sophie Lanneau Women’s Leadership Development Program is named after Sophie Lanneau, one of the “Immortal Ten,” the first ten women who graduated from Meredith College in 1902.

After graduating from Meredith, Lanneau taught at a public school in Wake Forest. In 1907, Lanneau received a missionary appointment to China where she became the founder and principal of the Wei Ling Girls’ Academy. Lanneau worked to educate girls and upgrade the position of women in China. Lanneau had a strong commitment to Meredith College, the community, and the world. The Sophie Lanneau program honors her dedication, vision, involvement and inspiration.

This program is only one of the leadership programs at Meredith College, and it showcases the need for an individual’s understanding of self, others, and the community.  This interactive program also teaches leadership in a reflective and highly impactful way. There are many additional programs that students can take part in to develop their leadership style.

Which program is right for you?a woman speaking on stage at the Leadership Conference for High School Women

If you are still in high school, you have the chance to participate in Meredith’s Spring Leadership Conference for High School Women, which is a conference for high school juniors and welcomes students from all over the Southeast.

Once at Meredith, the opportunities expand to include weekly leadership seminars, speaker workshops, and high impact leadership conferences and retreats. Emerging Leaders is a leadership seminar in which students explore individual leadership skills and concepts during weekly meetings. The LeaderShape®️ Institute at Meredith College takes place every other year and allows students to develop leadership skills and visions for change. If you are interested in service and leadership, there is an opportunity to attend the Sloan Family Leadership and Service Spring Break Trip. This program allows students to explore leadership and service in various parts of the country. In the past, the group has visited Washington, D.C., Williamsburg, Va., and Charleston, S.C. This year the group went to Wilmington, N.C.

Today we can see the leadership legacy of our alumnae, including Sophie Lanneau, and of our students at Meredith College. How will your leadership have an impact on the college you choose? We can’t wait to see!

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