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Profiles in a DU Pioneer Education

Colorado Women's College

Q&A with Dean Lynn M. Gangone, Colorado Women's College, part one

Dean Lynn M. Gangone, Colorado Women's College

Q: Give us a brief overview of your school – a general snapshot of the education you provide to students.

A: Colorado Women's College exemplifies the public good mission of DU; we provide an environment where women who have complex lives, whether they're 18 or 65, are able to get a University of Denver undergraduate degree. Our students are likely working, caring for someone, and immersed as undergraduate students, and we provide a quality education in an environment where who they are as women is really celebrated.

Our mission is to educate women to be bold leaders. The data show that women still are not showing up in leadership positions across the country in ways they need to. A Colorado Women's College education emphasizes the importance of understanding leadership and provides experience leading both in and out of the classroom.

Q: Colorado Women's College has a unique student body; describe the type of student you are looking to draw.

A: We serve women who live and work in Colorado. Demographically, the average age of our students is 30-31, about 45-50 percent identify as women of color, and about 10 percent have emigrated to the U.S. from other countries. A recent initiative is to partner with local high schools to recruit under-represented students into the college, and I am excited about bringing these young women to CWC.

We believe that students should have the right "fit" between who they are and what CWC has to offer. We look at a wide range of factors in the admissions process, from traditional high school or college GPAs and test scores, to life experience and the capacity to manage the demands of college, work and life. We look for students who we believe have the best chance for success and the right fit.

Q: You've had a big year with reclaiming your legacy name and celebrating your 125th anniversary; in your view, what do these two milestones mean to the school? To Colorado?

A: When we were founded in 1888, the city of Denver was growing and Colorado Women's College was seen as a place inside the Rocky Mountain region that would have great influence. At that time, most prestigious universities did not admit women; women's colleges existed to educate women at the level that colleges were educating men. Colorado Women's College has a strong legacy of attracting women from all over the country, women who sought to distinguish themselves in Colorado with its more open, western sensibility.

With our rich history behind us, we now need to look to the future to elevate women into leadership roles. We have a deep commitment to making sure educated women understand that it's not just that they receive the education, it's what they do with it.

I'd like to add a third milestone here: the release of our Benchmarking Women's Leadership in the United States, 2013 study. This study found that women are only 19 percent, on average, of positional leaders across 14 sectors. Additionally, we're seeing some clues that women may be outperforming men when we look at the top echelons of leadership. One-hundred-twenty-five years after our founding, women have many more opportunities, but that pipeline is not resulting in getting them into the C-suite. We need to create more leadership opportunities where men and women are working together; the complex problems of the 21st century can only be solved when both men and women are at the table.

Q: What are some other key milestones Colorado Women's College has reached over the past 125 years?

A: There are so many! A big part of the Colorado Women's College student experience yesterday and today is the capacity for intensive international study. We provide women the opportunity to travel to other countries, learn from those experiences, and apply those lessons in their academic and professional lives. We believe this ultimately helps form how our students show up as bold leaders.

CWC alumnae are making their mark among many industries in the corporate world. I visit our alumnae across the country as often as I can, and I see our alumnae themselves as milestones. These women represent the resiliency and tenacity of the college.

Additionally, we are the only women's college in the U.S. to still exist as an academic unit after a merger, due in part to Chancellor Coombe and former Chancellor Dan Ritchie's belief in the importance of the college and our role within the University of Denver.

By Katie Watt
Posted Nov. 5, 2013


Q: This month marks the 125th anniversary of Colorado Women's College; what do you have planned in celebration of this milestone?

A: Colorado Women's College has always been a place where students, faculty and staff know one another. Our 125th gala celebration – held on our Founders Day, Nov. 15 – will be an elegant, intimate affair designed to mirror this personalized experience. The event will be held at the History Colorado museum, where we'll celebrate the history of Colorado Women's College and how it's intertwined with Denver and Colorado.

The gala will kick off a year of quasquicentennial celebrations where we'll be partnering with organizations within and outside the University dedicated to the advancement of women. We will combine these activities with the efforts of the University as we all celebrate the University's sesquicentennial in 2014.

Q: Looking forward, what do you hope for the next 125 years?

A: One of the things I love about Colorado Women's College is that it is incredibly resilient and never afraid to change with the times. We've created innovative programs and will continue to change to fulfill the demands of the day.

The cool thing about a place like Colorado Women's College is that we exemplify what we ask of our students. We take risks, look at possibility, shift our structure and exercise bold leadership. I have no doubt that at some point CWC will transition again; I don't know what that will look like, but I'm looking forward to it.

Q: Given the challenges facing higher education today (shrinking pool of qualified students, more competition, tuition pressures, technology, etc.), what are some things your school is doing to stay successful?

A: Higher education institutions are beginning to look at different ways of delivering an undergraduate education by maximizing collaboration. At Colorado Women's College we're already doing that: we work with many units across DU to enhance our academic programs and provide a cross-discipline education to our students.

Second, we must look at how to create opportunities for undergraduate students to move to graduate programs. The University of Denver has an advantage here; we have professional schools and graduate programs across many disciplines. Students have the ability to move seamlessly from a DU undergraduate program to a graduate program. Our Colorado Women's College undergraduates are well-equipped to move into one of the DU professional or graduate schools.

Finally, demographics will play a major role in the future of higher education. Institutions must create space for under-represented students. Colorado Women's College has a demographically diverse student body. We fulfill that piece of the puzzle well, and will continue to do so.

Q: How do you describe the value of collaborating with other schools and University departments?

A: I spend my days thinking about collaboration, and Colorado Women's College is a good model for collaboration within the University of Denver. We are very connected with the Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) and the Daniels College of Business; our arts and business programs stemmed from their programming.

We also work closely with Sturm College of Law. We've had Sturm faculty members teach through Colorado Women's College, and now we're assisting the college in creating more space for diversity among their student body. Additionally, together we're working with local high schools' urban debate leagues and exploring how we can bring these students to DU.

Currently we've been having conversations with Morgridge College of Education. We're hoping to introduce an early childhood education program at Colorado Women's College, and provide a path from a CWC undergraduate major to a Morgridge master's degree.

This winter we're piloting an information technology program with University College, where IT majors from both colleges will take classes together. We both provide the same undergraduate major, and with this partnership we can maximize both colleges: CWC can provide on-the-ground courses, while University College can provide online courses.

Finally, Inclusive Excellence is one of our strategic priorities. We're partnering with University College, Gender and Women's Studies (AHSS) and the Center for Multicultural Excellence for a "One Book, One College" program modeled off of "One Book, One Denver."

We're able to give our students a unique experience, providing them a space inside the University that is all women where they also earn a University of Denver degree. We can only gain from continued partnerships.

Q: What do you want people to know about the Colorado Women's College?

A: For many students, completing an undergraduate degree is a huge point of pride. It's hard to describe the magnitude of that achievement for the women who go through Colorado Women's College. They are doing this academic work in a place where they have multiple demands on their time and on their resources. They are navigating complex lives, but when they walk across that stage wearing their CWC white gloves (which symbolize academic power), it is a lifetime achievement. Our alumnae say, "I never thought I could get here," and I feel such a sense of pride in each and every one of them. What these women do is nothing less than extraordinary. I am proud that the University believes in these women, and recognizes Colorado Women's College as part of the University's goal of being a catalyst for purposeful lives.

By Katie Watt
Posted Nov. 11, 2013