Leadership event inspires campus learning

Leadership event inspires campus learning

For the Women’s Leadership Institute, the act of bringing a nationally recognized speaker to campus has a greater purpose than the lecture itself. The speaker and her ideas become a launching point for deep on-campus learning.

Last fall and this spring, a number of classes engaged in projects around the idea of “onlyness,” set forth by Nilofer Merchant, who was scheduled to present the Voices of Leadership keynote address in April as part of the university’s celebration of Women’s Vote Centennial. While the lecture was postponed and will be held virtually on Sept. 17, the class projects continued as planned.

In anticipation of Merchant’s keynote, these class projects will be exhibited around campus through late September and are also featured in a video

The Women’s Leadership Institute’s Voices of Leadership event is about more than bringing a leader to campus to learn from her experiences, said Director Anne Kahl. “It’s also an opportunity for our faculty to utilize the themes of the keynote to enhance the curriculum and explore these different topics with students in a way that is relevant to their disciplines,” she said.

Here are some of the course collaborations that took place in the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters:

Art: Three-Dimensional Design students initiated conversations with important people in their lives to explore experiences and impressions of voting. While in conversation, the art student created a plaster cast of the other person’s cupped hands to create an embodiment of their exchange. The plaster, wood and metal sculptures are painted with a white color palette aligning with the white garments worn by suffragettes.

Art Therapy: Students participated in an open studio to produce artwork inspired by Nilofer Merchant's journey and "onlyness.”

Dietetics: Food/Nutrition Systems Management students in the Junior Dietetics Coordinated Program developed a menu intended to be the breakfast for guests at the would-be April event. The menu focused on "Fueling A Focused Mind" through ingredients and nutrients designed to help any individual operate at their fullest potential. A focused mind leads to "wild ideas mighty enough to dent the world,” a key takeaway of Merchant’s book, “The Power of Onlyness.” With the switch to an online event this fall, the menu morphed into a recipe book modeled after the suffrage cookbooks used to promote that cause over a century ago.

English: We all have stories that are only ours, stories that are located at the very root of who we are as people. Intermediate Composition students combined visual and multimodal writing techniques to create graphic essays representing the stories that make them uniquely who they are today.

Fashion: The suffragettes, who lobbied, marched and protested for decades on end to earn women the right to vote, wore clothing packed with meaning. The suffragettes’ style was an integral part of underscoring their presence during this movement, with their “look” containing layers of symbolism. After researching the dress of suffragettes, Fashion Design 1 students created a modern fashion look that was either inspired by the roots and history of suffragette dress/symbolism, or inspired by a current women’s movement.

Interior Design: After reading Merchant's book, the students researched the concept of “onlyness” in relation to the community of Mount Mary University. Working with this new understanding, teams of students used virtual reality software to develop designs for an “onlyness” space on campus. 

Communications: How have media helped build structures for connection and change in our world? When has one person, using a medium of their choice, made a difference in the world? How has one person built a community centered around a common purpose?  Students in COM 255: Introduction to Media Studies examined how people have used media to unite a community for a common purpose.

To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Institute and the Voices of Leadership event, visit www.mtmary.edu/vol.