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Preparing for the Journey, at BC and Beyond

Council for Women of BC marks 10 years of impressive successes

02/28/13
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The Council for Women of Boston College has sponsored numerous events for BC alumnae and students in a variety of formats during its first decade.

By Patricia Delaney | Deputy Director of News & Public Affairs

Published: Feb. 28, 2013

When the Council for Women of Boston College was first envisioned, few could have imagined the essential role it would play in leading alumnae to develop powerful connections with their alma mater.

This year, as it marks its 10th anniversary, the council celebrates an impressive record of success in engaging the women of BC, and in furthering their role as leaders and partners in the life of the University.

Through its organization and sponsorship of professional, educational, cultural, athletics and service activities both on campus and across the country, the CWBC has provided alumnae with myriad professional and personal enrichment opportunities; connected them to the University’s Strategic and Master Plans and the “Light the World” Campaign; supported Alumni Association initiatives including the National Day of Service and Sesquicentennial on the Road; paid tribute to the history of women at Boston College through the documentary film “Making Our Place,” and, importantly, reached out in numerous ways to the alumnae of tomorrow through programs for women undergraduates.

“After a decade of great work by so many talented and dedicated women, the council has become a vital part of Boston College,” said founding co-chair Kathleen McGillycuddy NC ’71, who, in her present capacity as the first woman to chair the Board of Trustees is emblematic of the rise of alumnae involvement and influence.

“It has provided a much-needed platform for women to embrace their stewardship of the University, which, given that they now comprise the majority of alumni, is imperative to its future.”

When University President William P. Leahy, SJ, appointed McGillycuddy and trustee Cynthia Egan ‘78 as co-chairs of the nascent council, the initiative had a clear mission.

“There had long been a strong desire among alumnae to engage in active leadership roles at Boston College,” said McGillycuddy. “The establishment of the Council for Women created the ideal vehicle to encourage, support and advance that participation, by providing women with the opportunity to engage with and influence the University’s future on a real and personal level.”

In turn, Boston College has been the beneficiary of a group of highly focused alumnae who have committed their wealth of professional and personal experience, as well as time and financial support, to its service. Since its first meeting in 2003, the council has grown to include nearly 150 alumnae, with a membership roster that reads like a “Who’s Who” of leaders in business, financial services, law, medicine, education, broadcasting and other fields. An associate level of membership, added in 2006, is now more than 700 alumnae strong.

Over the past decade, the CWBC has organized more than 300 events attended by nearly 20,000 women graduates. Its signature initiative is the “Journey Series” for alumnae at varying stages of life and career. The hallmark “Beginning the Journey” program, which connects successful women graduates with young alumnae, proved so popular that it is now offered in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, DC, as well as Boston and New York, and has prompted the companion programs “Continuing the Journey” for professionals navigating back to the workforce after taking time off for family or children, and “Refining the Journey” for those later in their careers.

Djerica Lamousnery, a 2011 graduate of the Connell School of Nursing who is now a CWBC associate member, says she feels closer and more connected to BC through council events for young alumnae, which, she says, make her feel like the University truly cares about their needs.

She cites in particular her relationship with CWBC member and “amazing mentor” Ann Riley Finck ’66, a nurse practitioner and ICU nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. “Through her guidance I have been able to take my career to the next level and join her at New York Presbyterian,” said Lamousnery, now a registered nurse. “It has been an honor and a blessing to have the opportunity to learn from her.”

Lamousnery’s praise for CWBC initiatives is frequently echoed by council members. “We have received so much positive feedback from alumnae who are delighted to be able to come together with a common objective,” said McGillycuddy. “It has been wonderful to see how invested they are in the advancement of the University — and especially in connecting with students.”

In fact, the council program for undergraduates, “Preparing for the Journey,” is one of the CWBC’s most successful ventures, bringing women students together with accomplished alumnae in a variety of fields to discuss career choices, networking strategies and internships, and providing direct exposure to companies and industries through a day “on the job,” sponsored by a council member.

In addition, the CWBC reaches out to women undergraduates with relevant speakers, said  Jaclyn Carey ’13, chair of the council’s 25-member student advisory board that includes representatives from all class years, schools and colleges. Lonergan Center associate director Kerry Cronin spoke about dating and relationships to a capacity audience of more than 250 students at a CWBC-sponsored event on campus Feb. 21, she said; another recent speaker offered advice on healthy eating choices.

“Involvement with the CWBC has been an amazing experience,” Carey said. “I have connected with many women on the council who have helped me through my journey in college.”

Catherine McCool, a 2009 graduate of the Carroll School of Management and former advisory board chair, also speaks highly of the friendly forum for students created by the council, and says her experience on the board has encouraged her to stay connected to BC.

 “I learned from a lot of the women on the CWBC,” said McCool, now an associate at JP Morgan New York. “What I still remember today, and experience as I go through my professional life, is the value of building a network in order to learn about others’ diverse experiences and career choices.”

For CWBC associate member Kristen Kelly ’09, three years on the student board led her to realize the vast resources that would be available to her through BC’s alumnae network, as well as the value to students of being connected to successful women who could help prepare them for the challenges of life after college.

“I don’t think I would be as involved with BC as an alumna without the council,” said Kelly, a College of Arts and Sciences graduate who recently left a position in Latin American and Global Partnerships at AmeriCares to prepare for medical school in the fall. “The experience,” she said, “made me want to stay connected to BC and give back to the school that taught me so much, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Ingrained in all BC students is the mantra ‘men and women for others,’” she added. “The CWBC is a great example of the fact that one doesn’t have to travel far to find ‘others.’ There are women in younger generations who need guidance and assistance, and alumnae can provide that through the CWBC.”

Lisa Relle ’11, also a former student board chair, concurs. “The experience I gained [on the board] informed all of my job interviews during my senior year, and I believe played a large part in demonstrating my capabilities for the job I ultimately accepted and now love,” said Relle, a Lynch School of Education graduate and a senior analyst at Towers Watson in Boston. “I am forever grateful to [council members] Mary Lou DeLong and Anne Phelan, who recognized my abilities and introduced me to such a wonderful organization and network of women.”

McGillycuddy, who notes that she didn’t reconnect with Boston College until three decades after graduation, believes the council’s groundbreaking role in helping women students discern the value of active participation in BC life will ensure that future alumnae continue the CWBC’s important work.

“The council has made great strides in helping the women of Boston College to establish a lifelong relationship with the University,” McGillycuddy said. “As we begin our second decade, we hope to build on this foundation, to nurture existing relationships, to reconnect more alumnae with their alma mater, and to continue to inspire our women students to embrace their role as guardians of the University’s future.”

For more information on the Council for Women of Boston College, see the group’s website at www.bc.edu/cwbc.