Leadership Legacy–Women University Students in China Take It On

One of 2130's Principals and Co-founders, Suzanne Frindt, recently returned from a trip to China.  She went there with two other key members of the 2130 team, Patty Vogan and Allison Haynes. The following are her notes on her leadership experience from this trip. SIAS_thumbWhen H1N1 knocked us out of the opportunity to speak at the Women’s Symposium on SIAS University Campus  in Zhengzhou, Henan Province in China earlier this year, we didn’t know at the time there would be another opportunity so soon to support emerging women’s leadership there. Through Global Interactions, we were invited to participate as Founding Facilitators for The World Academy for the Future of Women. SIAS University campus was chosen as the site to launch this program because of Global Interactions Founder, Jerrie Ueberle’s relationship with the University founder Shawn Chen. It is truly a unique university where East meets West architecturally, academically, and with a large foreign faculty.  I participated in the launch of the program at SIAS, and both Dwight and I will travel back to China in May, as visiting foreign faculty, to facilitate the final module of the program we co-created with a team called “Leadership Legacy”.

During my trip to assist in the launch last month I encountered a willing and supportive university administration, participative and engaged Chinese women faculty, and foreign faculty, as well as passionate, expressive and visionary students - both young women AND young men. It was amazing to me how committed the young men students were. They were anxious and happy to support the launch of the Academy in some way. Clearly they saw a place for themselves in the future of women! They did make one request -  ‘when can we launch the World Academy for the Future of Men?

One of the first tasks was to interview and select the women who would be part of the program. The women students were anxious to be selected and were eager to participate in the year-long leadership development program. Apparently in general, students in China are very committed. Especially at the University level because only a small percentage actually get to go to University. It can be expensive and it often takes four grandparents, and two parents to support the one child through school. There is tremendous family energy, money, and loans wrapped up in the academic success of just one child.

The women students shared with our team their hopes and dreams for their lives and for their communities, China and the world. They were awake and aware of the impact of environmental degradation in their own communities and many shared specific intentions of where their leadership could best be leveraged back in their own communities, all the while realizing they are part of a larger whole. It was amazing to experience this level of awareness, commitment and vision. I could see our future world leaders in early stages right before my eyes.  Ultimately, 97 women students were selected to be part of the year long curriculum. Student feedback is already amazing. Here is a note from one of the women selected for the program:  I am Cathy Tian, senior, majoring in English Translation. I am so lucky to be chosen as a member of World Academy. I write this letter to express my thanks to all of you. Thank you very much for all you have done and will done for us. Yesterday is an unforgettable day in my life and I will cherish every minute to learn with you all. I believe I can make a difference, I believe my dreams will come true. Thank you again and best regards. (In the picture: Suzanne, Patty and Allison at a candlelight welcoming ceremony for the students.)

An experience like this is an extraordinary opportunity on many levels. There are so many key learnings. Who knew China, a communist country, would be willing to have such a global university in their midst? Who knew there could be such an extraordinary program put together there for future women leaders? All of this really reminded me how big the world is, how much is going on we don't know or hear about and how much opportunity there is for the US to partner with other countries in cooperative and collaborative ways to develop strong relationships and unexpected positive outcomes.