The 'new'
of Brenau

New signature programs will retain and enhance the 140-year legacy of The Women’s College

Story by Kristen Bowman | Photos by AJ Reynolds

Story by Kristen Bowman
Photos by AJ Reynolds

First, some unfinished business

It started in the summer of 2017. Brenau University President Ed Schrader was firming up his retirement plans, but he had a few important items on his to-do list first.

One of them was making sure that he didn’t retire without ensuring the future of The Women’s College of Brenau University.

For 140 years, The Women’s College has supported, educated and prepared young women to become the professional thought leaders of their generations. That legacy has not changed. But the world has, and women’s colleges have with it. Fifty years ago, more than 280 women’s colleges flourished nationwide. Today, 34 remain.

“I received the university with The Women’s College in a state of conscious uncertainty about its future,” says Schrader, reflecting on the institution 15 years ago. “The obvious market trend for single-gender education was declining, and it has continued so the last 15 years. I was determined and committed to the board’s mission, as they had asked me to bring the question of the future of The Women’s College to closure prior to the naming of a new president.”

Schrader says this was important to the board because it would allow a new president to focus on the university as a whole without becoming embroiled in decision making regarding The Women’s College.

“It would have taken years of grounding to become sufficiently educated in both the broader market and the heritage of the institution to make an unbiased and informed decision,” he says. “Now, we have done that.”

The committee gets to work

The Women's College of Brenau University seal

To ensure the university was doing the best it could by The Women’s College students and alumnae, Schrader convened a committee from across the campus and gave them a not-so-simple task: Determine how to make The Women’s College viable for the next 140 years.

“The committee’s charge was to evaluate The Women’s College for the future up to and including the idea that there might not be a future for single-gender education,” says Amanda Lammers, vice president of student services and Women’s College Committee chair. “The committee quickly determined The Women’s College not only had a future, but a very bright one.”

The committee grew over the course of nearly two years to include additional constituents whose input and ideas would be necessary for the implementation of any changes. More than 20 members, including trustees, alumnae, faculty members, staff and administrators, developed a plan that would retain and strengthen the legacy of The Women’s College while enhancing its offerings for students. In December 2018, the university announced plans to enhance and reinforce The Women’s College, emphasizing the college’s prominence in the education and development of outstanding women.

“Since 1878, The Women’s College of Brenau University has provided a transformative experience that empowers women to thrive personally and professionally,” says Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College. “Now we are entering an especially exciting time, as we look forward to the launch of three distinguishing signature programs. These programs will equip Brenau women to tackle the challenges of their times and prepare them to lead confidently and successfully.”

“A new
generation of
women is looking
for innovative
experiences that
include service
to others, global
experiences and

Signature programs for
a signature experience

At the core of this re-envisioning of The Women’s College is programming that will redefine and reconceptualize The Women’s College student experience through two key undergraduate programs: GOLD and the Ideal Collective.

GOLD, which begins this fall, will be an integrated, cocurricular program for all Women’s College students focusing on gender awareness, personal and professional development, service, leadership skills, global perspective and the advancement of women. Each letter represents one year of a student’s experience in The Women’s College, which will focus on:

  • Gender: a year committed to women’s empowerment.
  • Ownership: a year focused on personal responsibility.
  • Leadership: a year dedicated to preparing tomorrow’s leaders.
  • Diversity: a year concentrating on global citizenship.

The Ideal Collective, meanwhile, will be an immersive, livinglearning community grounded in the principles of the Brenau Ideal — penned by early Brenau President H.J. Pearce — and focused on transformative leadership through collaborative, project-based service learning. This exclusive two-year program will be open to juniors and seniors only by competitive application.

“Part of The Women’s College experience is being surrounded by women who are trying to better themselves,” Lammers says. “It makes you better. I think any program that is focused on a specific population is extremely beneficial, and these programs will benefit students in The Women’s College by helping them find the ways they can tangibly take their knowledge and skills into the world.”

Investing in a new generation of women

The newly reimagined Women’s College will incorporate academic enhancements as well, including gender-focused training for faculty, individual career planning, portfolio development and mentoring for each student, along with a prominent speakers series, capstone courses, seminars and more.

The flagship program of the redesign, however, will be an Executive Women’s MBA, the inaugural graduate program incorporated completely within The Women’s College and reflecting its focus. The first cohort of this graduate program is scheduled to begin in January 2020 and will be directed by Juli Clay, assistant vice president for executive graduate studies.

The all-female executive program is specifically designed to empower and promote uniquely talented women who are currently successful in the workplace but looking to advance to the CEO suite. It will be provided through a flexible platform combining online experiences with extended weekend residencies at the most significant financial and commercial centers in the world.

“A new generation of women is looking for innovative educational experiences that include service to others, global experiences and leadership,” says Anna Jacobs, WC ’86, Brenau trustee and member of the planning committee. “I am gratified to see that The Women’s College is refining her approach through GOLD, the Ideal Collective and the Executive Women’s MBA to elevate Brenau through the next 140 years.”

Ensuring the future of The Women’s College

Schrader says the Board of Trustees’ support and vision for The Women’s College to remain vital and inspiring is central to the accomplishment of the university’s mission. Brenau will continue to invest in The Women’s College, he says, because its outcomes are clear.

“Here at Brenau University, we understand the added value of graduates from women’s colleges,” he says. “Women’s college graduates have higher earning potential, greater leadership skills and greater self-esteem than female graduates from coeducational institutions. Through the addition of these carefully curated new programs, we are going to continue Brenau’s legacy of providing leading-edge support and education for women.”

Throughout these changes, three distinct points of matriculation remain: The Women’s College, the Undergraduate School and The Sidney O. Smith Jr. Graduate School. The Undergraduate School and Graduate School are coeducational, while The Women’s College remains the university’s single-gender cocurricular component.

“These measured steps from the university to ensure the sustainability of The Women’s College are a sign of confidence,” says Brooke Statham, WC ’00, president of the Alumni Association and a member of the planning committee. “It shows confidence in the students who currently attend, confidence in the alumni, and confidence in the faculty and staff. I am so pleased that the university has chosen to invest in The Women’s College’s future, and I believe that we are all going to be impressed with what lies ahead. Only the best will do for our Brenau family, and we have a plan that will keep our traditions strong yet allow us to grow, adapt and thrive.”

The Brenau Ideal

To find satisfaction in being rather than in seeming;
To find joy in doing rather than in dreaming;
To be prepared for service thereby earning the right to be served;
To be pure in heart; vigorous in mind, discreet in action;
To love deeply, fear nothing, hate never;
To enjoy that freedom which comes from knowledge of the “Truth”;
To be modestly conscious of the limitations of human knowledge
and serenely confident of the limitless reaches of human endeavor –
This is the ideal of Brenau.

— H.J. Pearce

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The Women's College of Brenau University

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