President & CEO Stout Discusses the Transformative Power of Education in International Education Publication

Following is Dr. Stout’s statement as it appears in The Admired Institutions for Women Empowerment 2018.

I see my role as a higher education leader in the community college sector as an opportunity to advance “women empowerment,” especially for women of color and for those who are economically disadvantaged.  The definition of empowerment resonates with me - “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights”—in a number of ways.

My work in and with community colleges spanning more than 30 years has shown me clearly that the strongest way to achieve “women empowerment” is through education. Community colleges, in particular, are places where women at any age can gain knowledge, skills, and confidence that leads to managing their own life. I have seen it happen hundreds of times—women who are first in their family to go to college, or are economically disadvantaged, or single mothers, or forced to re-enter the workforce in a new field—earn a college credential to better themselves and come out of the experience stronger, more focused, and more confident. Our work at Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit leading a movement to ensure student success for colleges that champion educational equity, helps community colleges build their capacity for helping more students complete their education and move on to a successful career or further education. More than half of all community college students are women.

It is the transformational power of education that feeds “women empowerment.”

For my own journey, I am fortunate to have a number of mentors who helped me develop my own “empowerment.” The first are my parents. They showed me through their own actions how the power of education can literally change a person’s—and a family’s—life. There was Dr. Al O'Connell, former president of Harford Community College, who, when I was 25 years old, pulled me aside after a meeting to tell me that I could be a college president one day. Another is Dr. Phyllis Della Vecchia, president of Camden County College, who helped me see that good leaders are students first. I strive, every day, to be a student first, to continually feed my growth as a leader and as a woman.

And my journey continues. When I became President and CEO of Achieving the Dream, I brought with me the lessons I learned from students and from colleagues in prior positions as President of Montgomery County Community College, and in various leadership roles at community colleges in New Jersey and Maryland. I work hard for students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved by colleges and universities, and am proud of the recognition my work has received, specifically, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s 2018 Leading Women, and American Association for Women in Community College’s 2017 Woman of the Year.

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