By Scarlett Birge, student news writer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – In recognition of Women’s History Month, previous and current female faculty and staff members at Campbellsville University were asked to share their experiences and thoughts of how CU has advocated for gender equality and can continue to empower women.
“I believe CU is on the right path toward empowering women,” Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said.
“I think it starts with leadership and presenting a model that all humans have worth and should be treated with dignity and respect,” Hedgepath said.
“We are long past the time of ignoring voices that have messages worth listening to,” Dr. Donna Wise, chair of the Division of Human Performance, assistant professor of physical education and former longtime women’s basketball coach, said.
It is imperative to value the voices of women in order to move Campbellsville to even greater heights, she said.
Wise spoke about how CU took a major step in closing gender gaps when Hedgepath was promoted to the university’s first provost position in 2017. Wise said up until that point, Virginia Flanagan, former director of alumni and public relations and TV, was the only woman in any administrative position above the title of dean or chair at the university.
“I can’t tell you how proud I felt seeing Dr. Donna Hedgepath become our first female provost,” Wise said.
Hedgepath said her position shows there is a pathway for everyone to advance their career regardless of gender. It is a great honor and responsibility to uphold such a role, she said.
“I think it brings more hope and more diversity of thought,” she said.
Upholding the foundation of gender inclusion already set within the university is important, but taking further strides to expand upon this foundation is a necessity.
Chris Mapes, former director of financial aid, said the university can work toward building a stronger climate of gender equity through devoting attention and care to women.
“Campbellsville can continue to empower women within our institution by investing in, supporting and mentoring our young women,” Mapes said.
Several women at the university were credited with providing support to their peers and creating an inviting atmosphere for women in CU’s community.
Dr. Brenda Priddy, former dean of the School of Education, recognized the late Jean Pennebaker, former director of student teaching faculty member at the School of Education, as a strong source of empowerment during her time at the university.
“Jean was a model of lifelong learning whose handwritten notes of encouragement meant so very much to me,” Priddy said.
Mapes said Dr. Pat Cowherd, dean of the School of Business, Economics and Technology, was one woman at CU who made a significant impact on her life and helped to empower her by being a beacon of support and mentorship.
“Both professionally and personally, Dr. Cowherd is someone I could count on as an advocate and always treated me with kindness,” Mapes said. “She is one who leads by example, and this has a deep and positive impact.”
Making resources available to help women develop in leadership roles and attaining degrees is a necessity, she said.
“Serving as the director of financial aid, I was always given the opportunity to advocate for our students in matter of resources,” Mapes said. “This type of support from the administration made my job much more successful and rewarding.”
Receiving positive reinforcement from other women is a key part of ensuring success. Having women in influential positions allows for a secure environment to form around uplifting inclusivity.
“Men learning from males in leadership has been the norm,” said Wise. “Women need to have the same empowerment from females in those roles.”
While many of these women recognized there is still a long way to go in providing true equity for gender representation, they recognized the many developments made and the progression toward more.
“Challenges do remain, but we have made much progress!” said Hedgepath.
“We are just beginning to take those first steps, and it makes me proud to be part of an institution where I can represent women in senior leadership,” Hedgepath said.
“Now that CU has diversity at the table, I hope that more inclusion follows,” Wise said.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 13,500 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.