President’s Pen: Winter 2018

Acting President Sonya Stephens. Photo courtesy of MHC Office of the President

As the finishing touches are added to the new Community Center, where contemporary dining meets the historic feel of the Mount Holyoke residential experience, we are turning our attention to the programming that will be centered in it, as well as to the opportunities represented by the vacated kitchen and dining spaces in the residence halls. In all that we are doing, there is intent to bring together creativity and analysis, to engage intellectually and socially, and to ensure that we sustain a community of imaginative learners.

In this issue of the Quarterly, you will find a feature on the Makerspace, “In the Making,” which describes just a few of the ways that our students, faculty, and staff are taking advantage of this facility, which we have been piloting since 2014. Use of the Makerspace by both individuals and classes continues to grow, and plans are under way to create a larger, more flexible, and more permanent home for all of this activity in the former kitchen and dining areas of Prospect Hall. These plans also include specially designed classroom space. As the feature demonstrates, creative ideas emerge from students in courses from across the curriculum, and supporting these ideas is a way not only to sustain and renew the kinds of connections and pedagogies a liberal education encourages and promotes but also to support women entrepreneurs—historically underrepresented (and underfunded) and yet most likely to persist and succeed.

Creative ideas emerge from students in courses from across the curriculum, and supporting these ideas is a way to support women entrepreneurs.Sonya Stephens

Indeed, according to a 2015 study by the Centre for Entrepreneurs more women entrepreneurs are needed. The study, “Shattering Stereotypes: Women in Entrepreneurship,” found that “women entrepreneurs are more likely to work toward controlled, profitable growth with relatively little interest in merely positioning themselves for lucrative exit,” according to Sarah Fink, then head of research at the Centre. Women, Fink wrote, “often prefer to re-invest business profits over equity investment to scale sustainably.” And John Winter, then chief executive of Barclays, a financial supporter of the study, attributed the success of women entrepreneurs to the ways in which they tend to develop “different business cultures and models of entrepreneurial growth.” Expanding on this research, a 2015 Forbes magazine article identified reasons why women make better entrepreneurs than men: superior calculated risk-taking, a lesser tendency to overconfidence, higher levels of ambition, and a greater propensity to consider the long-term view and to work harder to overcome obstacles. 

We might recognize some or all of these as hallmark qualities of a Mount Holyoke education. And with the launching of the MEDIAL Project—or “MHC Empowering Discovery, Innovation, and Artistic Learning”—through a $500,000 grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation we are not only able to invest in the Makerspace and other creative spaces on campus—including a media lab and digital music production and recording studios—but we are  able to connect our innovation-hire faculty members to these spaces and facilities. As we expand our interdisciplinary efforts, we are further expanding our educational efforts to develop future innovators, whatever ideas, majors, and careers they decide to pursue.   

This article appeared in the winter 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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