On Feb. 25, newly appointed associate dean of students and executive director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Daria Graham, was invited to speak at the University of Dayton Student Government Association’s weekly public meeting. Graham’s address covered the Women’s Leadership Immersion (WLI) that took place for the first time this January.
The WLI is a program for junior and senior female students, and the aim is prepare them for success in their careers by bettering their professionalism. Through a series of workshops and speaker sessions, participants learned strategies for networking, salary negotiation and managing a retirement package.
The idea of the WLI resulted from Graham’s experiences from the summer of 2016. Graham and 60 other women took part in the Higher Education Resource Services Institute (HERS) at Bryn Mawr College, where they discussed their role and impact in higher education and women empowerment.
Graham also went to Europe through the University of Dayton’s Chaminade Seminar program. There, she learned of the commitment and sacrifices made by the founders of the Society of Mary and wanted to reflect her appreciation of both experiences.
When she returned to campus, Graham turned to her intern at the time, Cerelia Bizzel, to assist her in realizing the WLI.
Bizzel, now the graduate assistant for the Office of Student Leadership Programs, played a major role in development of WLI by recommending goals and objectives for its curriculum.
“I started making these curriculums so that people know not only how to communicate with their future boss, but with co-workers, [and] their mentors,” Bizzel said. “We started not only having career workshops, we started having vocational workshops [and] practical skills workshops.”
Bizzel envisioned women learning about their leadership style through the WLI and its facilitators.
Graham and Bizzel invited women leaders from the City of Dayton and Columbus area to a lead discussions and workshops.
“It became wonderful because we heard new experiences,” Bizzel said. “Hearing that different perspective became something that touched the female leaders that we had.”
Bizzel, who is currently pursuing her fourth degree, initially had aspirations to be a political scientist. But she soon realized the development of people and institutions was a quality that stuck with her.
While pursuing her master’s degree in business psychology, she became fascinated by theories on how to maneuver and navigate through corporate environments and their pertaining cultures.
“That’s when I realized I really wanted to go into education because I not only have the aspect of how navigate in the organization, but I wanted to help more with the development of the whole person so when they leave, not only are they a leader but are also able to continue their vocational journey,” Bizzel said.
Bizzel plans to pursue a doctorate in education, but hopes the university can continue the WLI. Bizzel felt that her expectations for the program were excelled according to the feedback she received; participants and session leaders told her it was a great experience and would take part in it again or recommend it to their friends and peers.