Women’s student leadership program gets $1.2 million grant

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Grace Merritt

2 min read

A leadership program for undergraduate women at UConn has proven so successful the funder donated $1.2 million to extend it for at least three years.

The grant provides scholarships and a transformative experience to several juniors through the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. The BOLD program cultivates courageous leadership and career success in young women during college and after they complete their studies.

“We look for scholars with leadership potential who have interesting stories to tell and have a passion for an issue of social good,” said Liza Boritz, director of the BOLD program at UConn.

“The students get the scholarship award, but also get funding to develop and implement an individualized, service leadership project during the summer between their junior and senior years.”

The grant is from Helen Gurley Brown’s Pussycat Foundation. Brown, the legendary editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, believed that every young woman should have the opportunity to pursue an education and career, and achieve her life’s ambitions.

Xinyu Lin, an engineering major, was one of the first to go through the program and is now doing a BOLD post graduate fellowship. Lin researched and produced a photo story exhibit that documented the experiences of leaders from underrepresented backgrounds in the environmentalism movement.

“The BOLD program has undoubtedly been one of the best parts of my UConn experience,” Lin said. “I’m so glad that I took the chance and applied because it’s given me some of the best mentors, friends, and opportunities I could’ve asked for. BOLD enabled me to pursue a project and topic that wasn’t covered in my coursework, and ultimately inspired me to explore a different career path.”

Cristal Arguello, a junior majoring in urban and community studies, said she was thrilled to be selected for a BOLD scholarship this year.

“It takes away a lot of the financial burden I came into college with. It just takes it away,” she said. “It releases a lot of stress.”

She plans to pursue a project—and perhaps a career—focused on the inhumane treatment of undocumented women and children held at the U.S. border.

One of BOLD’s leaders, Sally Reis, said BOLD plays a key role in helping to develop women as leaders at UConn.

“At a crucial time in our history in which talented women continue to struggle with decisions about how to lead and how to blend family well-being with work responsibilities, it is critical for universities to provide training and opportunities for leadership development for intelligent young women to explore their choices and pursue their dreams,” said Reis, who is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology.

UConn is one of six colleges and universities across the country in the BOLD network, said Susan Baldridge, lead consultant for foundation in charge of BOLD.

“It’s been a transformative experience not just for the scholars but also for the faculty and staff,” said Jennifer Lease Butts, director of the Honors Program. “The longer we can keep BOLD as an active program on campus, the greater influence it’s going to have on our community and, ultimately, the world. Leadership for the social good is an increasingly important component of our collective success as individuals and the success of UConn as an institution.”

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