Women on a Mission
A mission to educate and empower women isn’t something that ended once one group of Alverno alumnae collected their diplomas. Instead, it’s something they carried into their professional careers at St. Joan Antida High School, an all-girls Catholic high school in Milwaukee. How did their Alverno education prepare them? To find out, Alverno Magazine talked to five alumnae:
- Elizabeth Lingen ’98 ’15 ’18, SJA principal
- Alexis Carter ’09, SJA director of admissions and enrollment
- Susan Kosiboski ’92 ’07, SJA math teacher and International Baccalaureate diploma programme coordinator
- Lidia Sobierajski ’95, SJA director of marketing and communications
- Elizabeth Moll ’12 ’16, began her teaching career at SJA
A transcript of the conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.
Alverno Magazine: What does it mean to prepare young women for college?
Lingen: We focus on strong academics. But there is also the hidden curriculum of what it means to be a young woman in society. It’s really important for young women to have that confidence in themselves, to be adaptable and flexible. The kinds of pressures and demands in their lives are different for them as women than they are for men.
Carter: As a woman of color, educating young women is so important. When I was in school, I never saw people who looked like me doing the things that we require of these young women. So for me, it’s empowerment.
Moll: Leaving high school, our students need to be well-rounded academically, professionally and personally. As an educated woman, you are going to establish a career. You may get married. You may be a mother. You have more roles than we were historically expected to fulfill. And so now, more than ever, we can’t just prepare them just for academics. We also have to prepare them to be resilient.
Carter: Resilience is a great word.
Kosiboski: I tell students that it may take time to find the right college and the right career. The way you think your life is going to go, it may not. But they shouldn’t give up.
Moll: No matter what people say, there’s not one way to achieve something. There’s not one road to take. You can’t feel that you’re not successful because you’re not doing it the way that everybody else thinks it should be done. You pave your own path.
Carter: It’s so true. This is so important because Alverno gave me something I didn’t have, which was self-worth. Here at St. Joan Antida, we let our girls work on getting to know themselves. Our students say part of the reason that they’re so connected to this place is because their friends are their sisters and because they discovered their voice. I did not get a voice until I came to Alverno. I now use my voice to educate and engage other young women.
Lingen: Our society, for a lot of different reasons, teaches women to be intuitively competitive with each other. When we focus on developing a sisterhood where women support each other, we’re actually teaching them something that’s counter-cultural. It’s going to benefit them immensely as professional women.
Moll: We need to teach young women that it’s okay for us all to be successful. It’s okay for us all to win, and we should want that for each other.
Alverno Magazine: How did Alverno prepare you for your careers and to continue the mission of educating women?
Moll: At Alverno, they don’t let you give up. You cannot just get a C on a paper. You have to pass and by passing, you have to do it. And if you don’t do it, you’re going to do it again, and then you’re going to reflect. What went well, and what didn’t? That flows into what I do as a teacher. I want all of my students to feel like there’s no giving up. That’s not an option here.
Kosiboski: I would agree with that. I look back at my favorite math teachers, who weren’t going to lecture and give us the answers. I had to keep working until I found them.
Lingen: What I use in my professional career that is a product of my Alverno education is being a reflective practitioner. I can never put a dollar amount on how valuable that’s been for me in my life.
Carter: In terms of professional working relationships, one of the things Alverno has taught me is how to manage relationships and understand that there isn’t an us against them. We’re each other’s anchors!
Sobierajski: After graduating from Alverno, I later took a class at a public university. I sat in a gigantic auditorium where the teacher didn’t know my name and didn’t even know if I was in class. I just handed in homework, and if it was wrong, it was wrong. I didn’t know why it was wrong. But that’s not how the real world functions. At work, I can’t just complete a project and, if it’s wrong, go on with my day. Alverno prepares you for real-world situations. Your boss expects quality work and it’s going to require revisions and feedback.
Carter: Another thing I think Alverno gave me that’s so invaluable is the idea of value and passion. When I first went to school, I thought that I’m going to get this four-year degree, and I’m going to be a millionaire. But after school, I’ve found myself working for nonprofit organizations because my passion is people. I tell the students I work with that you’re rich when you’ve identified the core value of what matters. The older they get, they’re able to better understand this.
Lingen: The ability to articulate your own values and articulate how that influences your decisions – I didn’t know how to do that before I went to Alverno. The fact that our Alverno education taught us how to understand ourselves so much better and why we do certain things can make it so much easier to navigate the roles and responsibilities that we have as women.