Anne Welsh McNulty Institute Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Katie Reed, News Columnist

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership hosted an event in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate its fifth anniversary. 

The event began with a reception at 5:30 p.m., and at 6:45 p.m., attendees gathered into Topper Theatre for a Legacies of Leadership Panel Discussion. The panelists included Michaela Walsh, Neeti Dewan and Anne Welsh McNulty. The conversation was moderated by Ericka Plater. 

Many people attended both the reception and the conversation portion of the night, which Terri Boyer, the Founding Director of the Institute, was pleased about. 

“The turnout was fabulous, we had hundreds of people in person, we had hundreds of people online, and we had people tuning in globally from other countries to hear a little bit about the celebration,” Boyer said. “That was pretty cool because the Institute, when it was founded, had this vision to be nationally recognized as a place that advances women leaders.” 

She also added how important it was to see many different members of the University in attendance, reflecting how the Institute seeks to extend its impact to the entire community.

“There was significant representation from the leadership at Villanova, too,” Boyer said. “A lot of the deans were there, Father Peter was there, other leadership throughout the University, faculty members, and students were there. Our mission is to serve a broad constituency, and people came out and represented.”

Danielle Ross, the Associate Director of the Institute, also spoke to this, noting how the Institute’s collaborative mission was at the forefront of the event.

“So much of our work is collaborative across campus, and all of those collaborations were represented there that night,” Ross said. “The audience and the people attending were really telling of the work we have done through all of the collaborating, the programming, the events and the research over the last five years.”

Boyer also noted that there were a lot of alumni present in the audience who marveled at the work of the Institute, expressing how valuable it is to the University and how they wished they had been able to participate when they were students. 

The main focus of the night was the thoughtful, inspiring conversation between the panelists and facilitator.

“In terms of highlights, [one was] definitely listening to the conversation around the legacy of leadership that the women on the stage were having,” Boyer said. “All of them were talking about being a woman in a field where there aren’t a lot of women, but it was different generations, different experiences, and bringing different perspectives to it. Neeti was talking about being from India and bringing that experience to the space, Michaela was talking about being from Kansas City and showing up as the only woman in the 50s, and Anne was talking about being there in the 70s and 80s in her first entry. It was just so cool to see people bringing different perspectives to the same experience and growing as leaders as a result of that experience.”

Ross affirmed this, further mentioning how all of the panelists’ experiences could resonate with audience members. 

“I think hearing what impact [the panelists] have made and the little nuggets of wisdom throughout the night that they dropped [was the highlight],” Ross said. “They all had different experiences, and in the audience were faculty, staff and students, so different ages in the audience could take something from their conversation no matter where they were in life. Their message felt very universal and relatable.”

Ross also detailed what the fifth anniversary event meant to her and what it was like to see all of the Institute’s collaborative work come to fruition.

“It felt like this moment of how much the Institute has grown in the [last] five years and the connections that we’ve made on campus,” Ross said. “I started about a year into the Institute’s launch, so to just see all the work that both Terri and I have done with partners, with other staff at the Institute, and with our ambassadors, just to see that come to life in that moment felt really special. Our work is not done, we hope to sustain and continue to grow, [but] it was a moment of pause, celebration and recognition of the work that has taken place, the people who have helped to make it happen and what we want to continue to do in the future.”

Boyer expressed a similar sentiment and noted that when doing equity work, it can be easy to forget all of the progress being made in the community. 

“I feel like it’s kind of arbitrary—five years, so what? —but for me it was a moment, and that moment is important to look at,” Boyer said. “Humans who are doing work, especially work like this that isn’t ever going to resolve easily, [know] it’s not going to be done in five years. We get so caught up in always doing the work that we don’t take the moments to celebrate the joy of having really done something. [This event] made us be conscious that we’ve actually done a lot and gave us that moment to say that and think about how we get more people to know about it.” 

Over the next five years, according to Boyer, the Institute is focused on “scaling and sustaining,” building on all of the great programs it already has in place and thinking about how they can get more people involved to expand the Institute’s impact.

There are many ways for students who are interested to get involved with the McNulty Institute, such as applying for the Lorenzini Leadership Ambassadors Program (applications open in the spring) or attending Let Her Speak conversations focused on how leadership and identity intersect. 

“The best way to get involved is to join us for an event that we are either hosting or co-sponsoring,” Ross said. “We also know there are a lot of student organizations and groups on campus that are focused on women’s leadership, and we are always open and willing to collaborate, partner, sponsor and promote what is happening on campus. We would love to connect with those students and organizations because we know there’s tons of pockets of good in women’s leadership happening, so my message is to reach out to us.”

March is a major month for the Institute, with Women’s History Month celebrations and Women’s Leadership Wednesdays, so look for those events. Also, make sure to check out the Women’s Leadership Diaries to see more inspiring stories about women’s leadership. For more information on the McNulty Institute, check out its website.