Under the Knife: Women's Leadership Institute encourages female community

The Women’s Leadership Institute is an organization that encourages the development of women in leadership roles and supports the idea of community among women on campus. Founded in fall 2007 by Educational Opportunity Program Counselor Patricia Gonzalez, WLI defines itself using five principles or “pearls”: leadership, networking, service, advocacy and support.

WLI performs various community service projects, both on and off campus. One such project is an annual shoebox drive. Members distribute necessities like soap and toothpaste to teen mothers in the Rochester, N.Y. area who are living below the poverty line. WLI has also given GREAT Day presentations on global women’s issues, such as child marriage.

Junior Nia Gumbs, the organization’s media coordinator, said she originally joined WLI because she wanted to do something leadership-oriented. She said she joined WLI’s executive board because she “wanted to make a difference and make the next year of WLI better.”

Gumbs said she credits WLI with helping her to grow professionally, become familiar with the resources available at Geneseo and meet people she finds inspirational.

“[WLI] makes you step out of your comfort zone and make an impact on yourself and other people,” said Gumbs.

Sophomore Lenetta Dazzell joined when she heard about “WLI’s ability to not only connect you with other women on campus, but [also to] have important discussions about oneself as a woman and the difference you can make both on campus and in your own life when it comes to getting involved in your community,” she said.

According to Gumbs and Dazzell, WLI meetings function in two parts: development sessions and “Woman II Woman.”

The development sessions occur three times a semester and serve as an opportunity for WLI members to discuss professional development strategies such as how to dress for an interview.

Woman II Woman is slightly different. It is an optional discussion group that meets weekly in the College Union and is open to all women on campus, regardless of whether or not they are WLI members.

“My favorite thing about WLI is the opportunity that I get to have important discussions with other women. It is more than just a social hour with women in a room. It is a time to have stimulating discussions about all sorts of topics and to explore and learn more about what is going on around you,” Dazzell said.