Turning 50 is a big deal. Turning 53, not so much. However, this has been a momentous year for me. A year ago I was on my way to South Africa. It was an amazing trip, as I have written about in my blog a year ago. When I returned from that trip, I had to prepare for surgery on my left foot. I had found out in September that I was born with an extra bone in my foot. Accessory navicular bone syndrome is a new part of my vocabulary. I am learning to deal with all the wonderful symptoms that come with being a woman over 50. Sleep is at a premium.
I am coming to grips with the fact that I won’t be the runner that I once was. Nearly a year after what was rather complicated surgery, I can run, but it’s slow and sometimes painful. I am learning to appreciate cycling and other low-impact activities. I see a rowing machine in my future.
I have entered my third year as the provost of a small college, living in one of the most beautiful and exciting parts of the country. I have learned a great deal about my capacity for leadership, and my desire to help clear the path for young people of all backgrounds to get a great education. We are not moving the needle fast enough — but I believe we have the capability to improve educational outcomes for all.
As a political scientist, I can’t help but follow politics closely. It has been a crazy year on that front, and promises to get even more complicated over the next few months. I will be writing a great deal as things progress. Immigration, populism, the radical right, discrimination, all of the things I have researched over the past ~20 years is coming to a head at this point in history.
I feel blessed to have great family and friends who keep me going when times get rough and cheer me on when times are good. I have no regrets as I head into the next year, but I will be sure to do what I can to help my community and our country move through this difficult time, hanging on to hope for a better future for my boys.
[Also posted as an article on LinkedIn]
This week I attended the Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco. I can honestly say it was one of the most diverse and inclusive conferences I have ever attended. I enjoyed meeting people from a variety of backgrounds who are committed to increasing accessibility to technology and careers in the tech sector. This issue is near and dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. As the provost of a small college in the heart of Silicon Valley, I want my diverse student body to be aware of all the opportunities that are available to them. It helps my students to see people who are like them working in the companies that surround our campus.
The main takeaway for me from the conference was that I needed to expand my definition of diversity. I was impressed with presentations about indigenous rights, neuro-diversity, veterans, disability, and even invisible disabilities. I was also impressed with the companies who have committed to changing the culture in Silicon Valley to create a more inclusive future. This will be critical to the future of tech, as we need to reach out to the broader community to develop the workforce that will keep the economy moving forward.
I firmly believe that education is a vital component of this effort. Along with running a diverse college, I also support many organizations that are working to get more low-income students into college. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula works with over 100 high school students to help create a path to college. These students are the future of our state and our country. If we don’t support them, we won’t have the educated work force we need. It is critical that we support an education system that develops the capability of ALL of our students, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, disability, or gender-identity.
I truly appreciate the efforts of visionaries like Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler at Change Catalyst who are helping to lead the way to a more inclusive future.