Leading the Way for Women – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Leading the Way for Women

When most of us think about college, the thinking that goes on inside the classroom comes to mind. But for one Hobart and William Smith professor, thinking about the college classroom itself and the presence of women in administration surrounding that classroom is just as crucial. In addition to being a scholar and professor of religion, Professor of Religious Studies Susan Henking is also a managing director and co-facilitator of Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) institutes at Bryn Mawr College and Wellesley College, two of the most acclaimed women’s colleges in the United States. “HERS was founded in the mid-1970s by women who were interested in transforming higher education to include women in leadership roles,” explained Henking. “Located at the University of Denver and currently led by Judith S. White, HERS has been – and is – the premier leadership training for women in higher education. The challenge – HERS’ ongoing mission – of transforming higher education to include women leaders remains critical in the 21st century.” “The institutes have included training in budget and finance, conflict management, admissions and financial aid, and legal issues as well as routes to understanding the landscape of higher education in our time,” said Henking. “We pay significant attention to the impact of changing demographics on higher education and the role of higher education as an agent of social change – through inclusion.” Henking began working with HERS as a senior research associate in 2004-2005 and in 2006 became co-facilitator and co-director of HERS Bryn Mawr and HERS Wellesley. “My role involves curriculum development, management of logistics and working in a team at both institutes to ensure that presenters who bring their expertise to share with our participants build a community of inquiry which is inclusive and participatory,” said Henking. “Our goal is to ensure that we leave our time together prepared for the challenges we all face on our own campuses.” As managing director and professor, Henking knows the critical importance of HERS’ training to college administration. “My work at HERS is connected to my work in classrooms and at the Colleges because administrative work of all sorts, from admissions to institutional advancement to budgeting and all else, is focused on the education of our students,” said Henking. “What I have learned over the years is exactly how many people it takes to make a successful classroom experience for our students – and how important it is that those whose work supports the educational mission are well trained.” “Like my work as a teacher/scholar, my work at HERS focuses on increased gender equity; we ask not only what we must understand in order to lead but also how gender matters to higher education’s commitment to democracy through educational access and transformation.” Henking also has a scholarly connection to HERS’ mission. “…my teaching focuses on religious studies – and issues of religion are critically important to understanding the landscape of higher education both historically and in the present,” she said. “…my scholarship has both shaped – and is shaped by – my experience at HERS. I have written and will continue to write about higher education, especially as it is connected to concerns for gender equity, inclusion and related themes.” Henking, a member of the faculty since 1988, holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and her master’s and doctorate from the University of Chicago. She studies and researches feminist approaches and links between religion, the social sciences, and sexuality. A recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award, she is co-editor of “Mourning Religion,” to be published by the University of Virginia Press; and “Que(E)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology,” from the Continuum Publishing Group.

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