Spaghetti, Meatballs, and Sarah Grey: How one alumna made the world a smaller place

What is a Spaghetti and Meatball dinner besides relatively easy to make and filling? A tool that can bring communities together, apparently.

In a world where relationships are all too easily reduced to the likes of text messages and Facebook statuses, what started as a simple birthday celebration has become an international movement connecting friends and strangers. The concept and practice of Friday Night Meatballs started by one of Chatham’s very own, Sarah Grey, is relatively simple: Spread the word using your preferred method of communication, accept the first ten people who respond, cook up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs (or not depending on your preference), and fun ensues.

Philosophy and Cultural Studies major, Class of 2002 graduate, freelance writer and editor, mother, and owner of Grey Editing, Sarah Grey explained her process.

“On Wednesday night, I put out a status on Facebook and the first 10 people to say yes get to join us,” she said describing a typical Friday Night. “We make spaghetti and meatballs, they bring bread and wine, kids take over in the living room, and we light some candles and try really hard not to sweat the housework.”

Due to her writing and international network that stems in part from her work in translating, Grey’s at first intimate gatherings have spread to other countries such as the Ukraine and Canada.

“My network is already pretty international, but I’ve heard from countries where I have no connections at all,” she said.

Grey is even currently proposing a book of stories about the people from all over who have come together because of Friday Night Meatballs. In regards to coming together, many a personal and professional relationship has come from these gatherings. Although, according to Grey, there has not been a Friday Night Meatballs wedding yet, a lot of individuals who probably would not have otherwise interacted have met.

Although now stationed in Philadelphia and busy with business ownership, Sarah Grey has not forgotten her days as a Chatham Cougar, she even notes jokingly that her husband is an honorary Chatham man. The only self-proclaimed feminist at her then high school, after taking a women studies class, she fell in love with Chatham and does not regret her time there. Recalling all-female productions of plays and the standout Toni Morrison, Grey has many a fond memory; and like a true Chatham woman, she has plenty of thoughts on where Chatham University is headed. When asked what she thinks of the University’s decision to go co-ed, Sarah Grey had a lot to say.

“I’m just really disappointed because what really made Chatham stand out was that it’s a women’s college,” she said. “I’ve found that I can really spot a Women’s College graduate from a mile away. They carry themselves with a confidence and a style that you don’t see that much.” Speaking of that confidence that Grey herself felt she gained from her time at Chatham, she expressed concern and sympathy for a generation of young women who may not be able to gain it for themselves. When asked what she would say to her eighteen-year-old self, she responded that she would tell herself have confidence and not credit cards.

Chatham University issues cease and desist to Independent Alumni Association

On Monday, June 9, 2014, a law firm representing Chatham University issued a cease and desist letter to the Chatham College Independent Alumnae Association (CIAA), requesting that they stop using the name “Chatham” in the title of their organization.

The organization, formerly known as “Save Chatham,” began as a movement against the University’s proposed shift to coed.

In the letter, attorney Christiane Campbell of Duane Morris Law Firm said that “the University’s Board is concerned with the CIAA’s use of ‘Chatham’ as part of the name for an organization that is raising funds contrary to Chatham’s mission and interests.”

The letter, which explained Chatham University’s ownership of the name and trademark “CHATHAM,” also requested that the CIAA respond with written agreement to the terms no later than June 20, 2014.

Two days after the initial contact, another email was sent to the organization from Jennifer Potter, the chair of the Chatham University Board of Trustees, explaining the rationale behind the decision to issue the cease and desist letter. “While it is the right of all to associate freely for whatever purpose is chosen,” she wrote, “our duty is to prevent any harm that could come to the institution through any illegitimate use of our name.”

Alexa New, Sarah Stulga, Rachel Lunsford and Kelly McKown–the four organizers of the CIAA to whom the letters sent–chose to suspend activity on the organization’s website for a short time, while they met with legal counsel regarding the matter. They did, however, stress the fact that, contrary to the arguments in the cease and desist letter, the CIAA never made any fundraising efforts.

On June 20, 2014, Nicholas Roumel of Nacht Law, the legal council for the CIAA, responded to the cease and desist letter. His letter stated that the CIAA had a legal right to use the name “Chatham” in their title.

Furthermore he stated that, “your concern is that there is a likelihood of confusion, and/or that third parties will mistakenly believe there to be some ‘sponsorship, affiliation, or connection’ between your client and mine. This argument is misplaced…the CIAA is stressing its independence, [therefore] there can be no such confusion.”

Despite this assertion, the CIAA made the decision, on June 28, 2014 to fully disassociate with the ‘Chatham’ name. “It is you that has pursued us,” they stated in their final correspondence with the university. “You have threatened legal action not once, but twice. You threw us off campus and threatened us with arrest when we were protesting peacefully. Then when we exercised our First Amendment Rights to accurately identify our group, you threatened to sue us…so take the family name. Chatham, as both an institution and a brand, no longer holds real value. Your daughters are breaking ties.”

The CIAA has since reorganized as the Filiae Nostrae Society. According to their website, the name was taken from Psalm 144:12, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”

This quote was chosen because it is “well-cited one in the history of women’s education” the group explains on their website. The website further says that the new organization is dedicated to “honor[ing] and preserv[ing] the spirit of women’s education.”

Chatham alumnae and students protest going coed

On the morning of Wednesday, April 23, Chatham alumnae and a few current students took to the intersection of 5th Avenue and Woodland Road to protest the vote that could turn Chatham College for Women into a coeducational undergraduate institution.

“Ideally, we’d like them to throw [the idea] away in the trash where it belongs,” said Sarah Ford, class of 2008.

Ford wants for current Chatham students to look at the Save Chatham website and Facebook page.

“I don’t want students to be apathetic,” she said.  “There are other options other than going coed.”

The women wore the signature Chatham purple and held signs with phrases like, “Save Chatham for Women Forever,” “Rachel would weep,” and “Will work for single-gender Chatham College for Women.”  The women cheered when their messages raised supportive horn-honks from passing drivers.

For one protester who wished to remain nameless, said the protest is essentially about “being truthful.”

“I’m here because I feel like the administration hasn’t disclosed enough information or answered the questions that have been posed,” she said.

The protest began with about eight protesters on Woodland Road in front of the Mellon Building. According to Ashley Bittner, a junior in Chatham’s Environmental Science program, the protesters were just arriving when Chatham police arrived and asked the protesters to move before police were forced to arrest them.

According to Bittner, police said alumnae and students were not allowed to have protest signs on private property and that they were allowed to practice free speech, just not on Chatham’s campus.

According to Chatham Police Chief Donald Aubrecht, Pennsylvania Law states that picketers must be off the property of the institution against which they are protesting. As a former Homestead police officer, he thinks back to strikes by the workers of Homestead Steel, all of which had to occur off of Homestead Steel Works’ property.

“You don’t ever want to disrupt the operations of a business or the school,” he said.  “We always want to let [people] exercise their right to voice their opinion, but in an appropriate manner.”

Protesters were still going strong as of 11:30 am. They were even planning on staying long enough to have a candlelight vigil in support of Chatham’s single-sex education.

“I’m here because I love Chatham College for Women,” said Maureen Sampson, class of 2009.  “Single-sex education is not appropriate for everyone, but for some it changes lives, and I’m one of those women.”

Alumna Lee Ann Munger continues on a path of women empowerment after graduating from Chatham

Lee Ann Munger, a Chatham graduate of 1984, was sure to make her time at Chatham truly count. With a double major in philosophy and history, Munger set out to create a career path for herself after graduation. She found herself aiding in the development of a program called Powerlink about twenty years ago, specializing in the combination of Powerlink and another women’s rights driven organization referred to as E-Magnify.

Now, she is the Powerlink director of the E-Magnify group at Seton Hill University. Munger, now 52, referred to E-Magnify as her, “niche.” Powerlink is an amazing organization that provides support for beginning or growing businesses owned by women.

Photo Courtesy of Lee Ann Munger

Photo Courtesy of Lee Ann Munger

Munger described exactly what her position and the organization entails, “My focus is on putting together advisory boards for established women with businesses for a growth strategy.”  However, the construction of advisory boards is only one aspect to the immense resources Powerlink and E-Magnify offer.

There are a myriad of options from small seminars, to individual counseling as well. Munger admits her position requires her to work with current women-lead businesses, rather than aiding in the process of building the business like in other positions in the program.

While Munger dedicated her time to Seton Hill University, Chatham University still remained in her heart. The impact of attending Chatham will constantly follow Munger, given her work in the field is based around women’s issues and business. When beginning her freshman year at Chatham, Munger admitted that women’s issues were not where her interests stood.  Referring to the statistics presented to Chatham about the percent of women who do not want to attend an all-women school, Munger commented, “ I was one of the 98%. I was one [of them] until I received information about Chatham.  From that moment I received the material, I fell in love.”

Munger applied only to Chatham after receiving the material because she says she was, “convinced Chatham was the place for her.” Despite her intuition when applying, Munger, originally from Akron, Ohio, had never even seen the campus.

Munger claims Chatham taught her key skills that allow her to be successful in her field such as critical thinking and analyzing and assessing situations. Throughout her career at Chatham, Munger named various faculty members that influenced her, as well as her month-long stay in Paris, France during a January session.

She says there is a key aspect she takes away from her Chatham experience. “I truly believe I can do almost anything. I’m not going to be an architect or a surgeon, but I feel if chose a new career path, I could do anything. I don’t see limits!”

Despite the confidence Munger gained from her experience at Chatham, her on-campus participation has been limited given her busy schedule. However, she is currently working toward making time to commit to Chatham, given the new coeducation dilemma at hand. She explained, the school should reach out to alumni more, and draw them into campus.

Furthermore, she explained, the board has been discussing this issue for years; however, if it was discussed more publicly we may have been able to accomplish more. Given the timing, Munger feels there are, more than likely, so many missed opportunities for Chatham, and other options could have been brainstormed much earlier in this process. She commented that alumnae would be more than willing to be involved in alleviating the issue, while trying to create programs where the alumnae could have the chance to work with highly accomplished young women.  As Munger reflected on the possible coed situation, she stated, “I get worried about our one greatest differentiator-being a leading women’s university.  This could be difficult to rectify.”

While the situation does appear difficult to rectify, Munger, like many others, has confidence that there are still other options available. Ideas are flowing, and hope is still alive as of yet. Therefore, Munger gave some advice to the students currently attending Chatham: “Professionally, when you are starting out, you envision it like a ladder with a straight upward progression. But the truth is, it is more like navigating a spider-web, rather than climbing a ladder. Have some goals in mind, but be open to possibilities because you can’t always see where the path is going to lead.”

Chatham alumna, Kara Voorhees Reynolds, releases a Kindle crime novel

Kara Voorhees Reynolds works full time at a law firm, is in the middle of publishing her crime fiction novel, and is a proud Chatham alumna. She graduated in 2009 with a major in print journalism and a minor in literature. She spoke of her old professor, Heather McNaugher, and her talent for teaching. Reynolds only had Dr. McNaugher for three semesters, but she made quite an impact. Reynolds commented, “Heather McNaugher is amazing–she changed my academic career.”

While at Chatham, Reynolds worked on the Communiqué, writing mostly fashion columns. Also she was the first Chatham student to intern at the Post Gazette.

Photo Courtesy of Kara Reynolds

Photo Courtesy of Kara Reynolds

After her experience at Chatham, Reynolds advised, “Just go for every opportunity you can because once you graduate, it’s really really adult out there and there is no creative writing class where they say, ‘Hey, let’s write a limerick’.”

Thinking back to her time on the Communiqué, Reynolds remembered a particularly controversial article she wrote about skinny jeans. While the article was not meant to be controversial, readers felt that the article was propagating eating disorders and sparked interest in the Chatham community. Reynolds elaborated, “It was a great time because, even though they hated it, people were reading what we were writing.”

Now 27 years old, Reynolds is undertaking her first publication.  She has written a manuscript that is soon to be published on Kindle Direct Publishing.  This means Reynolds’s manuscript will be available for purchase on Kindle.

The manuscript, titled “Men at Night”, took seven months to write, mainly on the weekends while her husband worked. An old Chatham friend proofread it for her, and she began submitting it to publishers. She explained that it was a difficult task because there needs to be a publisher in the right genre that wants the manuscript. Certain publishers only publish books within certain ranges or genres. Cookbooks and teen romance novels are only a few of the genres possible. In Reynolds’ genre of crime-fiction, only fifty publishers exist in the United States.

Commenting on her manuscript, Reynolds explained, “This is not ‘Lovely Bones’, it’s not one of those books.”

She received two requests for the manuscript–one publisher formally declined and the other never contacted Reynolds again. Then her husband suggested she publish the book through Kindle Direct Publishing. She published the book under the name Kara Voorhees with cover art for the book designed by her college friend, Caitlin McCabe.

The main character of the manuscript is a police officer and a chain smoking Vietnam War veteran. He has been living an easy life for the past 25 years, and is on the verge of retirement. Before the cop retires, he becomes involved in a case that he must solve. As the book opens, the main character is thinking about his next smoke. While he seems to be the good guy, he’s no hero. The book tracks the one last thing he has to do before he retires, his, “swan song.”

While it is a story about crime, Reynolds explained the book has a thriller aspect too, saying, “I don’t shy from the gore!”

Open letter to the Chatham community

Ladies and Gentlemen:

All of the Chatham community is concerned for its future and want it to remain a viable, thriving, relevant university.  President Ronald Reagan quoted an old Russian proverb when he signed the INF Treaty in January, 1987; “trust but verify”.  I believe it is time for us to verify the information obtained by the Board of Trustees that has led to its apparent “leanings” toward changing the College for Women from a single-sex institution.

Noel-Levitz, Inc. issued a report1 based upon university self-reported data in October, 2011.  Chatham University participated in this survey that generated a report titled “2011 Cost of Recruiting an Undergraduate Student Benchmarks for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions”.  According to the report, of the 236 colleges and universities (including Chatham) that responded between 10/12/11 and 10/28/11, 165 were four-year private, 49 were four-year public, and 22 were two-year public institutions.

Summarizing Noel-Levitz:

  • The median cost to recruit a single student was steady between 2011 and 2009
  • Four-year private colleges and universities spent an average of $2,185 per new student at the median.  They used the most staff per new student, with a ratio of 1 Full Time Equivalent for every 33 new students.

The survey respondents self-reported:

  • Staff salaries, including benefits, for full and part-time employees working in recruitment and admissions positions, including temporary and work-study employees and supervisors with additional responsibilities outside of recruitment and admissions
  • Capital costs and equipment
  • Supplies
  • Travel
  • Publications and advertising
  • Consulting services
  • Vendor/outsourced services and
  • Additional expenses not named, such as costs incurred with recruiting and admissions that might be covered by departments, excluding grants and scholarships.

Noel-Levitz reported a steady median expenditure per 4-year Private Institution student from the period 2005 – 2011.





$ 2,073

$ 1,941

$ 2,143

$ 2,185

Question 1:

  1. What were the comparable expenditures for Chatham for each of the cited years – 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011?
  2. What was the expenditure for fiscal 2013?
  3. What is the budget for fiscal 2014?
  4. What is the anticipated budget for fiscal 2015?

Noel-Levitz found “smaller schools continue to spend more per new student, larger schools continue to spend less”.  The four-year Private Institutions reported



Smallest third in enrollment size

Middle third in enrollment size

Largest third in enrollment size


$ 1,364

$ 1,761

$ 1,368

$ 1,234


$ 2,351

$ 2,351

$ 2,304

$ 1,781

75th percentile

$ 3,519

$ 3,519

$ 2,975

$ 2,964

Question 2:

  1. What were the comparable expenditures for Chatham for each of the cited years – 2005, 2007,

2009, 2011?

b.   What was the expenditure for fiscal 2013?

c.   What is the budget for fiscal 2014?

d.   What is the anticipated budget for fiscal 2015?

Noel-Levitz reported four-year private institutions and smaller institutions use “more staff for each new undergraduate enrollee.  The smallest four-year institutions used the most staff per new student”.



Smallest third in enrollment size

Middle third in enrollment size

Largest third in enrollment size











75th percentile





Question 3:

  1. Does Chatham’s admissions department meet or exceed the efficiency cited for (at least) the median?
  2. What were the acquisition numbers by years historically and for fiscal 2014?
  3. If Chatham does not meet or exceed the efficiency cited for the median, what institutional challenges should be addressed?
  4. Where is Chatham with respects to an anticipated action plan?

Noel-Levitz reported four-year private institutions and smaller institutions “use more outreach staff per student” including “high school visits, college fairs, (and) on-campus events/tours”.



Smallest third in enrollment size

Middle third in enrollment size

Largest third in enrollment size











75th percentile





Question 4:

  1. Does Chatham’s admissions department (including all outreach opportunities) meet or exceed the efficiency cited for (at least) the median?
  2. What were the acquisition numbers by years historically and for fiscal 2014?
  3. If Chatham does not meet or exceed the efficiency cited for the Median, what institutional challenges should be addressed?
  4. Where is Chatham with respects to an anticipated action plan?

The Noel-Levitz website2 included a blog exchange regarding the differences between undergraduate and graduate level recruitment.  The below exchange is verbatim.

“January 13, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.  As always this is a helpful report.  Any thoughts on how this might differ at the graduate level?  Are institutions typically spending more or less per graduate student?  More or less staff dedicated to graduate student recruitment?”  Andy Woodall.

“January 17, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.  Mr. Woodall,

Unfortunately we do not have any normative data on graduate student recruitment costs but I suspect they would be considerably lower, at least in most disciplines.  To your point, we tend to see far fewer staff devoted to graduate recruitment (at least in proportion to desired in-take) so that is why I believe costs would generally be lower on a per student basis.”  Kevin Crockett.

Question 5:

  1. How has Chatham historically budgeted undergraduate vs. graduate admissions and recruitment (please respond by fiscal year)?
  2. What is the budget (undergraduate vs. graduate) for fiscal 2013?
  3. What is the anticipated budget (undergraduate vs. graduate) for fiscal 2014?

These are challenging times for individuals as well as non-profit organizations.  The shrinking middle-class coupled with decreased government funding has led all to re-examine their budgets and allocation of resources.  In her article3, Debra Erdley quoted Murray Rust, Chatham’s chair of the Board of Trustees when he justified Esther Barazzone’s $1.8 million salary for 2011.  Ms. Erdley wrote “Chatham officials said they gave Barazzone the deferred compensation package in 2006 because before 2004 the school did not have the money for competitive executive packages.  If she left before 2011, she would have forfeited the package”.

Ms. Erdley also wrote “Total compensation typically included a base salary, retirement or deferred compensation, bonuses, benefits and housing.  Chronicle (The Chronicle of Higher Education) researchers found the median total compensation for all the leaders the survey covered was $410,523 in 2011, or 3.2 percent more than in 2010”.

Dr. Barazzone’s historical compensation, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Educationis below.  To reiterate, the median total compensation for all leaders was $410,523 for 2011.





$ 571,738

$ 666,097

$ 601,917

$ 1,812,132

Question 6:

  1. What was the amount of deferred compensation for each year?
  2. On what basis was that amount awarded?

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website allows the user to create its own salary comparisons4.



Compensation Package

Chatham University

Esther L. Barazzone

$ 1,812,132

Bryn Mawr College

Jane Dammen McAuliffe

$ 543,529

Swarthmore College

Rebecca S. Chopp

$ 701,755

University of Pennsylvania

Amy Gutmann

$ 2,091,764

Lehigh University

Alice P. Gast

$ 1,162,598

Washington and Jefferson College

Tori Haring-Smith

$ 561,566

Carnegie Mellon University

Jared L. Cohon

$ 946,095

Question 7:

  1. Did the Board of Trustees benchmark the compensation package ultimately negotiated by Dr. Barazzone?
  2. What outside resources were considered?
  3. Since Dr. Barazzone’s contract is scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, has the Board begun to consider the package to be paid, should she wish to extend her contract?
  4. If an agreement is not reached, (or if Dr. Barazzone opts to leave) what will the Board budget for Dr. Barazzone’s replacement?  What parameters will be considered?

All boards of directors are charged with the legal duties of

  • Care
  • Loyalty and
  • Obedience (to the organization’s Mission).

An article published in the University Of Pennsylvania Journal Of Business Law5 included a footnote citing “compensation practices…recommended as stemming from the IRS changes to Form 990”.  The recommendations include:

“Adopt an executive compensation philosophy that outlines the process and procedures for reviewing and approving the total compensation paid to senior executives and ‘key employees’

“Appoint a compensation committee comprised of independent members of the board

“Adopt a compensation committee charter that sets out, among other things, the purpose, responsibility and authority of the compensation committee, including the following:

  • Adherence to the compensation philosophy
  • Compliance with the rebuttable presumption of reasonableness
  • Use of an independent compensation consultant to provide comparability data…”.

I respectfully ask the Board to affirm to the community that it is in full compliance with its legal duties, and to

  • Articulate, in writing, the steps that will be taken to demonstrate the consideration and review of the Women’s College status
  • Share that information with the Community 30 days before a final decision is reached, allowing public debate before that vote
  • Share the University’s full current balance sheet and proposed financial information for fiscal 2014
  • Outline the process to be undertaken in advance of Dr. Barazzone’s next contract negotiation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sandy Kuritzky, Class of 1973

1  The report can be obtained from the internet.  See  The information and statistics sited are from this Report.


3 Debra Erdley, December 15, 2013.

4  “Punctilios and Nonprofit Corporate Governance – A Comprehensive Look at Non-Profit Directors’ Fiduciary Duties” by Thomas Lee Hazen and Lisa Hazen.

Footnote 238.  Yaffee & Co., The New Form 990 and Executive Compensation: “Best Practice”

Recommendations for Boards and Compensation Committees 4 – 5 (2009)

Footnote 239.  Above citation.

Open letter to the Board of Trustees at Chatham

To Whom It May Concern:

Initially, I did not attend Chatham University for the fact that it has an all-women’s college program- The academic and community opportunities offered within the visual arts and arts management departments attracted my attention and led me to apply for its undergraduate program. It wasn’t until I finished my last year this past May that I realized how beneficial the all-women’s experience has helped my friends and me become the leaders we are today.

After finishing my first-year experience at a private co-ed institution I transferred to Chatham to gain a new perspective on my educational experience through a small private college with a beautiful campus. During my first three years in Pittsburgh, I found lasting friendships that have allowed me to change my outlooks on relationships between women. Sally Ramirez and I founded the nationally award-winning Artist Collective and campus award-winning Bake Club in order to sustain a legacy of artists and passionate bakers on Chatham’s campus. We helped inspire, and were inspired by, students to make a difference on a campus based on sisterhood and leadership. These relationships are still with me today, and still help me find my strength while attending graduate school at Carnegie Mellon.

There is an important bond that happens among Chatham students-A bond that is strong across cultures tied to experiences of being women in a society that turns women against one-another in the workforce. These intellectuals form from the close-knit community of diverse women, especially from the Gateway Program. What makes the Gateway program accessible for returning students is the fact that the school is just for women. It is safe to assume that if Chatham does implement a coed undergrad program, there may be a significant drop in the Gateway program. This drop would return a large loss for many perspective students who deserve the opportunity to return to school.

Chatham University is one of 47 women’s universities and colleges, which offers opportunities to women who want to make the correct decision in accordance to their own path. If the plan for “diversifying” follows through this fall, the school may suffer from inability to position itself from other Universities in Western Pennsylvania.

I owe so much to the Chatham community for granting me the academic, emotional, and financial support I needed in order to gain an educated perspective on the world, which is why I am writing to you today, asking to reconsider the decision of making Chatham’s undergraduate program co-ed.

Even though student numbers are decreasing, there are women out there who want the all women’s experience-They just don’t understand the benefits. I came to Pittsburgh not knowing what Chatham had in store for me, and I can say with all honesty that I have no regrets in choosing Chatham. Thank you.

Paige Louise Hoffman

Chatham University Alumna, 2013

Open letter to Chatham’s Board of Trustees and President Barazzone

To Chatham’s Board of Trustees and President Barazzone,

First, I know that my letter is long, but I hope that you will accord me the same consideration I gave your e-mail and read it until its conclusion. I have agonized over the words I wish to write in response to the information that I received today and ultimately have decided to follow my heart and begin with an anecdote.

I was a student who wrote that I would never consider a woman’s college when I filled out the questionnaire before the PSAT. I said that because I did not truly understand what a woman’s college was or how it could benefit me. Then I saw Chatham on Fastweb and clicked for information only because I thought the name sounded interesting. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked when the brochure arrived and I realized that Chatham was a woman’s college. Admittedly, my first instinct was to discard the materials, but then something in the countenance of the young woman on the front cover stopped me and I began to read.

Chatham promised the opportunity for young women to discover their voices and passions and to exist in a place, for a few years at least, unlike most other places in this country. Chatham offered, without stating it blatantly, a place where a high-school kid could discover her identity and grow strong in it away from the ever-oppressive influence of patriarchy—so that when she re-entered that society, she would do so transformed—she would do so world-ready. It is a place where girls enter and, at its very best, women emerge. I was so intrigued that I traveled nearly 1400 miles to visit and upon setting foot on the campus, my decision was made.

The years that followed changed me in a way that no coed institution could have managed. I was forced to speak in class and discovered that my thoughts had value. While I had participated readily in elementary school, I had grown silent as I matured (a fate that statistically befalls most girls as they become increasingly self-conscious adolescents), but I found that silence was not an option at Chatham—in fact, it even hurts your average. I had the privilege of participating on Chatham’s soccer team where I formed lifelong friendships and memories. Also I held my first high-level leadership positions, including a stint as VP of Chatham’s student government—something I never would have attempted at a coed school. I became increasingly certain of my scientific aptitude even in the face of subjects that challenged me beyond what I had been prepared for in high school. Succinctly, I had the opportunity to experience and benefit from everything that Chatham College had promised to offer and it altered my life trajectory in a way unlike the way coed institutions altered the lives of friends I’ve made in my time after Chatham. But enough of the sentimentality, let’s talk stats.

First, I applaud your desire to study the effect that introducing co-education might have on the Chatham community. Your desire demonstrates a thoughtfulness and thoroughness that most governing boards lack. I too agree that there has been a great deal of growth and evolution at Chatham recently. The name of the school and its designation changed, buildings were acquired, and the endowment grew. These are all admirable and worthy achievements—they are things of which the Chatham community can be proud. I can even understand your concern, that the undergraduate population seems stagnant, and I too wish to find a solution to this issue. But here is where our visions diverge. I recognize Chatham as being something unique in the greater Pittsburgh area, an area that boasts more than twenty-five four-year public and private institutions. It is the only remaining woman’s college in the area and so it inhabits a unique niche in the city. A statistic shared in the e-mail I read this evening stated the following: “80% of first-year college students attend a school within 200 miles of their home.” This statement underpins Chatham’s need to maintain its unique status as it allows it to easily stand out against the backdrop of the many other “moderately selective” colleges and universities in the greater Pittsburgh area. The decision to go coed would rob it of this designation and thereby increase the likelihood that it could be out-competed by similarly sized, structured, and funded institutions.

The appeal of opening up the undergraduate population to potential male students is understandable. One could view this act as potentially doubling the applicant pool since males make up approximately 50% of the global population. However, I find that outcome unlikely and my reasoning will point you towards Carlow University. Chatham seems to be following a very similar trajectory to Carlow—although, admittedly, it will have held onto its single-ed designation quite a bit longer. At Carlow 7% of the students are male, despite the fact that Carlow was only a woman’s college for sixteen years and a coed institution for nearly sixty-nine. This statistic leads me to conclude that Chatham’s undergraduate population growth would be minimal and might even be nil. I would challenge the board to ask the current undergraduate population, how many of them would have still chosen Chatham had it been coed at the beginning of their college careers. If only 10% of the current student populations says they would have chosen differently, then Chatham can conclude, quite reasonably, that being coed would actually be detrimental to undergraduate population growth.

In order to address the concern that Chatham’s undergraduate population is not keeping pace with that of the graduate population, I would state that a little more than a decade ago, when I began Chatham, the undergraduate student population was a little more than 400 (436, if I remember correctly); whereas now, according to the 2013 statistics on your website, the undergraduate enrollment is 973. Even allowing for the February 18, 2014 statistic in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that sets the undergraduate population at 588, one would consider this change to have a positive trajectory. There are fluctuations in growth in any organization and while there is always room for improvement, it makes little sense to me to abandon a growing population simply because it is growing slowly. In my experience, sustainable change happens slowly and over great lengths of time.

When I first began teaching, it was at a school that had not had success on any AP science test in the school’s recent memory.  The first year I taught an AP science course, we earned a passing rate of 0%, the second year 16%, and the third 36%. The growth my students and I earned was small, and some might even argue insignificant; but, it was growth and that growth was, for some, transformative—encouraging several students to tackle college majors (environmental engineering) they’d never before considered. Chatham is such a place for its students and to change it would be akin to me no longer teaching AP science courses because my students fail to keep pace with the national passing rate. Such an action, I am certain, we would both consider misguided at best.

 I am most concerned though that Chatham believes that gender equity issues still found in our society (pay disparities, ongoing issues concerning a woman’s right to her body, and a barrage of disparaging stereotypes to name a few) can be best solved by abandoning its mission. Chatham’s motto espouses the intent to create women who are so strong and who shine so brilliantly that they might function as cornerstones in our society. Such women are leaders. Such women must necessarily understand the role of diversity and gender in the workplace. So, I would contend that so long as Chatham stays true to its motto, it will invariably achieve these ends. What’s more, I sincerely believe that if it chooses to go coed, it will have begun a path to undermine them.

According to USNWR, less than a third of the top 50 colleges had a woman as president of the student body despite the fact women make up the majority of college students in this nation. At Chatham, women fill 100% of the leadership roles on campus; such a statistic would only decline if Chatham were to go coed. Chatham would actually begin to train fewer female leaders because some of its male students would, rightly, seek out leadership roles on campus. Such a reality would be counter-productive to Chatham’s stated mission.

 I agree though that women will only learn to understand the role of diversity and gender in the workplace if they experience a workplace that is both diverse and inclusive of all genders. Thus, I would encourage the board to consider creating a mandate that all students engage in an off-campus internship before graduating. Not only will this raise Chatham’s profile in and effect on the Pittsburgh community at large, but students will also be able to exercise the leadership skills they have developed at Chatham. I would then recommend that the students return to campus in order to participate in a series of reflective discussions with their classmates in order to determine the impact that women leaders might have in their workplaces. Such a discussion would be occurring in a safe space, one where women are statistically more likely to speak out and take risks in their thinking, and so change in our society would be much more likely to occur.  The studies completed by the Women’s College Coalition (WCC) already affirm this reality.

The WCC has found that women attending single-sex institutions are more satisfied with their college experience, more likely to choose a traditionally male discipline as their major, have higher self-esteem (women in coed institutions actually experience a drop in self-esteem after their first two years of college), are more likely to further their education, go to medical school, earn more money, and report a higher level of happiness in their lives. Given this data, if Chatham’s leadership truly wishes to continue to advance the position of women in our society, it will choose to remain a women’s college.

The role of higher education is changing in our society and Chatham is in the midst of weathering that storm as it has done many times in the past. Chatham initially taught women how to maintain a home and now it teaches them how to build one. It once encouraged women to aspire to become a Mrs. and now it challenges them to tackle master’s degrees. Could it do all these things as a coed institution? That depends, are all schools the creators of world ready women? Or is Chatham something special? Does it, as it exists at this moment, warrant all the energies once offered to the struggling graduate school that is now thriving? I think so. Chatham’s graduate growth proves that it has leaders who are capable of such innovation and creativity. I encourage you to draw on those attributes now and ensure that Chatham’s undergraduate college remains a college for women. In whatever way you require and I am able, I will certainly do the same.

One day, when I visit Chatham with my own daughter, I will rouse her imagination with stories of a campus where previously silenced voices learn to speak and previously tentative spirits learn boldness. I will ask her if she too feels that the air here settles a little more lightly in the lungs, if her step has become a bit more emboldened, and if she just got the funniest sense that impossible has been saddled with two extra letters.  When she quirks a brow (for she will already be significantly louder and bolder than me) and asks: “Is that what this place was?” My greatest hope is that I will be able to say: “Oh, no, that’s what this place is.”

With faith that Chatham will remain a women’s college,

Stephanie Morris

Class of 2007

*Edited 2/19/14 – misspelling

From women’s empowerment to global awareness, Jennifer Potter exemplifies Chatham’s ideals

Alumna Jennifer Potter wants to show Chatham students how to be well rounded, cultured, successful and empowered women.  She graduated with a degree in Political Science in 1966 and in 2003 was the founding CEO of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), which focuses on the reduction of poverty in Third World countries, mostly in Africa.

Between the administrative staff, human resources, fundraising staff, and the communication and marketing departments, IGD has offices around the world. Commenting on her 10 years at the company, Potter said that leadership and the ability to cooperate are key points to every successful venture. The positions called for hiring people who were highly organized and goal-oriented.

Potter’s responsibilities included hiring and conducting interviews. She commented on the need for writing programs like those at Chatham because of her experience conducting those interviews.

A key attribute to a successful interview is demonstrating that you can compose a, “persuasive, literate, and grammatical email,” to ensure efficient and accurate communication, given the company’s number of locations. In fact, communication skills are a major aspect of the position.

While CEO of the company, Potter also sat on the leadership council of the organization. Members of the council took personality tests that measured their communication skills. After taking the tests, she said the results were helpful when it came to discovering each person’s role in the company.

The test pointed out the peacemakers, the enforcers, and leaders within the company.  Once these roles were clear, cooperation within the company was strengthened. “Two heads are better than one, four are better than two and 12 are even better,” Potter said.

After retiring as CEO last year, Potter was approached by another board with similar aims.  She is now working on the board of a company called Landesa.  Landesa’s mission is to aid in securing land rights for the impoverished of the world. Potter’s background in global poverty and business made her a perfect match for the company.  Landesa has very influential supporters such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Potter still cares about the welfare of others, so she is serving on another board this year. For 2014, Potter will serve as the President of the Board of Trustees at Chatham University. She said that all of her endeavors are important, “but that Chatham takes top priority.”

Potter has not forgotten her love of Chatham and understands that the school helped her to achieve her goals. She spoke of the importance of a liberal arts education. She pointed out the need for core psychology, sociology and philosophy courses in order to understand the multiple facets of life.  Also, these courses carry over into the workplace when working with other people.

She went on to explain that the need for cooperation and leadership in the workplace can be formed at Chatham University through rigorous classes and extracurricular activities.  She also said that women are underrepresented in many fields including business and some academic arenas, but hopes that will change with a new generation of inspired students. Potter went on to explain her theory that it is important to “not only do well, but [do] good,” as in good in the world.

Jasmine Davis speaks on life after Chatham

In 2010 Jasmine Davis graduated from Chatham with a degree in marketing.  After living on campus all four years, she journeyed out into in the real world.  Staying within the Chatham circle, her first job was for a pair of women who also graduated from Chatham. She worked at the content factory managing five to seven clients in social media, conducting phone interviews, and tending to any overall online needs. When talking about the transition from student to graduate, Davis admitted, “It took a little bit of time acclimating to not getting a grade–you have to maintain a level of quality while solving your own problems.”

Originally, Davis said she hoped to find an on-campus position, but is now glad that she chose to find a job away from the, “Chatham bubble.” Her time at Chatham clearly prepared her for her off-campus life, especially in the aspect of time management.  Participating in a number of extra curricular activities added to her success, in particular her position as President of Student Government her senior year.  Also, Davis held two jobs during her four years on-campus: an on-campus job and working as a page for the Carnegie Library.

Her tutorial prepared her most in the aspect of balance. During her tutorial she created an outline, allowing for her to utilize the entire year. Within the outline were highlighted dates to keep her on track.  Davis believed her tutorial was her best tutor in time management skills.

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Davis

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Davis

Now, Davis works for as an account manager at Community Elf.  She describes her job as a, “blogger.” Working with local clients, she manages an online presence for most of her clients. The job entails working with her clients to respond to online conversation, and blogging about things people want to read. That’s not all Davis worked for last year though.

Davis created her own board game design on the side. She entered it in the Tabletop Deathmatch, though she did not win.  She did make the cut for the sixteen finalists.  Furthermore, she noted she was the only solo woman to be part of the competition. Davis admitted that part of her strive comes from attending an all-girls school and the empowering environment it involved. She explained, “It is really important for women to stand up for themselves, in the workplace, hobbies, or whatever you’re doing in life–Chatham was fantastic for that.”

Besides her time working and making board games, Davis is also a member of the young alumni association at the school.  The Young Alumni Association’s goal is to remind young alumni they do not have to miss out on the events they loved as students.  It also reminds graduates to attend any events such as reunions.

Davis’s love for the University and the campus itself runs deep. She was interested in holding her wedding reception on campus and admitted one of the first things she did when dating a guy was show him around our beautiful campus.  She also noted her love for the dining hall during this part of the interview.

In fact, the last part of her advice for any students on campus that Davis gave was, “Enjoy the dining hall while you have it!”