Brandman News

Celebrating Brandman’s leading women

March 10, 2016
Brandman University leaders

Christine Zeppos, Nancy Salzman, Shelly Neal, Saskia Knight and Laurie Dodge are just a few of the women who help lead Brandman University.

Tuesday was International Women’s Day and it reminded us of the many women in leadership positions in both academic and administrative positions at Brandman University. We managed to catch up with a few to find out who inspired them, what women from history they admire, what Brandman does to educate and develop leadership skills in women and what advice they would give students who want to become leaders.

Who inspired you on your education and career paths?

Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight

Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight

Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight: My father was very committed to his children having better access to higher education then he did. We immigrated to the U.S. with the goal that all four children would be able to complete college and we did. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Dad worked all hours but always made time for homework help and support.

School of Extended Education Dean Nancy Salzman: My parents inspired me on my education path. My brother, sister and I were raised to always believe that there was no glass ceiling that we couldn’t burst through and nothing that should distinguish my brother from my sister and myself.  They believed that, in addition to unconditional love, there was really only one thing they could give us that would matter — education.  This permeated everything we did from the ranger talks we frequented at national parks, to the family dinner discussions, to family participation in school events.

Vice Chancellor Shelly Neal: My mother is the first person who inspired me on my education path. She was always available to help with homework and was always encouraging.  She worked in a library and as you can imagine, she advocated reading. As I grew older, my grandfather played a large part in my educational path. He supported higher education and always wanted me to complete graduate school. During my graduate course work, Dr. Herb Baker was my mentor and ultimately my dissertation chair.  He played a large role in my life and provided advice and encouragement about my career.  We remained in touch until his death.

Dr. Laurie Dodge

Dr. Laurie Dodge

Vice Chancellor and Vice Provost Laurie Dodge: My father first inspired me to go to college. My dad encouraged me to always excel in school, building my confidence to do well and succeed.  An important aspect of his mentoring style was not only encouraging me but correcting me when I was not doing so well. I can remember when I received a B in math.  He was not happy about that although I received A’s in all other classes. I share this because I believe that encouragement is just as important as correction in building motivation to excel.

When I was 10 years old, my father returned to graduate school to complete his doctorate in economics.  But after many years working in the field plus supporting his “darling” four children, it was just too much of an adjustment to return to school full time. Watching him struggle at this time made me even stronger in my desire to complete college and I received my doctorate in school psychology at age 28.  I am forever grateful to my father for his guidance, modeling and inspiration. My father is the smartest person I know … he started his own business in economic forecasting, built a prediction model, consulted with Department of Economics in Washington, D.C., as well as being a speed reader (he can read four to five books a day).

School of Education Dean Christine Zeppos: Many people have inspired me along the way. First, my parents have been inspirational to me in every way. Most importantly, they never called my ideas or dreams crazy, but instead provided constant support and encouragement to make them a reality. My brother was a longtime professor in business at George Washington University while running many companies on the side. So he has been a great role model to follow in academe and entrepreneurship. I had excellent female mentors at USC who opened doors consistently for me over my career and remain close colleagues and close friends of mine today. Two of the most influential were L’Cena Brunskell Rice who was an assistant superintendent and USC trustee and the other was Cinda Lucas, vice president of Hang Ten International who took special interest in guiding me.

What historical or living women do you admire?

Knight: I entered the workforce when women’s roles were beginning to shift between home and work. It was a challenging time as a working mother and an aspiring professional. Public opinion was not always on your side. I admire women in history who were strong leaders and who stood up for an important cause like Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan.

Dr. Shelly Neal

Dr. Shelly Neal

Neal: I truly admire Margaret Thatcher.  She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and currently the only female to have held the office.  She was a transformational leader who navigated her country through some difficult times and situations.

Zeppos: St. Catherine of Alexandria – she was a brilliant scholar and orator.

What are Brandman’s strengths when it comes to educating women and/or developing leadership skills for women?

Dean Christine Zeppos

Dr. Christine Zeppos

Zeppos: Brandman’s flexible schedule and multiple modalities for course offerings are a perfect fit for busy women who are often juggling, work and significant family obligations. In the School of Education, we have a large pool of female full-time, clinical faculty, and university supervisors who serve as important mentors and role models to our candidates.

Neal: Brandman is a nonprofit, student-centered university that provides equal opportunity to all of its students and employees.  Every student is treated fairly and with respect.  Additionally, Brandman has female employees in all divisions and at all levels: administration, deans, faculty, etc.  We have a large female-based student population as well. I believe women should feel very comfortable with learning and growing in the environment Brandman provides.

Knight: Brandman successfully serves a large community of women students. Most of them work full time, many are single head of household and/or first generation. Our faculty support and inspire our students to reach their full potential. They provide a rigorous education which prepares them for success and advancement. Our staffs are caring and ensure that barriers are quickly removed and the student stays on the path to graduation.

What advice would you give to other women leaders or women who want to become leaders?

Knight: Find a good mentor who can provide honest feedback and guidance. Make a plan and share this with your mentor. It will enhance your results. Now go for it.

Dean Nancy Salzman

Dean Nancy Salzman

Salzman: Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. Leadership is not exclusive to certain job titles or career paths. Be willing to be a lifelong learner. Observe, stretch, be willing to make mistakes, network, actively listen, and appreciate. Leaders are only as good as their team so bring others along with you on your journey. Learn from good, bad and indifferent leaders. It’s just as important to understand what is poor leadership as to understand and model great leadership traits.

Neal: My advice is: Go for it. I have observed over my career that many women do not apply or volunteer for certain roles unless they feel they are 100 percent qualified. In my experience, male counterparts apply with far fewer qualifications. My wish is for more women to assert themselves and apply for those leadership roles.

Zeppos: Be true to your core values and beliefs, surround yourself with not only experts, but kind individuals, and don’t forget to mentor and support other women.

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