Q&A from the Virtual Alumni Reunion

Questions for Dr. Skleder (edited for clarity): 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your first year at Brenau?

A: The people. It’s about meeting Brenau folks in Gainesville on the historic campus, and every other campus. If I’m traveling for Brenau, I try to meet alumni in that area, and I’ve managed to do it everywhere I’ve gone all year. So it’s the people: It’s the students, it’s the faculty, it’s the staff, it’s the alumni, it’s the trustees, and it’s the community. 


Q: What surprised you as you learned more about the Brenau community?

A: One of our new faculty who hasn’t even taught a student here yet was talking about the combination of a respect for and devotion to history and heritage while being innovative. What I love about Brenau is that this is a historic women’s college meeting a comprehensive, innovative university that transforms lives. 


Q: How can we as alums help?

A: The first thing is, of course, we could use your donations. I’m going to say it. Because we have students and their families who are being hit hard by this. It would be wonderful if you could give to the student emergency assistance fund or to any of our other funds at any level or encourage others to help give at any level. That would be fabulous. I think the second thing is, if you’re anywhere near one of our campuses, you could come to events. I would love you to come by when we’re able to travel and visit. And third, just keep in touch with us. Check out our social media. Follow the wonderful alumni on social media so that you see what’s going on and you can talk us up — because the more people that know about Brenau, the better. I don’t want to be a hidden gem. I want to be an unhidden gem. Those are just three things.


Q: What of the many Brenau traditions is your favorite or possibly surprising?

A: I would have to say that I am pretty moved by Greek Sing. This is when they all do their Greek life songs. I loved it. But I love all the traditions. It’s just one that I was particularly taken by. I had never seen anything quite like that.


Q: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year at Brenau?

A: I would say I’m excited to get really into the strategic plan. It’s where we figure out what we’re going to be, what is sacred that we’re going to keep, what we’re going to do differently or what we need to do in addition to the changes. That process working with all different constituencies is going to be super exciting. I can’t wait to sit down with the students, sit down with an alum, a trustee, a faculty member, a staff member and say, “What are we going to be doing in our next 142 years?” What are we going to be doing for the next short period of time? Three, five years, what’s it going to look like? That is going to drive so much creativity and innovation. So it’s that process that I’m really looking forward to tackling. It is among many other things, but I’ll put that at the top.


General Questions (edited for clarity): 

Q: A couple of questions about enrollment for international students: How is that coming? And for the students that are accepted to Brenau, how’s it going with getting their visas?

A: We are in better shape than many other institutions on the international front. That’s because of two reasons: Number one is we’re not overly dependent. In other words, we don’t have such a high proportion of international students so that if we were to lose some, we would have a problem. We have about 120 in the entire 3,600 student number, so that’s a good thing. Number two is we are doing our China program in partnership, meaning we don’t have to recruit each one of those students individually. We are doing a similar program withPanamanian students as well. 

The challenge that none of us can control is whether we’re going to get the visas in time. But we don’t know what “in time” means yet anyway because we don’t know when we’ll be able to open face-to-face. So the good news with China, which is about 90% of our international students, has already agreed that if we start online or we start face-to-face but they can’t get here, they will go online for as long as they need to. So while we wouldn’t have them on campus to help internationalize the campuses much for that period of time, they would still be learning and it wouldn’t interrupt their education. 


Q: Can you tell us more about the Executive Women’s MBA program and how the first residency went in New York?

A: Number one, this program was developed from the fact that students wanted a program where they would be in a cohort supported by other women and not competing against other women. Number two, they wanted to be taught largely by women. Number three, students wanted it to be taught partially face-to-face and partially online because their lives do not allow for two or three nights a week face-to- face. 

The first residency was in New York the last week in February 2020. It was very successful. The students met Sue Frost, producer of the Broadway play, Come From Away. They met with the CFO of JP Morgan and with a leader at Diane Von Furstenberg. All these women from different fields, teaching them about leadership and creating a network for them.


Q: Can you tell us about the Physician Assistant Program? Has the first class been selected, how many people applied, etc? 

A: We pushed the number we can accept to 33 because there’s so much interest and so much demand. They’ve done the first round of interviews and have begun the second round. We had around 100 people at the virtual open house, and there was an open house before that in person. We have hundreds of applicants, so we will have no problem filling the class that is slated to start in January 2021. 


Q: How is The Women’s College keeping its identity and traditions alive with men living on campus?

A: The historic Women’s College is thriving at the heart of Brenau University, a comprehensive university with 3 points of matriculation through which students can enter, study, and graduate: (1) The Sidney O. Smith, Jr. Graduate School , (2) The co-educational Undergraduate School , and (3) The Women’s College. Both The Women’s College and Undergraduate College have residential components and house students on the historic campus in Gainesville, GA. Most of The Women’s College on-campus traditions have remained the same but with the addition of new traditions like Grrrl PowHER and midnight breakfast. Exciting new elements were launched in fall 2019 with the creation of the GOLD program, a signature, co-curricular program designed specifically for  our WC students. Each year WC students focus on an element of GOLD: gender awareness, ownership of personal and civic responsibility, leadership, and  diversity with global perspective.  Development of the IDEAL Collective, a distinctive residential leadership experience within The Women’s College is also on the horizon. 


Q: Are there certain courses or student activities that are only open to The Women’s College students? 

A: Yes, the Women’s Leadership Certificate program is available only to WC students. As part of the GOLD program, we have created what we call W Courses in all subject areas. These courses are only open to WC  students and ensure that students receive the benefits of a women’s college education that happens within the classroom. W Courses focuses on the experience and expertise of women in each subject matter. Each WC student is required to take a minimum of 30 hours in W courses during their time at Brenau. There are other courses that WC students may take where they will have males in the classroom, as many of our courses are open to students in both The Women’s College and The Undergraduate School. 

Activities that are only open to WC students include Greek Life, Athletics, Student Government, and activities specifically related to the GOLD program, such as the GOLD Speaker Series, GOLDen Ticket Ceremony, First-Year Experience, and GOLD Team- a personal board of advisors and mentors.  


Q: What does GOLD stand for? 


G: Gender, a year committed to women’s empowerment and the celebration of sisterhood

O: Ownership, a year focused on personal responsibility and civic engagement

L: Leadership, a year dedicated to preparing tomorrow’s leaders

D: Diversity, a year concentrated on global citizenship