Debra Dobkins, dean of Brenau's women's college, brought the first informal women's college convocation out to the steps of the Simmons Visual Arts Center to talk about a new statue on Brenau's historic campus. The second piece outside the building by Jean Westmacott, titled 'Brenau Woman #2,' is a confidant woman walking off of campus, ready to take on the world, with her freshly gained education.

‘Grrrl Power Hour’ Celebrates Sisterhood at Brenau during First Informal Women’s College Convocation

October 29, 2014

Brenau University held its first Informal Women’s College Convocation on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at Pearce Auditorium. The theme of the convocation, “Grrrl Power Hour” (alluding to the university Golden Tiger mascot), ties into not only celebrating the Brenau sisterhood and igniting the sense of “girl power” in female students, but also the reminder that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Dr. Debra Dobkins, dean of the Women’s College, organized this first-time convocation. “I wanted a less formal gathering for the students to interact and celebrate the sisterhood that we have here at Brenau, and to help give them a boost for the rest of the semester,” she said. “I hope we can do this again next year.”

Dr. Debra Dobkins, dean of Brenau University's Women's College.

Dr. Debra Dobkins, dean of Brenau University’s Women’s College.

The convocation opened with a seven-girl drum-line that whipped up the student audience’s excitement with an energized cadence. It was then followed by a moment of prayer with Dean Valerie Simmons-Walston, and a greeting from Dr. Dobkins. Dobkins pointed out that, while women may still be at a disadvantage in the business and political spheres, inspiring women such as 2014 Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai (the youngest winner of the prize at age seventeen) show that great strides can be made for female leadership. Programs at Brenau, including the Women’s Leadership Certificate program and the Women’s Leadership Colloquium coming up in March 2015, are aimed to create strong confident female leaders.

“Nothing is more powerful than a group of women who come together with a shared passion,” she told the students.

Three exceptional student representatives spoke as well, including Student Government Association President Byronica Banks, Senior Class President Devony Hemingway, and the Baxter-Bryan Scholar Lindsay Kelly. Banks emphasized being true to oneself: “As you write your [life] story, be who you are, love what you do, and share it with the ones you love,” she said. Hemingway encouraged the senior class to participate in Senior Giving, to reach the goal of acquiring an outdoor swing to commemorate the 2015 class, and Kelly encouraged her fellow students to get involved with as many university activities as possible to find their passions, including “stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a leadership position.”

The main speaker for the event was Brenau Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Nancy Krippel, who shared with the Women’s College students her own life journey and the importance of acquiring a college education. The road of her experience was “crooked and often very bumpy,” but after many unexpected turns she has come to be where she is today. “Don’t be daunted if things don’t always go the way you expect them to; life can intrude on our plans,” she noted.

There was then a performance by the Brenau Vocal Chamber Ensemble, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Bobby Ivey, in which the choir performed two songs: “Believe in the Beauty of Your Dreams” and “Still I Rise” (based on a poem by Maya Angelou), featuring soloist Rachel McFarland.

The convocation concluded with the drum-line guiding students to the steps of the Simmons Visual Arts Center to recognize a new addition to the sculptures on Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus.

Jean Westmacott, former galleries director at Brenau, sculpted “Brenau Woman #2,” a confident and self-assured, forward looking woman ready to take on the world with her Brenau education, as a compliment to her “Brenau Woman #1,” young woman looking back over her shoulder, timid to start the journey at Brenau.

Dobkins said these sculptures are indicative of many students’ experience in the Women’s College and she hopes the Brenau women will leave the institution ready to change the world.

Women’s College students like Caitlin Hardegree, a senior dance major, value the sisterly bonding at Brenau. “I’m proud to go to a Women’s College, and I’m proud of its traditions. I like that we keep adding new traditions to keep the Women’s College growing.”

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