2017 was the Year of the Woman returned. Much like 1992, the original Year of the Woman, 2017 saw groundbreaking achievements: the monumental Women’s March on Washington, the #MeToo movement, and record numbers of women launching campaigns for public office. At the College of William and Mary, we had our own Year of the Woman, celebrating 100 years of women at the College.
2018 promises to be another milestone year. Feb. 20, the Board of Visitors announced Dr. Katherine Rowe as our 28th president. After 325 years of male leadership, Dr. Rowe will become the first woman to hold the office. Like many other students, I am enthusiastic about the selection of Dr. Rowe and excited to see what changes she will bring.
As a digital humanities scholar and the co-founder and CEO of Luminary Digital Media, Dr. Rowe embodies the intersection of liberal arts and technology. Her time as the interim vice president for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity at Smith College and her work at Bryn Mawr and Yale indicate she is familiar with both tradition and innovation. Though she has yet to to take office, I find myself hoping Dr. Rowe will be the champion of both history and progress that the College requires. After her speech at the welcome ceremony, it is clear to me that she is well suited to lead the Tribe.
I also find myself hoping that Dr. Rowe’s election will be an impetus for authentic change at the College. It’s incredible that we have our first woman president, but we must remember that it’s taken 325 years to get to this achievement.
Similarly, we can’t forget that we’ve had only 100 years of female enrollment and only 50 years of integration. The first black women to attend the College walked with my class at Convocation last fall — it’s within living memory that this university was a segregated space.
Certainly, Dr. Rowe’s presidency is worthy of celebration. Her experience with increasing faculty diversity and championing women’s education brings a perfect opportunity for progression. It’s time we listen to the concerns of students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities and students from other marginalized communities. Under Dr. Rowe’s leadership, we can transform our conceptual discussions of diversity and inclusivity into tangible changes.
In a press statement, Dr. Rowe wrote, “The vision of William & Mary conveyed to me over the past months, by everyone I met in this community, is so compelling.” The most meaningful way we can welcome Dr. Rowe to the Tribe is to live up to that vision — one that is equally compelling for our entire community.
Email Hannah Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.