Women Who Mean Business

On March 22nd, Nichols held its annual Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) conference, a gathering that’s become well known around central Massachusetts and has developed into a magnet attracting hundreds of female business leaders, entrepreneurs, and attendees looking to follow in those paths.

At Nichols, we are all about women in business on multiple fronts, including our state of the art business curriculum and our unique leadership program for all students beginning in their first year. Our increasingly famous Institute for Women’s Leadership, meanwhile, continues to make a significant impact—from mentoring our students on the issues and challenges facing women in business to serving as an authoritative voice on the state of women’s leadership.

With this kind of commitment and these kinds of resources, it’s always exciting every year to invite members of the outside community to partake of an inspirational message and professional development in their chosen field.

2018 4 13 EWIB Photo 3aThis year, they heard from mother-and-daughter entrepreneurs Tracey Noonan and Dani Vilagie, who founded the sweet company Wicked Good Cupcakes. Their story of starting in their home kitchen, appearing on the wildly successful CNBC show Shark Tank, and growing into the largest shipper of cupcakes in the United States gave our audience plenty of food for thought.

When I welcomed the audience, I brought up the story of this year’s U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, which won gold at the Winter Olympics against long odds. I also pointed to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, which found that women who attended a women’s leadership conference:

·2018 4 13 EWIB Photo 2a Doubled the likelihood of a promotion at work and tripled the likelihood of a substantial raise within a year

· Felt more optimistic about the future and more connected with others.

And I dispensed some marching orders. “Go out there today and learn, question, connect, and network your way to better outcomes for you, your peers, those you are mentoring, and especially for your daughters and at least in my case, daughters and granddaughters.”

Finding Warmth for Nichols in Florida

A few weeks ago, I made my annual trip to Naples, Florida, and not because I’m a snowbird or I was getting a head start on Spring Break. I was there for the Nichols alumni reception.

I love this event, and over the last several years, I’ve seen it grow from around 20 attendees to over 70. In addition to alumni, this gathering now includes parents of current students and the occasional prospective student.

2018 3 8 FL Alumni event 1The mix of alumni has also expanded and now ranges from the “usual suspects” (those from graduation dates in the 1960s and 1970s) to more recent alumni, including a young woman I met who graduated this decade.

These alums love to hear what’s happening on campus, such as new initiatives or the growth in endowed scholarships. I always provide an update and take plenty of questions afterwards: “What is the next building project?” “How did we get to record enrollment?” “How can I help advance…” And the list goes on.

As attendance at this event has grown, so has the “mini reunion” aspect of it. At this year’s reception, we had folks come from as far away as South Carolina because they knew some of their classmates would be there. Some will have already spent a day or more together before the reception.

It’s a great occasion for recognizing that Nichols reaches far beyond our Dudley campus.

Looking Ahead

We’ve been planning big at Nichols—as in launching our next five-year strategic plan. Based on the plan that just ended, I have a lot of confidence that our new strategic plan will take us to even greater heights.

Over the past five years, we’ve raised our admission standards twice while achieving a record enrollment this academic year. We’ve hired a dozen new faculty members, and launched the Institute for Women’s Leadership, which has accomplished much with our female students and gained widespread recognition in the process.

And we’ve surpassed our goals on the fiscal front, completing am ambitious fundraising campaign that’s doubled the Nichols endowment and the number of endowed scholarships. We raised $46.1 million, $1.1 million above our $45 million goal.

For a school our size, that’s a remarkable accomplishment, as is raising academic standards and expanding the student body in an era when the number of high school graduates is decreasing and competition for students has become fierce.

But all of these improvements are just a start, as we add new priorities in our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. While we’ve already developed a growing leadership program and curriculum, we’re aiming to make the leadership experience more complete. We now require an internship or another experiential component for every Nichols student. That’s no mean feat logistically, and it will expand the roles that our academic departments play in recognizing and realizing these powerful learning opportunities.

We will focus on new partnerships with high schools that range from honors programs to leadership training and community colleges through our Affordable Business Leadership Education (ABLE) agreements. And, we will expand the agreements in place for service members, international universities, and with local companies. We are also developing plans to increase the percentage of international students and underrepresented groups in the student body, faculty and staff.

And then there’s the matter of finances—it never goes away. We are hoping to extend the campaign and raise an additional $20 million, starting with a conditional commitment of $5 million from two members of our Board of Trustees.  If we can secure partners to match them, we will set out to raise another $10 million.  Our good fortune on this front only serves to energize our entire agenda.

Check back in five years. We think we’ll have a lot to show for time well spent.

Parkland FL Tragedy

Dear Nichols College Community,

By now you have probably heard that Paul Brower, our assistant dean of admissions; and assistant football coach and graduate assistant St. Clair Ryan were visiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on a recruiting visit during Wednesday’s deadly school shooting. They are safe, and the Nichols community is deeply thankful as the security and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top concern.

While we are grateful for their safety, our community is profoundly saddened by the tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Our deepest sympathies go to the victims’ families and friends during this very difficult time, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Parkland community.

Happy Holidays

The holidays are upon us. The hustle and bustle bring excitement, not only to the upcoming festivities, but to the end of the semester as well.

I have already started making holiday memories this year. Earlier this month, I attended the Student Government Association party where we played a serious game of musical chairs, and I consider, as badges of honor, the slight bumps and bruises I accumulated.  SGA President Catherine Hoey and I hosted a Bison Sugar Cookie Decorating event. The toppings—frosting, toasted coconut, candy pieces, and colored sugar among them—made for tempting final products and convinced me that one (maybe two) was enough.

A few days ago, I sent a holiday message to the Nichols family celebrating the many ways in which our student volunteers have contributed to the surrounding community. From Alternative Spring Break to Bison Give Back (which provided services at 30 different sites), these students proved that the spirit of the holidays is alive and well at Nichols all year round.

One response to this greeting came from a class of 1965 alumnus, who recalled receiving financial assistance from an anonymous donor to help pay his senior year tuition. Then president, Colonel James Conrad, arranged for the funds and imposed this condition: “’From this date forward, go forward and help everyone you can and never ask for anything in return except for them to help others.’ I have tried to help as many folks as possible, thanks to Colonel Conrad and Nichols College.”

We have already had snow in Dudley, and right now the empty white campus ringed by red brick buildings and bare trees looks like a holiday postcard. But I also notice the absence of those who bring the campus to life—and will again in January. I look forward to their return.

Happy holidays.