Ties that Bind
Representatives from six of the19 schools in United Methodist Women’s Higher Education Initiative gathered in St. Louis, Mo., April 28 for a pre-Assembly consultation to consider how their colleges and universities might be of service to one another. United Methodist Women’s predecessor mission societies founded the schools in the 19th and early 20th centuries to educate young women at a time when many countries offered no formal education for girls and women.
The educators and university administrators affirmed the continued need for opportunities for educational advancement for women, particularly in Asian countries where many of the institutions are located. Hae Sun Kim, Women’s Division staff and director of Scranton Women’s Leadership Center at Ewha Women’s University in Korea, coordinated the event and encouraged the school leaders to consider ways to collaborate to make their schools stronger.
Participants discussed possibilities for collaboration. For example, would it be possible for a student at Isabella Thoburn College to intern at Mary Johnston College of Nursing in the Philippines? Could Chinese women from Fujian Hwa Nan study Christian education at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, another United Methodist-related school? Could students from Bennett College or Clark Atlanta University in the United States accompany students at Harris Memorial College in the Philippines into impoverished indigenous communities around Manila to learn how deaconesses train to care for those in need and build strong community programs?
The college representatives thought seriously about what they had to offer: practical training; summer immersion courses; student and faculty exchanges; scholarships, internships and degree programs; practical experience in the community; and health ministries were just some of the suggestions that bubbled up.
The atmosphere was positive and infectious. Dr. Rosebery Beauty Maenzanise, a visitor from Zimbabwe’s Africa University -- a United Methodist school, but not officially part of the network -- offered its services as well, which opened up another part of the world to the United Methodist Women-related schools.
“When they see what other women are doing from other cultures, our women are motivated,” Dr. Maenzanise said.
Dr. Christina Manabat, president of Harris Memorial College, summed it up by saying: “It is our calling to empower young women leaders as catalysts of change in their societies. We can provide firsthand experience to students from other countries -- this we find is transformative and empowering, especially when they work with those who are disenfranchised and on margins of society.”
The Higher Education Initiative began in 2000 after the Women’s Division convened a consultation on women in higher education to foster a mutually supportive partnership among educational institutions founded by United Methodist Women’s predecessor mission societies to empower women through education.
Higher Education Consultation Participants
- Dr. E. Sunita Charles, principal, Isabella Thoburn College, India
- Dr. Neerja Mesih, bio-technology director, Isabella Thoburn College, India
- Edna O. Imperial, dean, Mary Johnston College of Nursing Philippine Christian University, Philippines
- Xu Ou, vice president, Fujian Hwa Nan Women’s College, China
- Dr. Fumiko Fukuta, chancellor, Kwassui Women’s College, Japan
- Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo, associate professor of religion, Pfeifer University, North Carolina
Also attending, though not part of the Higher Education Initiative:
Dr. Rosebery Beauty Maenzanise, dean, Theological School and vice chancellor of Africa University, Zimbabwe
Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine, a publication of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.