UM-Flint faculty and staff members recognized for advancing women in higher education

Two members of the University of Michigan-Flint community have been recognized for their work supporting women in higher education across the state.

Michelle Silva, Professor IV at communication studiesand Sade’ Wilson, quality control coordinator for the Center for Educator Preparationreceived the Chiara Hensley Outstanding Institutional Representative Award from the Michigan American Council on Education (MI-ACE). The organization works to create an open and equitable higher education environment in Michigan by providing networking, leadership, and professional development opportunities for women working in academia.

Silva (second from right) and Wilson (far right) receiving the award at the 2022 MI-ACE conference. Mary Jo Sekelsky, executive director of alumni relations at UM-Flint, is at the podium
Silva (second from right) and Wilson (far right) receiving the award at the 2022 MI-ACE conference. Mary Jo Sekelsky, executive director of alumni relations at UM-Flint, is at the podium.

Silva and Wilson, along with the UM-Flint MI-ACE steering committee, hosted the 2021 Virtual Women of Color Collaborative Luncheon. Held during the height of the pandemic, this event provided an opportunity to explore the challenges women face of color in higher education and strategize how to advocate for systems that value diversity. The main session was a conversation about authenticity between UM-Flint President Sonja Feist-Price and Mott Community College President Beverly Walker-Griffea.

The couple emphasizes the power of dialogue and common goals to make events like this a reality.

“Even though Michelle and I are from two different races, two different cultural backgrounds, two religious backgrounds from two different generations, we’ve found a way to be friends while also achieving all of those goals at the same time,” explains Wilson.

While the luncheon brought together more than 250 faculty, staff, and administrators, additional programming offers resources and support for students and community members. The Boss Up Conference: Women in Leadership brought together women entrepreneurs, police officers, lawyers, computer scientists and more to help young women find and prepare for their future.

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“It’s so powerful when people share their stories because you start to realize, ‘I’m not alone. I can do this too. She made some mistakes. I made some mistakes. That didn’t stop her.’ It was powerful to offer that encouragement and support.” Silva said.

Following that theme of connection, Silva and Wilson are quick to note that events like these wouldn’t be possible without the support of the UM-Flint MI-ACE steering committee, a group of women from more than 10 units across campus who share the same vision of making higher education a more open and fair space for women on Michigan campuses. It’s often not an easy job, and Wilson explains that welcoming dissent is a prerequisite.

“Something we’re very intentional about is finding ways to have tough conversations, finding ways to build sisterhood, and helping leaders, including male leaders, support women on campus,” she says.

Those interested in becoming involved with MI-ACE can contact Silva ([email protected]) or Wilson ([email protected]) for more information.