Q: You just celebrated your 10th anniversary at Laurel. How would you describe those 10 years?
A: Ten years ago my husband and I arrived in Shaker Heights from NYC with two elementary school-aged daughters and an infant son. I blinked, and now our daughters are away at college and our son is in fourth grade. In that decade, Laurel has become my home. My time here has been wonderful, challenging, exhilarating, and, in those early years with an infant son, often sleepless. It has been a joy to lead an institution where girls find their voice, build their confidence, and discover their passion. It is a privilege to watch them go off to fine colleges and then out into the world.
Q: Anything specific you are most proud of during your tenure?
A: In the last 10 years we have remained true to the school’s legacy of offering the best education for girls in Northeast Ohio while fostering an environment that promotes and encourages innovation. Closest to my heart is the founding of Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls (CRG) — it is a natural outgrowth of our roots and expertise and draws on Laurel’s long history as a site of pioneering research on girls.
Q: What was your prime motivation when you established the Center for Research on Girls in 2007?
A: I knew about Laurel long before I ever applied for the headship. Its national reputation was cemented by Carol Gilligan’s groundbreaking research study conducted at the school in the late 1980s. My motivation in establishing CRG was to build on our legacy of being at the forefront of best practices in girls’ educations. To be successful in our mission to inspire each girl to fulfill her promise and to better the world, we must know how girls learn best and offer them tools to be prepared not only for the demands of college but, more importantly, to thrive in the complicated world they will inherit. Our commitment to putting the world’s best research to work for girls goes well beyond our student body. From the beginning, we determined that all our research findings would be available, for free, to advocates for girls everywhere.
Q: Seven years later, what kind of headway have you made?
A: We are thrilled by CRG’s reputation — both national and international, as we have been contacted by schools and media in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Korea — and humble about being the school that other institutions that care about girls look to for ideas and inspiration. Lisa Damour, our founding director, has inspired our faculty to ask questions to help identify gaps in the research about girls. Last fall’s biennial symposium included an evening for parents and the community to hear about the findings from our most recent research project, “21st-Century Athenas: Aligning Achievement and Well-Being” — that event drew over 400 people to our Lyman Campus. In addition to the events we host, national and local media outlets have reported on or quoted our research or shared our stories about the work we are doing at CRG.
Q: What are some of your ongoing goals for CRG?
A: Our goal is to ask and answer important questions about girls — how they learn, think, and feel — and to be of use to our own girls as well as to girls in other schools. We are curious about the questions that have not yet been asked.
Q: June was quite the month for the Laurel Class of 2010 as it graduated from college. Four members gave commencement addresses at their colleges. How do they exemplify the Laurel education?
A: Quite a month indeed! I am humbled by our alumnae population as a whole. They are a remarkable group of over 4,000 bright women who are fiercely dedicated to the School, their communities, and to each other. The four young women from Laurel’s Class of 2010 — Julia Juster, Emily Kaiser, Jenny Sherman, and Ivy Krislov — gave commencement addresses at Williams College, Boston College Carroll School of Management, Duke University, and Carnegie Mellon, respectively. Especially notable is that Williams had not had a female graduation speaker in 20 years, and Duke had not had a female commencement speaker since 2000. We are proud that these women were chosen by their college peers to speak on their behalf at their graduations. All four young women are smart and articulate; they exemplify the resilience and leadership we strive to instill in Laurel girls. We are a school that prides itself on teaching girls to claim their voices. These four clearly have done just that.
Q: You write blog entries for the Huffington Post. How do you come up with your topics?
A: I’ve always loved to write and I look to my past and present experiences for inspiration. My Huffington Post blog allows me to express myself as a woman, mother, daughter, wife, teacher, and advocate for girls, as well as a head of school.
Q: One of your recent columns, which went viral, revolved around “28 Things I Want Girls to Know …” Would you like to single out a few of those recommendations for our readers?
A: Of course, I believe all 28 are important and worth your readers knowing for themselves or for a girl in their life, so hopefully they will read the list in its entirety! But since I have to pick a few, I would want girls to know: #1 — they can trust their own voices as sources of power and inspiration; #13 — their own education matters, and that when they are struggling in a course, the struggle, itself, has value. Through struggle we know persistence and, sometimes, satisfaction; and #22 — education is the way out of poverty and that education for girls is a critical global issue.
Q: Has business networking played a role in your career? If so, any specific local groups you’d like to single out?
A: Early on in my headship, I was very fortunate to be accepted to Leadership Cleveland, a yearlong leadership-training program that introduced me to the city’s incredible resources and to the exceptional civic and business professionals who call Cleveland home. It was an invaluable introduction to this city and region, and the relationships I forged through that experience have endured.
Q: What do you do for fun in the Greater Cleveland area?
A: Of course, the ages and corresponding interests and activities of our three children have determined a lot of what we do as a family for fun. Theatre is a love of ours, and Seth and I try to get to as many Cleveland Play House and Playhouse Square productions as possible.
Q: You spent 20 years working in New York City before coming to Ohio. Anything you miss? Or don’t miss?
A: I miss take-out food that gets delivered fast! But I don’t miss the constant noise of sirens.
For more information: laurelschool.org