Hollins Professor Completes Leadership Program at 2019 HERS Institute

LeeRay Costa

LeeRay Costa, professor of anthropology and gender and women’s studies and director of faculty development at Hollins, has completed the 2019 HERS (Higher Education Resources Services) Institute at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She joined 64 competitively selected women leaders from across the U.S. and Canada to take part in the intensive, residential leadership development program.

The Institute provides participants with the opportunity to develop their individual leadership strengths to boldly lead change on their campuses and in their roles. They also expand their knowledge of the national higher education landscape to become even stronger assets to their institutions.

The HERS Institute was created in 1976 to proactively fill the higher education pipelines across the United States with dynamic women and combat an undeniable gender gap. Recent research has concluded that women hold less than 40 percent of tenured positions, only 36 percent of full professorships, and just 30 percent of the presidencies at the nation’s colleges and universities. Research has also noted that women only apply for a position if they meet 100% of the qualifications, while men will apply if they only meet 60% of the qualifications. HERS Institute alumnae, which today number more than 6,000, have noted that the program’s unique ability to create a non-competitive space re-energized them around what they could bring to their roles, and helped them develop the confidence needed to lead at their respective institutions.

“I learned critical skills for leadership within the contemporary context of higher education, including how to communicate effectively and engage in difficult conversations, manage and lead change, cultivate talent, create a culture of inclusion, equity, and belonging, navigate leadership transitions, and administer and manage budgets,” Costa said. “I look forward to applying what I learned to my faculty development work at Hollins, including providing workshops and training to support faculty teaching, research, and overall career development. I am also excited to help foster a campus workplace that is inclusive, equitable, diverse, and committed to faculty satisfaction and well-being.”

Each HERS Institute attendee is required to complete a self-designed leadership project for their institution, a personal case study that pursues organizational change on campus. Costa created Hollins’ first faculty development program.

“During its inaugural year, the program will focus primarily on two areas,” Costa explained. “First, inclusivity, equity, and diversity, and second, high impact learning practices. This project supports Hollins’ institutional values and mission. It also engages faculty in innovative and experiential approaches to teaching and learning that will empower Hollins’ students to be effective and inspiring leaders, problem solvers, creators, and change agents.”

Costa has been a member of the Hollins faculty since 2001 and was named director of faculty development in March 2019. Her research, teaching, and community activism focus on social justice and a desire to understand processes of social change. In 2018 she launched the Hollins Contemplative Collective, which seeks to cultivate the holistic well-being of faculty, staff, and students and to integrate into curricular and co-curricular life practices of mindfulness and healing that are embodied, inclusive, and both individually and collectively transformative. A previous recipient of Hollins’ Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award and Senior Class Faculty Award, Costa holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.