Part of the Final 50

Rachel Lenzi, a Chatham University College for Women alumna from the class of 1997 penned the following. Rachel is just one of the thousands of world-ready women a Chatham education has prepared.



At the NCAA men’s basketball tournament last weekend in Milwaukee, I was one of five women on press row at the NCAA regional. I was one of two women in the press conferences who asked questions. I was the only woman in most of the media huddles in the locker rooms.

I attribute that to going to a women’s college.

Now I’m not saying that every aspiring sports reporter should go to a women’s college. You have to find what school best fits your needs, personally, academically and emotionally.

But I definitely believe going to a women’s college gave me an edge. Some of the things you learn from single-sex education: You learn the importance of speaking up in a class without wondering who’s going to question it. You learn leadership skills, whether you’re in charge of a lab group or serving as a teaching assistant. You learn how to confront people and how to respectfully do so. You learn the importance of time management.

You build a certain sense of confidence from the experience.

Attending a women’s college is also about learning how to survive – it’s not an environment for everybody. I had classmates who left because they weren’t satisfied with academic offerings. Others realized they only wanted to go to college to find a husband. Some left because they didn’t pay their bills. Others flunked out.

But when you go out into the world and meet a graduate from another single-sex institution – whether it’s an all men’s school such as Morehouse or Hampden-Sydney, or one of the Seven Sisters, or even a student who went to a single-sex high school – there is a certain kinship. You understand what each other did to succeed and to make it through four years, and what you take into the world because of it.

Sadly, this may end at my alma mater.

My college wants to go co-ed, and its administrators have done little to nothing as far as actions go to consider an alternate course of action in order to preserve the mission of the school without killing its current integrity. Sadly, I don’t believe there is much integrity left at the school, even under a president who has been there for more than 20 years, who brought the school out of a similar crisis, who spearheaded a boost in alumnae involvement and giving, who helped raise the profile of the school and who became a mover-and-shaker of sorts in Pittsburgh.

Now, it appears that her legacy is what she believes will “save” the school again by drastically altering its undergraduate culture. It begs the questions: how did your administration allow the college to get to this point? How did the school decay in the last five years?

As my fellow alumnae and I have done everything in our power to make the administration attempt to understand what they are doing, I am helping spread the word to other women’s college graduates. We are, after all, a certain breed. There are less than 50 women’s colleges left in the United States. Yet at the same time, I see strong schools such as Barnard, Hollins, Bryn Mawr and Spelman and their alumnae. And I’m jealous of these women, who can continue a legacy of an education and an institution that empowered them and supported them, and helped them learn how to survive and thrive in the “real world.”

I’m embarrassed by the fact that I may have to tell them, “well, I went to a women’s college, but it’s about to go co-ed.” In fact, I’m mortified of my administration for not supporting what it instilled in us! If this happens, then I only hope I can gain the sympathy of another women’s college graduate.


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