Open Letter from Philadelphia Area Alumnae

The following is a statement drafted by several Philadelphia area alumnae in response to the proposal to make the College of Women co-ed as well as Dr. Esther Barazzone’s offer to review any workable solutions that alumnae could determine.  This statement has been shared with both the Chatham dministration and the Board of Trustees, and the women involved in drafting this statement asked us to share it publically as well. It is a little longer than our normal blog posts, but we believe it is well worth the read.

As with anything on this blog, if you agree with it, please be sure to let the administration know by posting on the official feedback blog or emailing





A strong Chatham College for Women creates a stronger Chatham University.

In the past 7 weeks, more than 2,000 women have come forward to voice their support for continuing our 145 year tradition. They have made a commitment to support, reinforce, and advance a meaningful solution to the challenges that face not only CCW, but all institutions of higher education.

We recognize the challenges of maintaining the commitment to CCW. On their own, each presents significant obstacles; together the task is potentially overwhelming.

Population demographics are causing a decrease in the number of high school students – both men and women. The after-effects of the Great Recession has economically challenged men and women affecting their choices regarding the pursuit of a higher education. There are concerns about the relevancy of a single sex educational experience, while the Great Recession has caused many to question the perceived value of a CCW education at a main campus with aging and outdated infrastructure and facilities, as well as CCW’s ability to staff a full faculty to meet the range of academic needs.

These and other concerns have been heard and understood during the course of presentations made by Administration and Trustees over the past seven weeks since the announced proposal to transition CCW to a co-educational institution.

We acknowledge these concerns, yet we maintain our belief that the CCW Mission is more necessary and viable than at any moment in our 145 year history.

CCW is poised to fill a void in preparing women for careers of national and global importance that will explode in demand in the United States and the world through the next several years and will shape the future of our world.

Careers in the green economy including

  • Renewable energy
  • Environmental regulation
  • Green housing
  • Water infrastructure
  • Agriculture and forestry industries

are expected to create 50 million green jobs over the next 20 years. According to Candace Stevens, previous Sustainable Development Advisor for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women in developed countries are preparing for careers in engineering and business at the same rate as men, but experience institutional discrimination and remain underrepresented in leadership, filling mainly administrative support positions.

An April 3, 2013 Blog post by Chelsea Clinton in the Huffington Post discussed gender inequality in STEM jobs in the American workforce. “(I)n 2009, 57% of college students were women; … while we make up half of the American workforce, we hold less than 25% of STEM jobs.” Furthermore, “with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce expecting STEM jobs to grow by 17% between 2008 and 2018 – compared to just 9.8% for non-STEM jobs – excluding women from the pipeline hurts American companies in search of the best high-tech talent.”

The top 20 jobs of full-time employed women in the United States, based on 2010 reports from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, range from secretaries and administrative assistants, registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers to managers, and office clerks.

These career choices and jobs are vital in our society; however, we must prepare women for their place in careers in STEM and public and private sector leadership where the voices of women are too few and our creative and collaborative style of decision-making and problem solving is missing.

CCW is poised to elevate and educate women as leaders in these job sectors and provide a voice and perspective that is distinct and prepared to respond to the demands of our interconnected and interdependent world.

We can enhance our undergraduate capacity in STEM fields through partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and the other PCHE institutions. The vertical integration of our own programs in the sciences in the areas of sustainability provides a compelling offering to women interested in these careers. Committing to maintaining our competitive edge through the required tutorial and internships adds to the high quality in education and experience we wish to perpetuate.

Chatham University’s focus on improving the representation of women in both the public and private sector adds to further systemic change in the language and operation of a truly sustainable (and healthy) global economy.

According to the Women’s College Coalition (of which Chatham is a member), graduates of women’s colleges earn an average of $8,000 a year more than women who graduated from coeducational colleges and universities. In addition, they are twice as likely to earn a PhD and far more likely to pursue careers in science, math, business and other fields traditionally dominated by males. 1

US demographics have caused a decrease in the number of traditionally aged college students. Our goal is to identify and engage with those students, providing them with meaningful information about educational experiences that will provide them with the foundation for the careers of TODAY in

  • STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)
  • Public and Private Sector Leadership
  • Green Economy Industries

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has stated that by 2020, businesses will need 1,400,000 computer scientists; only 30% of those jobs can be filled by US citizens. 2 They cite a similar gap in manufacturing. Forbes reported in 2012 that “women hold only 27% of all computer science jobs, and that number is not growing.” The report continued to state that less than 20% of computer science degrees go to women, even though female graduates hold 60% of all bachelor’s degrees.” This gap creates tremendous opportunity for CCW to recruit new students and to give current students an opportunity to gain meaningful experience for their future careers.

Stanford University has created an online mentorship program as well as a social network presence. This program “creates opportunities for high school students and potential technologists to connect with college CS (computer science) major role models for one-on-one informational interviews.” 3 We recommend CCW consider a similar program.

We also seek to return to our historical initiatives and increase our efforts in recruiting transfer and non-traditionally aged students.

During a Pittsburgh Town Hall meeting Dr. Barazzone mentioned it costs $8,000 to recruit each CCW undergraduate, yet, according to Noel-Levitz, “Four-year private colleges and universities continued to spend the most to bring in new undergraduates in 2010 – 2011, spending $2,185 per new student at the median. They also continued to use the most staff per new student, with the ratio of one FTE staff member for every 33 new students at the median. 4

Chatham’s admissions processes need to be examined to better identify why its results are not as successful as the norm. Since the mid-February announcement by the Board, alumnae have reported:

  • Numerous and multiple instances where offers to staff high school college fairs have gone unanswered
  • Absence from the “Net Price Calculator” featured on While the administration said this absence was due to Chatham’s identification as a “regional” school, we wonder how (and why) Chatham chose to be identified as a regional institution. What actions must be taken to enable us to again be considered a national educational institution?

We believe we can communicate the important role a women’s college can play in a woman’s education and success. Our 2,000+ “World Ready Women” have offered to recruit, mentor, identify internships, and participate in potential fundraising opportunities. The requested 1 year delay in abandoning CCW’s single-sex status will enable our offers of assistance to be implemented and begin to bear fruit.

During this time, we suggest the University adopt a $0 Based Budget requiring all constituents to examine all expenses, and re-define and re-engineer their roles within the University community. At the same time, we suggest a return to formerly successful initiatives that may not be as prominent as they once were. Key focus will be our “sales” department – development and recruitment – as well as our faculty and career development staffs.


A. Traditionally aged students

1. Strengthen the Student Ambassador Admissions Program of ’06- ’08.

a. During this time, admissions were increased 25%. They presented at the National Student Recruitment Conference at the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 on the program’s success.

b. Meaningful, marketable student jobs are created, while students gain experience

i. At its inception, this student recruitment program acted as a liaison between prospective students and admissions staff. New employee manuals and guidelines were written; a staff of 20 students were hired and trained. The Program included campus tours and recruitment events; World Ready Woman Scholarship Competition; Open Houses; Accepted Students Day and all overnight events. A new Junior Student Overnight event was initiated and held annually in the late ‘00s. Student Ambassadors aided admissions staff in recruitment, travel and planning, and travelled extensively representing the Office of Admissions to high schools and college fairs in OH, WV, MD, western PA and Erie.

ii. The Student Ambassadors had knowledge of financial aid and admissions processes; they designed all publications, direct mail and e-mail blasts for the Ambassador Office; and supervised the creation of blog and video/audio tours.

2. Internships provide tangible, career oriented experiences to students, including networking contacts for post-graduation contacts. Opportunities to participate in such a program, similar to the Drexel and Northeastern University programs, should be explored, encouraged, and supported.

a. Their successful completion will lead to greater recruitment opportunities for CCU as the internship program is developed and grown.

3. College Fairs

a. Early identification of college fairs by region will enable the Admissions and Alumnae Association personnel to work together to assure

i. Balanced regional representation throughout the country

ii. Identification and training of alumnae to assure a strong, educated, enthusiastic presence at those fairs

4. Community Diversification

a. Religious communities such as Muslim and Orthodox Jewish communities may be surveyed to determine their interest in providing their high school-aged women with a college experience in a single-sex institution.

b. Transfer students

1. To better identify and communicate issues unique to this constituency, recruit and allocate (1) Student Ambassador from those students who may have transferred-in to CCW.

2. Target community colleges both within and outside the Pittsburgh region, in an effort to recruit students who may be seeking to obtain degrees from a school like Chatham.

c. Non-traditionally aged students

1. The Gateway Students section of Chatham’s website is dated ’10 – ’11 academic year and should be refreshed and updated.

2. The former programs in Berry and Fickes Halls that provided housing for women with children should be refreshed and revived.

3. Target women who are exiting the armed forces to make them aware of the unique education CCW can offer them.

a. According to a press release on Chatham’s website dated 10/22/12, Chatham was named a “Military Friendly School”; this designation was not continued in 2014 (though Carnegie Mellon and Robert Morris are so named).

i. Chatham’s Prior Learning Assessment program should be reviewed to determine what can be done to identify, target and market to this audience.

D. Other womens college initiatives

1. Cottey College (another member of the Women’s College Coalition) in MO’s website is robust and prominently includes Recruitment Tools on its website. Its alumna can order materials from the site and also obtain helpful hints regarding college fairs, high school visitations, and school gatherings.


Many believe “caring leads to doing”. Prior to 2007, Chatham’s Development Office worked to develop and maintain relationships with alumna. Due to the high turn-over rate, many alumnae believe there’s no institutional interest in “developing” the relationships necessary to promote and advance CCW (or the University) or encourage a “feeling” for current students.

Cottey College’s website includes a link to the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.). According to information on the website, it consists of over 250,000 members who are engaged in fundraising activities in support of the college. This model should be investigated to determine if there may be applicability for establishing a similar model for CCW.

Cottey College has taken an innovative approach and integrates relationship building at a very personal and fundamental level. Their website includes a page entitled “Support Students” that enable its alumna to support current students during the school year. The site specifies that any outreach to a student which consists of a “monetary gift over $49.99” may affect the student’s financial aid package.

Items recommended for connection include:

  • Birthday cards
  • Care packages, including snack food, spiral notebooks, pens, scotch tape, coffee, tea, and beverage mixes, laundry detergent, quarters for laundry machines, stamps, etc.

This may be a fundamental way in which the Development Office and Alumnae Association may begin to involve greater numbers of alumnae to begin to build connections and repair the rifts that have developed through the years of Development turnover.

Career Advancement

In recognition of the Baby Boomers who comprise large percentages of staff, many industries are actively seeking people to serve as interns and entry level positions.

A. Alumnae should be contracted to learn what internships may be available in their industries as well as their places of employment. The current levels of staffing in Career Development should be reviewed since their activities can support the efforts of the Admissions department.

1. Insurance companies actively seeking interns and college graduates include Liberty Mutual, Prudential, Travelers, Allstate, ACE, New York Life, Great American, and Philadelphia Insurance Companies.

2. Alumnae should be given contact information and asked to share their fields’ career advice or opportunities with the office of Career Development.

B. If CCU has not already done so, the resources of Catalyst, a nonprofit organization working to advance women, should be reviewed to determine if there are programs, grants, or internships available to CCW.

In Conclusion

We do not believe in change for the sake of change. At this time, we believe a detailed marketing study needs to be undertaken and shared with the community at large. We would like to assure that IF Chatham has to abandon its 145 year Mission as a women’s college, it successfully do so. Merely opening the undergraduate programs to men will not assure a successful transition. Moreover, there has not been data shared that would indicate whether the number of students transferring out would be lower than the number of men students who would opt to attend the undergraduate school of the coeducational Chatham University.

Let us strengthen, reinvigorate and rebrand our Mission to educate women to lead in the current – and future – U.S. and global economies recognizing the emergence of STEM and green industries. This requires a presence and leadership of World Ready Women in both the public and private sectors. We can make an impact and change the future

Submitted Respectfully and with Support from,

Sally Baldus ‘60

Deirdre Webster Cobb ‘84

Jenifer Harris ‘96, ‘03

Marcia Kung ‘60

Sandy Kuritzky ‘73

Maureen Piraino ‘85

Sarah Stulga ‘08






Noel-Levitz, 2011 Cost of Recruiting an Undergraduate Student Benchmarks for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions,



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2 responses to “Open Letter from Philadelphia Area Alumnae”

  1. Suzanne Lucci says :

    Thank you for a well-reasoned non-confrontational response to the proposed changes at Chatham – Members of the Board of Trustees and President Barazzone, I hope you are reading this!

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