Girl em[Power]ment – A Series of Short Essays.
Over the next few months Flancake.co will be bringing you the finishing profiles of the Girl em[Power]ment series, which has consisted of in person interviews with several women of all ages in different stages of their career and life, all in the North West Arkansas Area. These are women my peers and I not only find inspiring and interesting, but who I think women of all ages should know about and learn from. These women are making a difference in several different areas, from being business owners, to changing their career paths, and embracing motherhood to the fullest. They’re giving us an inside look into what their occupation is like, how they got there, sharing their advice for twenty-somethings, and touching on what Girl em[Power]ment means to them.
To start the finishing of the series, I thought it was best to start with a woman I was able to meet while going to The Empowerment Project event, and whom I got to listen to speak. This woman was one of the women who single handedly inspired me to not only finish my series, but to also to really go out of my way to find incredible women in my community.
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Dr. Di Brezzo for an inperson interview-something I thought would take about 30 minutes, but actually lasted for over an hour because we had so much to talk about and share. She is not only inspirational, but her great character and non-appologetic attitude really draws you in. I’m so, so excited to share with you all Dr. Di Brezzo’s Girl Em[Power]ment interview.
Introducing Dr. Ro Di Brezzo, Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Enhancement
Q: What is your current job title and can you please explain your career path?
A: I’m Vice Provost for Faculty Development, which is a relatively new position on this campus, I was Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and one of the things I did in that position was for faculty initiatives, and it became pretty imperative that that was a full time job and we needed someone to do more for the faculty, so they created this position, and I’m learning while I’m going – since no one had the job before me.
In terms of how I got here, I am an incidental administrator. I never planned to be in administration and quite frankly I never wanted to be in administration. I have found that my whole life if you work hard, sometimes opportunities just come. Life has to be about a little bit of luck. That doesn’t mean that you don’t prepare yourself and talk to people, that you don’t plant seeds – but I think for the most part if you plan too much then you may miss other opportunities. I worked very closely with the provost during my two years on the faculty senate, and then it opened up and the provost opened up and asked me to take this position.
Q: Where did you go to school and what was your major?
A: So it’s kind of interesting because I went to twelve years of catholic school, and I realize now that going to an all girls catholic high school probably served me in a lot of ways. All the leadership roles were taken by women, so suddenly you were getting these messages early on that you could do anything you wanted. I went from a lot of structure to no structure [transitioning from catholic school to public universities]. I was not a very good undergraduate student if we’re being honest – I went to school to play ball, so that’s what I did, and when I got close to graduation I didn’t know what I was going to do so I wound up at Indiana University to get my masters degree. Then I coached for several years, and then got my doctorate at Texas Women’s University.
Q: Have you had any role models or mentors in your life?
A: Growing up I think I had a lot [of mentors], since I grew up in a traditional Italian family. Pretty much everybody follows the same script-but it just didn’t feel the same for me. My parents were probably afraid but didn’t voice it a lot, and thought ‘oh she’s the baby she’ll grow up different’. Growing up I played basketball and I wanted to be Roy Russell when I grew up – he’s a big tall black guy that played for the Boston Southerners. There was no part of me that could become him, but there were no women playing so I just liked him. I was lucky during my program that I had some really good professors that gave me some things to think about. Mostly though, I think it came from living with the people in my everyday life that. I don’t think I’m very bright, and so I know that my greatest asset is to learn from other people. For me, it’s not so much role models, it’s more of everyday looking at something and thinking how neat it was that they handled a situation. It’s really more of everyday people doing extraordinary things.
Q: Have you ever felt unsure of yourself or that you weren’t enough, and how did you overcome that.
A: Oh, a lot. Even in my job, because so many bright people surround me. Sometimes I didn’t say things that I could’ve or I said things not as well as I wished. I think the only way to get through that though is to keep showing up. I just try and bounce back and not beat myself up. It also helps to have a sense of humor, and I work hard to find humor in all situations. It’s just the way you have to handles some things.
Q: What are other things, hobbies or interests, that you feel passionate about?
A: I love the outdoors, period. I do anything and everything I can to be outside. What I’ll do when I get overwhelmed is to remove stimulus – get things out of my head. I like to read, and I love to eat, so I hang out with people that like to cook. I just got a puppy, an Irish setter so that’s taking a lot of my time.
Q: Is there anyone you think that is making a difference in women’s empowerment that you think we should all know about?
A: There are some faculties on our campus that I think are making a difference. We have a couple of faculty that are such good teachers and care so much about the kids, and they would see themselves as very ordinary. For example, and this is just one – we have a faculty member named Lorraine Brewer who teachers chemistry – and it’s a tough course. She is so good with the students; I think she puts the kids at ease. She wouldn’t see herself as a hero, but she’s pretty terrific. There are so many of these people on our campus that don’t aspire to have some grand title.
Q: What career/life advice would you give to your twenty-year old self?
A: Cast a broad net. I think you grow up thinking ‘I could be anything’, and I mean it was pretty limited really.
Q: Do you think certain gender roles we learn when we’re children affect our self-confidence as we get older?
A: Of course. I think all of us – it’s what we’ve been exposed to. Exposing kids, particularly girls, to more things – there’s more possibilities. They can see themselves in those positions. Of course now it’s easier to be exposed with Google and smartphones – you just type in what you want to know. Exposing people to different things is very important. You don’t know kindness unless you’ve been exposed to kindness. You don’t know true love unless you’ve been with someone. It’s not just images; it’s the whole attitude that we need to adapt.
Q: What does Girl Em[Power]ment mean to you?
A: The complete and utter sense, and confidence, that you are okay and good right now. You don’t have to add anything to your life. Right now, you’re good enough. If we could just convince girls that it’s not about kicking this soccer ball into the goal or you don’t have to go to this party, you don’t have to have a boyfriend – right now you’re good, good enough.
To read the complete interview with Dr. Di Brezzo and Part 2, click here
[she really dives into some great feministic topics-it’s worth the read]
If you know an incredible woman you think should be featured on the Girl Em[Power]ment series, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Check back next week to hear from another powerful influencer and business owner.