Women’s Leadership Showcases Trio of Mount Grads


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NEWBURGH – Three highly successful Mount Saint Mary College alumnae returned to their alma mater to share their business experience with the next generation of students.

The Women’s Leadership Forum, hosted by the college’s Alumni Office, featured a panel discussion with Crystal Bhagwandeen Johnson ’06, ’13, MBA ’09, assistant vice president and assistant controller with Walden Savings Bank; Jillian Torre ’14, group marketing manager at Money-Media, Financial Times; and Shannon Morris Zawiski ’06, chief operating officer at Independent Living.

The three discussed how they followed in the footsteps of the Dominican Sisters – the women who founded the Mount in 1959 – and made their mark with service, hard work, and a commitment to their community.

The forum, moderated by Nikki Khurana-Baugh, vice president for Advancement, kicked off with an introduction by Sr. Catherine Walsh, OP, a Dominican Sister and former Mount professor of Communications.

“The college was founded to cultivate women as leaders,” noted Sr. Walsh. “Good leaders, of course, have competence. They collaborate, they have vision, and they’re adaptable. Yet great leaders are also listeners, and are of service to their constitutes and the wider community. That is the goal we have set here at Mount Saint Mary College.”

From résumé preparation to finding the right internships, Torre credited the Mount’s Career Center with giving her an edge in the work world.

“Without them I wouldn’t have secured the internships I did,” she explained. “There’s also little things I learned, like sending a thank you note within 24 hours of a job interview…these kinds of things set you apart from the rest of the applicants.”

Johnson said that leadership skills go beyond managing your team’s workload. Being able to connect on a human level with employees, she said, will help to foster a productive work environment.

“Empathy – that’s key,” Johnson explained. “No one has the same personality, no one has the same skills, and everyone is different. As a leader, you have to train them, share their experiences with them, teach them, and grow them. Learn from each other and support each other as a team. For me to be successful, my staff has to be successful.”

While the panel agreed that there is much more gender equality in the workplace now than in previous decades, “There’s a lot of work that still has to happen,” said Zawiski. For example, although the Human Services field has more women working in it than men, leadership positions are “top heavy with men,” she noted.

“I’ve noticed that women are not as self-promoting as men tend to be,” Zawiski explained. “Part of what we can do to combat this is encourage [women] to go for these positions if they want them.”

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