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Learning beyond a book

Leadership TexasUNT Compliance Officer Anissa Breaux-Schropp stood in the cell in the men’s maximum security prison. 

The cell was small, with only a bed, sink, toilet and a small window — no bars — for viewing. The lighting, and most everything else, was controlled electronically. Inmates only could go out of the cell for one hour a day. Outside the cell, she saw inmates talking to each other in their gang’s sign language.

It was a side of life she would not have experienced otherwise without having participated in Leadership Texas, a nonprofit education corporation that brings in women leaders together from all industry sectors to network with each other, develop their leadership skills and learn about different cities and emerging political and social issues.

Through Leadership Texas, Breaux-Schropp, who participated in 2008, found out more about such topics as sustainability and the lack of resources for veterans returning home from war. She said the knowledge she gained was far greater than what she would get from social media or a textbook.

“It is an experience like no other,” she said. “There is only so much intellect that you can gain from formal knowledge. When you combine that with an experience, your mind is expanded in a manner that only changes how you conceptualize information.”

Two dozen faculty and staff members have been selected to participate in Leadership Texas since 1994. Participants say the program helps them bring back those new perspectives to their job. 

“It’s a great time to reflect and shift gears,” said Christy Crutsinger, vice provost of Faculty Success. “Hopefully, you leverage the knowledge you have gained and the connections you have made in your department, and make this university stronger. I’m grateful to UNT and their long-term support of women and Leadership Texas.”

Nandika D'SouzaFour times a year, participants spend three days in a Texas city exploring the city’s issues and organizations. This year’s participants — Crutsinger and Nandika D’Souza, right, professor of mechanical and energy engineering and materials science and engineering — have visited Dallas and College Station.

In Dallas, they learned how the city has used private funds, along with supplement government programs, to spur growth for its downtown area. They volunteered at the North Texas Food Bank, visited Paul Quinn College and toured the newly opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

While in College Station, they toured Texas A&M University and learned more about government research projects, particularly the pandemic response biocorridor. They later will visit Galveston and Austin.

Besides exploring cities, participants also get to connect with other female leaders. For D’Souza, one of only two senior women faculty in the College of Engineering, this is an opportunity to talk to her female peers.

“We have gained wisdom of seeing ways through what appear at first glance to be challenges,” said D’Souza. “Through one on one interaction with other participants, I am gaining insight into how differently we all deal with the same set of facts.”

Leadership Texas builds lasting relationships between participants. Breaux-Schropp said she’s stayed connected with the women from her group.

“It is nice to maintain those relationships that were formed during that time,” she said. “It was really a phenomenal experience for me — one that I treasure.”

  • Find a list of UNT Leadership Texas alumnae.

- Jessica DeLeon, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

(Past Leadership Texas UNT participants recently met for a reunion on campus. From left to right, Bertina Combes, Anissa Breaux-Schropp, Frances Van Tassel, Christy Crutsinger, Tracy Dietz, Angela Wilson, Celia Williamson, Ruthanne Thomas, Mary Jones, and Debbie Rowher. Photo by Michael Clements/URCM.)




Posted on: Thu 25 July 2013

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