Grant to Support Leadership Training of Women in War-torn Nations

Ford Foundation will fund planning of international institute to empower women leaders in higher education to rebuild civil society

Yolanda T. Moses

Yolanda T. Moses

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Women in universities in countries emerging from war, displacement and other conflicts could play significant roles in positioning their institutions as neutral and honest brokers in the process of rebuilding civil society. But few of them hold leadership positions or are encouraged to develop the skills needed to assume those roles.

The Ford Foundation has awarded Yolanda T. Moses, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, a $346,500, three-year grant to address that issue in emerging democracies and regions of conflict and post-conflict. The grant will fund a meeting at UCR in April to plan a 10-day international institute that will be held in Riverside in late 2016, and some costs associated with the conference. Additional funds will be sought to fund the conference in its entirety and to create an international research and educational network aimed at developing new and inclusive strategic models of leadership in higher education on a global level.

The Ford Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds programs aimed at strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation, and advancing human achievement.

“The focus of this initiative is on the role higher education can play as an honest broker in rebuilding civil society, and building inclusive leadership at universities in countries emerging from years of war, civil conflict and displacement,” said Moses, associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity and the principal investigator on the grant. Beverly Lindsay, visiting professor at the Institute of Education at Oxford University, is the co-principal investigator with Moses in organizing the April planning meeting.

“In some cases, universities may be the only places where conversations can take place that may promote the change needed to prevent on-going cycles of violence,” Moses explained. “Although women often have not been afforded leadership opportunities in higher education, they are often in the unique role of peacekeepers with knowledge about the specifics of their country’s conflict.”

Participants in the spring meeting will plan a 10-day international institute for a cross-section of women leaders in higher education institutions in conflicted societies around the globe. The planning meeting will draw women leaders from universities in societies that have experienced or are experiencing high levels of social, political and civil conflict, Moses said.

Also participating will be Ambassador Ronald Neumann, a UC Riverside alumnus who is a former ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria and Bahrain. Neumann also is president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a non-governmental organization whose mission is to strengthen American diplomacy in the world. Its members include former ambassadors and senior-level government officials.

Moses said the project – “Women and University Leadership in Post-Conflict and Transitional Societies” – builds on more than 20 years of her own research examining the role of universities and university leadership in building civil society where there was none. She has engaged in extensive research and application of that work to peace and conflict resolution issues in the United States, South Africa and Romania.

The proposed curriculum that will come from the planning meeting and the larger conference will focus on training current and future women leaders in higher education to: 1) understand the context of leadership, such as sources and effects of communal tension and violence, state pressure, natural and environmental disasters; 2) understand cultural influences like the role of women and religious practices; 3) understand the challenge of renewal and rebuilding civil society; and 4) develop new models and improve management skills and organizational capacity development models for the 21st century.

Social leadership training programs for women in U.S. universities have been in place for more than 30 years, Moses said. New programs emerging in Latin America –notably Brazil and Ecuador – and South Africa have been very successful and will be a focus of the institute as well, she said.

“When you hit the ground running in new places,” Moses said, “why not do it with models you know will be effective rather than old models that are not?”

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