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Accolades & Honors

Pitt hosted the first regional HERS reception for women leaders

five women together smiling

“This is the mark of something special and important,” said Gloria Thomas, president of the nation’s leading professional development organization for women in higher education, Higher Education Resource Services (HERS).

On May 11, Thomas joined other HERS members in Schenley Plaza for the organization’s first-ever regional reception, which brought together senior leaders in faculty and staff roles at Pitt and other surrounding universities like Carlow, Duquesne, Point Park and Chatham to network.

The event dually served to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary and the kickoff of a national tour of regional receptions.

“I’m looking forward to these receptions because they’ll enable me to see who HERS has touched and helped and how it’s shaped and impacted their lives and careers,” said Thomas, HERS’s first Black president and a Chester, Pennsylvania, native. “It’s also allowed me to connect with alums in different places all over the country. The response has been phenomenal.”

The event was co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education and included remarks from Valerie Kinloch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean. The school’s senior assistant dean for administration, operations and academic programs, Rochelle L. Woods, was one of the 55 registered participants from across Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Talk about serendipity,” said Woods, who recalled being encouraged by Thomas to participate in the HERS Leadership Institute seven years ago, which is where she met and befriended Kinloch.

“Part of the experience is getting to know other women in different places on campus,” said Woods of the yearlong leadership institute, where participants engage in a rigorous curriculum to develop the skills to actualize their professional vision. “Having specific leadership training is so important for everyone, but especially for women, because we often don’t have access to some of these high-level positions. When we do get access, you’re often thrown in the deep end to sink or swim. I’m hoping more women will go to HERS because it’s out there. It exists. I’ve looked at organizations specifically for women and higher education. It’s hard to find this. There is nothing like HERS.”

Woods also commended HERS for aiding with specific barriers.

“As a Black woman in higher education, you find certain barriers and climate issues wherever you go,” she said. “They’re just there in higher education. HERS allows you to develop a network of women, many of whom have already done or are doing what you want to do or advise for resources, guidance and troubleshooting.”

Kinloch was pivotal in bringing Woods on board to Pitt as a colleague in 2018 and was thrilled to see the University play a role during what she called a “monumental moment.”

“Having our Pitt School of Education host the first regional HERS reception brings me joy, as it demonstrates a commitment to supporting HERS and its work and the talents of women throughout the region,” said Kinloch. “I am looking forward to additional ways our Pitt School of Education will deepen our partnership with Dr. Thomas and HERS.”


— Kara Henderson, photography by Tom Altany