Mentor and protégé pair put the power in empowerment

Vanessa Nazario explained what empowerment looks in action. In her mentor/protégé relationship with junior health science major Cynthia Ozurumba, both women seek to empower one another.

By Christian McCarville

Providing someone with a sense of empowerment can encourage them to reach incredible heights and unlock their full potential. Empowerment was the central theme of the latest Leadership Live! event, “The Power of EmPOWERing Relationships.”

Taking place on March 24 at 7 p.m., the event was hosted by the Center for the Development of Leadership Skills (CDLS), the Office of Student Involvement, the Gail Bierenbaum Women’s Leadership Council (GBWLC) and the Student Government Association (SGA).

Kicking off the event, Laura Seplaki, associate director for CDLS, gave an introduction to the event’s guest speakers, alumnus Vanessa Nazario and junior health science major Cynthia Ozurumba.

Seplaki explained how both leadership and empowerment are related.

“Empowering others is a key element of effective and servant-minded leadership,” said Seplaki. “Since leadership is a relational process and relies upon leaders and their constituents working together, it is critical that leaders empower others to fully engage in the process, maximize their strengths and talents and work collectively toward the positive changes they wish to make.” 

Nazario and Ozurumba are an exemplary mentors/protégé pair working together within GBWLC. This organization is a community of powerful and successful women who seek to build women leaders through mentorship, workshops, events and scholarships. Members of GBWLC also provide networking opportunities and raise funds for philanthropic causes relating to women’s education at Rider.

Nazario began the presentation by speaking about what effective empowerment looks like in action. She explained the importance of validating women’s self-expression and offering support to all women.

Ozurumba continued by explaining how past generations of women can have a profound impact on today’s generation. This is a core ideal of the GBWLC, offering advice and support to ambitious women seeking guidance. Those who are experienced in their fields can other women towards the same level of success and leadership.

Nazario and Ozurumba then touched on their relationship. Nazario consistently provides Ozurumba with guidance and support. However, she encouraged Ozurumba to make her own decisions and made sure not to get in the way of her thought process.

“Through their presentation and by sharing their experience as a mentor/protégé  pair through the GBWLC, [Nazario] and [Ozurumba] were able to express the importance and value of women supporting each other in their learning, growth and achievement,” said Seplaki. “It highlights how critical a mentoring relationship can be to helping young women build confidence, self-efficacy and the relationships needed to advance as leaders. I think this connects to the spirit of Women’s History Month and I am glad we could illustrate the power and benefits of women supporting each other.”

The pair also discussed how diversity and inclusion can support empowerment. Nazario expressed that it is essential for people of color to empower other people of color, encouraging their voices to be heard. She emphasized the idea of ‘passing the mic,’ and making sure everyone gets the opportunity to express their perspectives, especially those who are often overlooked.

“Think to yourself, ‘How can I empower someone today?’” said Nazario.

Participants were then put into breakout rooms and tasked with answering a question relating to empowerment. Once the groups had discussed, a presenter from each group summarized their answers.

From there, final thoughts were shared and the event concluded. Nazario and Ozurumba challenged participants to practice empowering one another as it can truly have a significant impact, especially on those that do not often have an empowering voice in their head.

Published in the 3/31/21 edition of The Rider News

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