Lisa DeFrank-Cole sees more and more women in leadership in the Middle East.
DeFrank-Cole, director of the Leadership Studies Program at West Virginia University, has played a role in ensuring that more women of the region than ever before will have knowledge of leadership principles as they become leaders in their societies.
WVU has maintained a relationship with the Royal University for Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain since June 2009, when DeFrank-Cole took an exploratory trip to the country with other WVU personnel. She developed the first exchange program with the Royal University for Women during the summer of 2010. She taught a course in Bahrain in June 2010 and in July of that year, seven of the university’s students studied at WVU. This summer, DeFrank-Cole received a grant from the Fulbright Commission to teach a course there on the principles of leadership.
The Fulbright Specialist program, which provided DeFrank-Cole’s grant, is a short-term program that awards grants to professionals and faculty to engage in projects at host institutions in more than 100 countries worldwide.
From May 17-June 7, DeFrank-Cole and Elizabeth DeVault, a WVU senior accounting major with a minor in leadership studies, engaged eight Royal University for Women students in a three-hour daily class with a strong emphasis on developing women’s understanding of leadership.
DeVault assisted DeFrank-Cole by helping administer the exams, record grades and attendance, and create an online blog for the students to use for the course. She was also able to provide an American insight on the topics to help bridge cultural differences. She hopes to be able to take what she has learned to communicate and have a better working relationship with individuals in the Middle East as well as other countries.
“As a Leadership Studies minor, I believe it is very important to educate women to be leaders all over the world,” DeVault said. “It is disheartening to see the low statistics for women holding leadership positions, whether it is within the government or in the corporate world in the U.S. or abroad.
“One emphasis that I think is very important for women to learn about are the obstacles they could face when trying to work their way up in a company. This is something Dr. DeFrank-Cole and I stressed while teaching.”
Not only will DeFrank-Cole’s efforts affect the women of Bahrain, but also women in neighboring countries as well. The students in her class at the Royal University for Women were all enrolled in degree programs such as business, banking, information technology and graphic arts. Although she was teaching in Bahrain, about half of the students in the class were from Saudi Arabia. Events such as the “Arab Spring” uprisings have allowed more and more women to step into leadership positions.
Bahrain is one of the most progressive Arab countries in accepting and promoting women’s rights and increasing the number of women holding leadership positions. Following partial elections in 2011, there are now four women in the 40-seat parliament. In addition, Bahrain has a female ambassador to the United States, sending a message that Bahrain is committed to empowering and trusting women in serious leadership roles.
DeFrank-Cole, who received her doctorate in higher education leadership, finds it important to share knowledge about leadership, especially about women as leaders in the Arab world.
“One of my students told me that taking the leadership course gave her confidence,” DeFrank-Cole said. “If women have confidence in themselves, they can take the necessary steps forward to move into leadership positions.”
She hopes to return to Bahrain in 2013 for the Women’s Leadership Conference and will continue teaching there in June 2013.
“I am a firm believer in person-to-person diplomacy,” she said. “Interactions with people are key, whether it’s your neighbor or people overseas. I encourage more faculty to take advantage of the opportunities available through the Fulbright program.”
The Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange activity, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over its 60 years of existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have taught, studied or conducted research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States. More than 285,000 emerging leaders in their professional fields have received Fulbright awards, including individuals who later became heads of government, Nobel Prize winners and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields.
Recipients of the Fulbright Scholar award are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement.
For more information about this trip or WVU’s partnership in Bahrain with the Royal University for Women, contact Lisa DeFrank-Cole, at 304-293-8781 or Lisa.DeFrank-Cole@mail.wvu.edu
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