I teach political science (and podcasting!) at Chattanooga State Community College. I’m also a certified yoga teacher and life coach.

College/University attended?

Undergrad: George Washington University (BA journalism)
Grad: University of Arkansas (MA journalism), Texas Woman’s University (Master of Library Science – MLS), University of Texas Dallas (PhD political science)

Tell us a little about you… 

I’m a political scientist/professor, yoga teacher, and life coach. I see the world through those complementary lenses, focused on building greater understanding and empathy across differences to make our lives and the world less fraught. In my academic work, I try to help students see how and why different people come to different conclusions on political issues; in my yoga and coaching practices, I help others cultivate grace with and love for themselves. When I’m not doing those things, I’m probably sitting in a comfy chair with a book, and my dogs sleeping nearby. And probably planning my next road trip.

What does leadership mean to you?  

Leadership is empowering others to be the best they can be. True leaders meet those whom they lead where they are, as they are, and help them chart a path forward to achieve their goals.

What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?

My best advice is to be authentic. People know when you’re pretending to be something you’re not, and doing so will cost you their trust. Without trust, your job is much, much harder. It’s also critical to remember that leading people is an inherently human enterprise. You are human and will make mistakes; own those quickly and make amends. The people you’re leading will also make mistakes. You will be far more effective if you give others grace and the benefit of the doubt before jumping to assumptions. Lead with curiosity before you judge or condemn.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?

I’m an avid follower of big-name leaders — Simon Sinek, Brene’ Brown, Adam Grant — but the person in my life who’s personally impacted me most is Nancy Patterson, the vice president of college advancement & external relations at Chattanooga State. What I love most about Nancy is that she is relentlessly positive and full of grace for others. She genuinely cares about others. When you talk to her, you feel like you’re the single most important person in the world to her at that moment. She inspires others to be their best selves, and I have benefited greatly from having her as a mentor at work.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Very early in my teaching career, one of my writing students at a Texas community college was accused of plagiarizing an important essay. When I heard about this, I knew it was implausible and jumped in with examples of her writing from our class. It was clear that her writing style matched the suspicious essay, and she was exonerated. She called me in tears, telling me that nobody had ever believed in her or stood up for her. That experience has defined what I try to embody in my career and in my life — to empower others, especially those who feel dismissed by others, to stand in their own power and pursue their dreams.

What strides do you think members can take to make more of a difference in women’s leadership issues in the local community?

I see a lot of people — women included — who feel disconnected from others. We are working so hard, but it feels isolating, particularly since the pandemic. To make a difference right now, in my mind, means to notice and appreciate others. Many of us have rusty networking or socializing skills, too, so building welcome spaces that invite others to arrive and participate in comfortable ways is critical.

When you’re not working, where and how do you spend your time?

I love to travel, read, and write. I’m working on a teaching book right now for other higher education professors. It seeks to equip them with the tools to do some inner work and thereby boost their presence with and connection to their students. I also have two dogs that I absolutely dote on — Ginger is a 3.5-year-old sassy basset hound, and Lexie is a 12ish-year-old rescue pup who’s probably a mix of golden retriever and chow chow. My partner, Doug, and I live in Monteagle, and I have two stepkids: Blake, 22, of Chicago and Emory-Jane, 14, of Atlanta.

What benefit do you hope to gain/or have gained by joining this organization?

I initially joined because I wanted to find my community of like-minded women in Chattanooga. I’ve stayed because I have loved the opportunity to develop as a leader and invest in other women in our community. Not everyone in CWLI is a C-suite professional (or an aspiring C-suite professional!), and I am grateful I can serve the organization in ways different to the corporate leaders of CWLI.