UM-Flint faculty, staff members recognized for uplifting women in higher education

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Sade Wilson and Michelle Silva holding their awards
Sade' Wilson and Michelle Silva have been awarded for their work in supporting women in higher education.

Two members of the University of Michigan-Flint community have been recognized for their work in supporting women in higher education across the state.

Michelle Silva, lecturer IV in communication studies, and Sade' Wilson, quality assurance coordinator with the Center for Educator Preparation, received the Chiara Hensley Outstanding Institutional Representative Award from the Michigan American Council on Education (MI-ACE). The organization works to create an open and equitable higher education environment in Michigan by providing networking, leadership, and professional development opportunities for women working in the academy.

Silva (second from right) and Wilson (far right) receiving the award at the 2022 MI-ACE conference. UM-Flint Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mary Jo Sekelsky is at the podium
Silva (second from right) and Wilson (far right) receiving the award at the 2022 MI-ACE conference. UM-Flint Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mary Jo Sekelsky is at the podium.

Silva and Wilson, along with the UM-Flint MI-ACE steering committee, organized the 2021 virtual Women of Color Collaborative Luncheon. Conducted during the height of the pandemic, this event provided an opportunity to explore the challenges faced by women of color in higher education and to strategize how to advocate for systems that value diversity. A conversation on authenticity between UM-Flint Provost Sonja Feist-Price and Mott Community College President Beverly Walker-Griffea was the keynote session.

The pair emphasizes the power of dialogue and common goals to make events like this a reality.

"Even though Michelle and I are two races, two different cultural backgrounds, two religious backgrounds from two different generations, we have figured out a way to be friends while still accomplishing all those goals at the same time," Wilson explains.

While the luncheon brought more than 250 faculty, staff, and administrators together, additional programming offers resources and support for students and community members. The Boss Up: Women in Leadership Conference brought together female entrepreneurs, law enforcement, lawyers, computer scientists, and more to help young women find and prepare for their futures.

"It's so powerful when people share their stories because you start to realize, 'I'm not alone. I can do this too. She made some mistakes. I made some mistakes. It didn't stop her.' It was powerful to offer that encouragement and support," said Silva.

Following that theme of connection, Silva and Wilson are quick to note that events like these would not be possible without the support of the UM-Flint MI-ACE steering committee, a group of women from more than 10 units across campus that share the same vision of making higher education a more open and just space for women on campuses across Michigan. It's often not easy work, and Wilson explains that welcoming unconformability is a prerequisite.

"One thing that we are very intentional about is finding ways to have difficult conversations, finding ways to create sisterhood, and help leaders–including male leaders–to support women on campus," she says.

Those interested in becoming involved with MI-ACE can reach out to Silva (misilva@umich.edu) or Wilson (sdwilso@umich.edu) for more information.

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing & Digital Strategies.