To celebrate International Women’s Day, AccessWDUN spoke with Dr. Anne A. Skleder, the first woman president in the 145-year history of Brenau University in Gainesville.
Skleder said she felt proud about being the first woman president of the institution. But, she hasn't always felt that way.
“When I first came, I underestimated the importance of being the first woman. What I think about is the fact that the institution made a decision to have somebody at the helm who looks more like most of our students,” she said. “Then I started to think about what it meant to the institution, the students, faculty and staff and the alumni. I started to realize I am representing something that is a watershed for the university.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Skleder received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and her master’s degree and doctorate in social and organizational psychology from Temple University. She also completed Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management program.
Skleder said she has always had a passion for education and that it's critically important, especially for women.
“What we know is when women are educated, first of all, it changes the trajectory of their lives and it also raises the bar for the entire family. Women who are educated, have children who become educated and then the next generation and then the next,” Skleder said.
Skleder had never lived outside of Pennsylvania but moved to Gainesville in 2019 to assume her role as president. She said after doing her own research, the decision to take the opportunity was easy.
“First of all, the people here are absolutely wonderful. There's a hospitality in the area that I have really never experienced. Number two is, I think the relationship that the university has with Gainesville is so strong and so positive that I loved talking to our community members about Brenau,” Skleder said.
Looking back at all she has accomplished, Skleder said if she could, she would have told her younger self to stop and enjoy the moment more and to think about the potential impact that you could be making.
Skleder said the advice she was always given by mentors and would tell young women is to always seize an opportunity because life is not a linear process.
“When someone suggests that you stretch yourself, stretch yourself. When someone says 'Have you ever tried X experience?' try it. Take that class that is not required. Take a risk. You never regret the things you did but usually the things you did not do,” she said.