Pres. Becerra speaks to United Educators members about leadership, persistence in face of workplace challenges

Pres. Becerra speaks to United Educators members about leadership, persistence in face of workplace challenges

President Becerra with Rick Mills, Anita Jones and Tish King of United Educators

On March 27, Marymount University President Irma Becerra was a featured speaker at the United Educators (UE) Lunch and Learn series celebrating Women’s History Month.

In a conversation moderated by Tish King, UE’s Head of Corporate Communications, President Becerra spoke to in-person and virtual attendees about her experience as a female leader and the importance of practicing compassion in leadership to create a more equitable environment for everyone. 

“Compassion is vital in organizational culture today,” President Becerra said. “At its core, compassionate leadership calls for pushing agendas, making critical — if unpopular — decisions, and using wisdom and experience to move your organization forward for sustainable success. To bring about real and lasting change, leaders must use their voice to advocate for those without one, work diligently with their teams to ensure equity through actionable steps and use their position to correct injustices and clear the way for ongoing progress.”

When attendees asked President Becerra about building community and support for initiatives, she commented, “I always tell audiences never to be afraid to reach out for help — especially from people with different perspectives and experiences.”

Pres. Becerra speaks to United Educators members about leadership, persistence in face of workplace challenges

Alicia Williams, UE Senior Resolutions Counsel and leader of the IDEA employee-led group, shared how President Becerra’s words deeply resonated with her. She appreciated her advice to find passion in what you do, recognize your power as a role model and be convinced to do the right thing even when it is not the most popular choice. 

Asked about her personal strategy for overcoming challenges, President Becerra shared that the most effective leaders are not afraid of ruffling feathers and pushing for dynamic change. 

“I view myself as a change agent, which has resulted in greater opportunities for me. That’s because organizations search for leaders who can move them to the next level and take the organization from good to great,” President Becerra said. “There is, of course, more risk as a change agent as not everyone will always be happy with you even if you have great results, and there will always be groups of people in organizations who are happy with the status quo. As academic professionals, we strive for consensus — but that’s not always possible. The job of a change agent is to win enough support so that the organization is working towards a common goal.”

Anita Jones, Director of IT and Cybersecurity Operations and leader of the Women Working at UE Employee Resource Group, said President Becerra “was truly amazing and insightful. Her reflections on how there are learning moments from bad situations and that no matter what, you will always have your education, highlighted the importance of persistence.”

President Becerra rounded out the discussion by speaking about what she views as the greatest challenge facing the educational sector today — the devaluation of traditional college education. 

Pres. Becerra speaks to United Educators members about leadership, persistence in face of workplace challenges

“There is an alarming belief that has slowly worked its way into mainstream society over recent years that claims ‘college isn’t for everyone.’ As this rhetoric spread, we’ve witnessed a precipitous decline in students entering two and four-year colleges. We need to curb this rhetoric in the interest of our nation maintaining its global leadership,” President Becerra said. “We need to continue to emphasize that the college degree is the path to the American Dream, like it was for me — a Cuban immigrant who achieved success thanks to education.”

President Becerra’s talk resonated deeply with attendees, including Richard Mills, UE’s President and CEO. 

“President Becerra’s comments about the criticality of education to this country and individuals were compelling,” Mills said. “Her story of being a Cuban immigrant whose family had lost everything but said that an education can never be taken from you was powerful.”

Similarly, King spoke about how inspiring the presentation was for the attendees.

“President Becerra is truly inspiring. Her life story is remarkable, and her passion for education and its role in opening doors of opportunity was deeply moving,” King said. “Our conversation with her was a spectacular way to celebrate Women’s History Month.”

President Becerra is a UE Subscribers Advisory Board member and serves on the Board’s audit committee. 

Photos courtesy of Stuart Benas, United Educators