President Becerra speaks on diversity in education at 2019 Women’s Achieve Summit

With more than 1,400 guests in attendance, Marymount University President Irma Becerra addressed key issues in U.S. education at the 2019 Women’s Achieve Summit on Tuesday, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va.
Hosted by Queen Latifah, the event presented by American Evolution featured U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) as an honorary co-host, as well as keynote speaker Mika Brzezinski, a journalist and co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Throughout the day, numerous female politicians, business leaders, educators, veterans and activists took the stage to voice how their own personal experiences in their careers have impacted communities in Virginia and beyond.
In a panel session titled “Mapping the Future of Education,” Dr. Becerra spoke alongside Dr. Deborah Jewell-Sherman, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former superintendent of Richmond Public Schools. The two renowned educators explored the future of K-12 and higher education in Virginia and the United States as a whole.
“Education is challenging,” Dr. Becerra said. “We need to be intentional with moving forward and moving along. It does take a village to instill that confidence.”
A key topic that Dr. Becerra and Dr. Jewell-Sherman discussed was how diversity has changed the face of students, educators and education leaders over the past 20 years. While much progress has been made during that time period, Dr. Becerra explained, there remains much work to be done to make the education system truly equitable and career fields accessible to all students.
“The higher you go when it comes to educational attainment, the less diversity you see,” Dr. Becerra said. “While there are more first-generation and minority students seeking an associate’s or bachelor’s degree today, you don’t see that same representation at the doctoral or even the master’s level. We need to have representation in all levels of academia.”
The two education leaders also expressed their thoughts on the landscape for careers and education in the 21st century, and how students must prepare to participate in the future global economy. With the rise of automation and potential job losses associated with it, the President of Marymount University stressed that the importance of a STEM education is growing.
“Many jobs that currently don’t require college degrees will become automated in the near future,” Dr. Becerra explained. “This will have tremendous implications on overall employment and the economy in this country. But degrees in science, technology, engineering and math will help students withstand the changes that automation will bring.”
“We have to raise our standards in general, because the future economy will only be for those with college degrees.”
On the day prior to the Women’s Achieve Summit, Dr. Becerra also participated in a dedication ceremony for the new Virginia Women’s Monument on the grounds of Capitol Square in Richmond. Seven bronze statues of women representing four centuries of Virginia history were unveiled, along with a Wall of Honor that memorializes 230 women who demonstrated notable achievements during their lives, made significant contributions to their communities or set an enduring example at the regional, state or national level.

One of the names inscribed at the Wall of Honor is Sister M. Majella Berg, who led Marymount University as President from 1960 to 1993.