The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York has received a $1.2 million gift to construct a home for its Women’s Leadership Institute.
The donation from community leaders Michelle Cuozzo Borisenok and her husband, Walt Borisenok, will go toward renovating a building at 1020 Madison Avenue into a 3,800-square foot living-learning center for the Women’s Leadership Institute. Michelle is a 1980 graduate of Saint Rose, an entrepreneur, and a member of the college’s Board of Trustees. Speaking at a press conference Monday, she got emotional over the opportunity to support her alma mater.
“I am incredibly moved to play a part in creating the new Women’s Leadership Institute at Saint Rose," said Borisenok. "By providing the ability to interact with other women as mentors, the Institute will give our students the confidence to move forward with their passions, and help them understand that they can achieve anything that they set their mind to do.”
The Michelle Cuozzo Borisenok Class of 1980 House, as the building will be named, is expected to open in August. In addition to hosting the Institute’s conferences and speakers, it will house Saint Rose’s first class of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, which aims to develop women leaders. College President Dr. Carolyn Stefanco says the combination is crucial.
“We wanted to have a place where there would be plenty of opportunities for students and staff and visitors who are mentors or visiting professionals to be able to encounter each other," says Stefanco. "And so by having the students live upstairs and the offices, conference space, etc. be downstairs we really hope that there will be those opportunities in the building.”
Saint Rose is one of only six colleges and universities in the country to participate in the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. Stefanco used the press conference to introduce the seven-scholar class, which is expected to move into the building this fall.
“Take note of them. They are going to make an impact," praised Stefanco. "In their first six weeks of the program they have already started to think differently about themselves.”
Hellen Jumo is one of those scholars. Raised in Zimbabwe, Jumo came to Saint Rose to study chemistry with hopes of becoming an oncologist. She is also a recipient of the Chemistry Award, and runs a group that encourages kids to complete their education. She credits Saint Rose and opportunities like the leadership network for pulling her from the poverty of her hometown.
“My heart has always ached for an opportunity in which effort and hard work can be rewarded," noted Jumo. "I owe what I am and what I’m yet to become to the College of Saint Rose. Though my grandparents could never have afforded me an American education, they can now see me grow into the person that they’ve always wanted me to become.”
The BOLD Women’s Leadership Network provides significant financial aid for its scholars, as well as a leadership course and internship support in each scholar’s respective field. But fellow BOLD Scholars Belinda Ligotino, a music industry major, and Arianna Paul, a communications major and Colleges Against Cancer Advocacy Chair, say the network’s community is also important.
"As I was moving up in my career, I really wanted a support behind me to help keep my motivated ideas rolling, and every one of these women are just pefect for that," smiles Ligotino.
"For me, it means the world. I'm so blessed to be able to be in a group of strong women who are able to share ideas, bounce ideas off of each other, and grow as a whole," says Paul.
Borisenok offered advice for the scholars at their introduction: move forward with confidence.
“Believe in yourself – that you can do anything you set your mind to, and that the world is your oyster,” said Borisenok.
The Women’s Leadership Institute intends to offer a full range of programming to Saint Rose’s nearly 4,000 students by the college’s centennial in 2020.