Awards sponsored by Trustee advance female leadership at Rider

Since 2006, the Mazzotti Awards in Women’s Leadership have encouraged faculty and staff to attend nationally recognized leadership development programs
Diane Cornell

When Associate Professor-Librarian Diane Campbell applied for a Mazzotti Award in Women’s Leadership, she was looking to gain insight that would help in her role as chair of the University Academic Policy Committee.

Campbell, who was named a recipient of the award in 2018, elected to enroll in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Global Change Agent Executive Education Program.

Since they were first established in 2006 by Board of Trustee Joan Mazzotti ’72 and her husband, Michael Kelly, the awards have enabled 38 women working at Rider to attend leadership development programs outside the University. In addition to Harvard, recipients have chosen to attend programs sponsored by the University of Virginia, Stanford, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, among others.

“The Awards were designed to help women faculty and staff to develop their leadership potential, excel in their fields and actively participate in advancing the University’s mission,” Mazzotti says. “After 13 years we are thrilled with the results. We now have a critical mass of award recipients who form the nucleus of a community of women leaders on campus.”

Of the women who have received an award, almost half have taken on additional responsibility either in a new role or in their existing position.

“It has been the universal view of recipients that the programs they attended supported their current work as well as their future career goals,” Mazzotti says. “Helping women succeed has been a passion of mine throughout my career and the positive impact the awards have had on the recipients and the University is most encouraging.”

Campbell’s week-long seminar explored how to create an environment that will allow people to face difficult challenges, modify their values and accomplish something significant.

Although the description sounds lofty, Campbell says she viewed it more simply. “Not everyone agrees on how to go forward when we are faced with a complicated set of challenges, so I was hoping to get some training on how to navigate through that.”

The program, she says, tackled how to make progress in situations where large changes are happening within complex environments, with many stakeholders and many competing interests. Participants came from diverse backgrounds, including elected officials from Africa, Navy SEALS, a person from the Australian Department of Defense and business consultants.

“I got even more out of it than I expected,” Campbell says. “I think I came in like everybody else, looking for simple answers and what they told us was that there aren’t any. Instead, we were provided with a structure or framework. One of the main messages was that a leader is a person who facilitates others to take ownership of problems. Psychologically, we all want someone to tell us the answer. But a leader has to encourage others to speak up and take ownership to reach an amicable solution.”

Full-time female Rider employees with a minimum of two years of service are eligible to apply to be considered for the awards. Applicants are considered by a committee of eight women faculty and staff, co-chaired by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla. Seven of the eight committee members are previous Mazzotti Award recipients.

Decisions on who receives the awards are based on the goals of the applicant and how those goals align with the program they want to attend and the perceived benefit to the University. The names of recipients are announced at the University’s employee awards ceremony in December.

Stasolla, a member of the committee since its inception, was an early recipient of the award. "I felt blessed to be an award recipient," says Stasolla, who in 2009 participated in Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management. "Every day at Rider, I get the opportunity to apply what I learned from the Institute. More importantly, I get to support the leadership journeys of so many women across the University, helping to fulfill Joan's vision and making Rider that much stronger in the process."

The Mazzotti Awards also support a biennial Women’s Leadership Summit, which brings together women from across the University for a full day of professional development activities as well as network building across departments and disciplines. This year, the Summit will be extended to two days — on May 20 in the Mercer Room on Rider’s campus and on June 20 at Old York Country Club in Chesterfield, N.J.— and will offer a leadership development opportunity to women faculty and staff members. The program's curriculum this year was developed by Brené Brown, author of Dare to Lead, and will focus on developing courage-building skills and teaching participants how to move from “armored leadership to daring leadership.”

“I always am heartened by the creative and effective ways that the Committee finds to maximize the impact of the awards,” Mazzotti says. “By bringing Brené Brown's program to the campus, we are able to reach more than 100 women this year. I applaud Rider for recognizing that the development of its women faculty and staff make the University a stronger institution, and I am delighted to be a part of its efforts.”