Mentoring Women: ‘You’re Going to Make a Great President Someday’

From elementary school teacher … to stay-at-home mom grad student … to the variety of higher education leadership positions that led to becoming a university president … Dr. Cindy Gnadinger benefitted from powerful mentorship.

During a wide-ranging conversation with Capture Higher Ed CEO Leonard Napolitano, Gnadinger — the first female president at Carroll University in Wisconsin — recalled a moment when a mentor first said: “You know, you’re going to make a great president someday.”

The possibility of ever becoming a university president had never occurred to her until then.

“It hit me. I was very stunned,” she says. “It was in that conversation that she planted a seed for me. And then she really supported my professional growth toward exploring the presidency.”

Now, whenever Gnadinger gets a chance to talk to women, she often says two things:

“One, when a door opens for you, walk through it,” she says. “Because you don’t know where that door is going to lead you. I walked through many doors. I had many opportunities afforded to me, and I always took those opportunities … and they led me from the elementary position to the president of a wonderful institution.”

The second thing she tells other women: it’s your responsibility to mentor others.

“I had a wonderful mentor,” she says. “She saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time. So, it’s our responsibility to mentor the next generation. I try to do that myself. And I try to encourage others to do the same.”

Gnadinger’s discussion with Napolitano opened the second day of last month’s INNOVATE 2022, Capture’s virtual conference for higher ed enrollment management and marketing professionals.

During the conversation, she also talked about her experiences as a cancer survivor as well as the painful process of overseeing the closing of a university — experiences that have made her adept at crisis management and scenario planning. These have been vital tools as she continues to lead a university through challenges caused by the pandemic as well as preparing for higher ed’s looming demographic cliff.

View her INNOVATE 2022 interview here.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Manager, Capture Higher Ed