The Competitive Advantage
of a Women’s College

By Carmen Twillie Ambar
November 2008
PDF of position paper

Cedar Crest Will Fully Embrace Its Identity as a Women’s College

The vision of that statement is weighty and strong, historic and forward-thinking all at once. Most importantly, it does not belong to me. The vision of a women’s college in Allentown, Pennsylvania, came first through the fathers of the United Church of Christ, who, in 1867, established a program for their daughters to achieve education beyond high school. The vision was then supported more than 100 years later when the College alumnae came forward with passion and might to derail a potential merger with a co-ed college. Now let’s enter 2009, 2010, and beyond.

A women’s college is no longer the only option for women. It is now a specific, progressive choice among the many options a high school student has available to her. The research on women’s colleges tells us unequivocally that students who make this choice will find:

  • Greater opportunity to secure and flourish in leadership roles and to, therefore, disproportionately be a high achiever;
  • Greater support to take personal and academic risks allowing them to shore up their strengths;
  • Greater positive interaction with faculty;
  • Greater confidence and self-esteem;
  • Greater advantages in terms of special mentoring, collaborative learning, and hands-on experiences;
  • Greater cultivation of a sense of civic responsibility; and
  • Greater mastery of academic skills, including critical thinking, writing and cultural awareness.

Did you notice I used the word ‘greater’? And not only do I believe it, but all of the data surrounding women’s colleges establishes these outcomes as facts, as compared to women at co-educational institutions. A student at a women’s college will find a greater overall experience to carry her into the world prepared for success in career, family and community.

The students who make the progressive choice to attend a women’s college will demand, and deserve, these experiences. And so, it is our duty to our future and our loyalty to our past to embrace our identity. The challenge behind confirming our identity is expressing it in a manner that positions a single-sex education as not just relevant, but as one that should be actively pursued by young women. I believe this challenge can be met if we work in partnership. That partnership will join current students as they demonstrate resolve in their every pursuit, faculty and staff who bring their energy and talent to work each day and Cedar Crest College alumnae who will step forward, again, in passion and might.

Your role in this partnership can be one of encouragement as a student mentor, one of celebration as a participant in College events in the Lehigh Valley and around the country, one of strategy in contribution to our planning process or one of confirmation by financially supporting the College’s programs and initiatives. Strategic planning is already under way, and our planning work will serve as the touchstone guiding us effectively toward the solutions to our challenges. I believe our progress will be noted by achieving the goals set out in our strategic plan over the next few years.

These will be the moments of triumph that I will want to share with you the most. Without question, what happens at Cedar Crest today does affect the Cedar Crest of the past. By strengthening the college now, you ensure the constancy of your alma mater and broaden your position as an alumna.

I will continue to be in communication with you laying out more substantively the strategic choices that Cedar Crest College will be making. Until then, please, let your excitement for Cedar Crest grow and consider how you might join the partnership.