Women leaders discuss servant leadership

Lila Holley, DeLisa Russell, Elizabeth Palcaios and Amye Dickerson laugh along with Pearl Beverly (speaking) as Beverly shares her story of how she has reformed Multicultural Affairs at Baylor. Josh Aguirre | Multimedia Journalist

By Brooke Hill | Copy Editor

Eight female leaders from the military, the campus and the community encouraged students Wednesday at the Bobo Spiritual Life center with their stories of servant leadership.

The panel opened up discussions on transitioning between stages of life, perceptions of femininity and advice on how to become the best leader.

Combat veteran, retired US Army chief warrant officer and award-winning author Lila Holley, said she didn’t have a proper support system when she started the transition from active duty to civilian after serving for 14 years.

“I went into it like everything else in my military career with a can-do attitude, but I hit a brick wall. It hit me right in the face,” Holley said. “It becomes who we are. I was a soldier for 22 years, it’s who I was, I was chief … It was who I embodied. When it came time for me to take the uniform off for the last time to make that transition, those emotions, that was the brick wall I hit. And I really wasn’t ready for it, it really caught me off guard … in my transition I realize one big thing. I didn’t have a healthy system to process those emotions.”

Holley said the public should be gentle with veterans, as it took three to five years for her to really feel like herself again.

“Who are you now that that uniform is off?” Holley asked. “What are the things you’re passionate about? It may seem like an easy question to answer, but who are you, to a soldier? I’m a soldier. Once that uniform comes off, who am I now? That was a tough questions to answer.”

DeLisa Russell, Director and Military Veteran Peer Network Coordinator for Veterans One Stop, is the daughter, wife and mother of veterans and actives. As a civilian, she said people sometimes underestimate all she does to support those in the military. Her time to step up came when America went to war with Iraq, she said.

“This brokenness, this thing that people are going through, I didn’t learn about that at Baylor,” Russell said of the war. “I didn’t learn about this in the book. But we’ve got to do something.”

Senior veteran Katy Humphrey’s baby, Millie, became internet famous when Humphrey brought her to class after her babysitter cancelled last minute. Her professor picked Millie up and calmed her for the duration of class after she had gotten fussy. Humphrey said she felt called to lead after two of her friends lost their legs overseas and she felt called to help them after they became double amputees.

“I felt this calling to just be helpful,” Humphrey said. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman or because I was higher rank … I just felt this need to take care of others and I felt I could do it in a different capacity, better. Especially with women, you just juggle, and you just do. I think the military can definitely help out in knowing how to juggle and compartmentalize and do all these things that you end up juggling but I think when you feel a call to serve … you have to realize you can lead in different ways.”

Dean for student development Dr. Elizabeth Palacios began her Baylor journey in 1976 when the minority enrollment was at just 1percent. She said she constantly finds herself in committees or meetings where she’s the only woman, and she said she’s treated differently because she’s a female. Palacios said she’ll something and it will be ignored, but a man will say the same thing and it’ll be praised.

“I grew up here at Baylor, and so seeing the different roles I had before me, you have to decide who you are, be true to who you are, and let other people know who you are, because folks will tell you who to be and how to be and what to be, and you do not let others decide who you are,” Palacios said.

She said females are treated differently in the workplace, but urged others not to be discouraged by it.

“Be ready and be prepared,” Palacios said. “Don’t be defensive, be educational. Let people know who you are and all the things you’re capable of, and surround yourself with the people who have those same dreams for you.”

When Lindsey Bacque was elected as student body president, she was the first woman to be elected to the position in 22 years. She said she grew up at an all-girls private school and came to Baylor with a “girls rule” mentality.

“I think some women at Baylor tend to take a more traditional role or have a more traditional understanding of what a woman’s place is in our society,” Bacque said.

Sexual assault cases began bubbling up while Bacque was in student government, so her friend encouraged Bacque to run for president, since she said she couldn’t trust someone else to sit at the table and have those conversations.

“You don’t always feel prepared and you don’t always know what you’re doing but sometimes you just have to rise to the occasion even though you know you’re in way over your head,” Bacque said.

Katy senior and current student body president Amye Dickerson said she took part in a study done by a graduate student who interviewed female student body presidents over the last nine months, and her findings were that most of them consistently doubt themselves and their abilities. Dickerson said there’s lots of pressure, externally and internally.

Director of multicultural affairs Pearl Beverly stressed that if students want to live out Baylor’s mission of becoming world-wide leaders, they won’t always be working with people who look just like them. She encouraged students to break out of their comfort zones.

“One of the things that I learned in serving is that you want the people you serve to be successful, and the only way you can do that is you have to give a lot of yourself,” Beverly said. “You can’t just give and expect to get anything back, because sometimes you won’t even get a thank you. You have to give and forget. You have to do it and do it from your heart. If you say you’re a true servant leader and you say want to be more like Jesus Christ there are certain things you have to lay aside, and mostly that’s yourself.”

The wise words of the panelists resonated with Bulverde freshman Kara Jones, who attended in hopes of applying the womens’ advice as a Line Camp leader this summer.

“People aren’t going to thank you for what you do but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyways,” Jones said. “I think in order to truly be a servant leader you have to set aside yourself and really want the best for the people you’re serving.”