Guided by Catholic and Franciscan values, Alverno has launched the Thea Bowman Institute for Excellence and Leadership, which offers a rigorous and robustly crafted leadership development program for Black undergraduate students, including mentorship and high-profile internships.
The students, who receive full-tuition, four-year scholarships, are challenged throughout their education to explore their individual leadership styles, develop cultural competency, and learn how to effect organizational change.
“Thea Bowman Scholars are women who know, ‘I was sent here to do something great, and I’m determined to do that,’” says Ronett Jacobs ’98, director of the Bowman Institute. “We will work to light their candles so that they can then light the candles of others.”
In their first semester at Alverno, nine Bowman Scholars have stayed connected through weekly virtual discussions; longer virtual meetings are held monthly to explore leadership themes. They have engaged with their community, from presenting at virtual conferences to training to be poll workers. Above all, they have found strength in sisterhood.
“Bowman is an amazing program. The conversations that we’ve had have been so uplifting and encouraging and just real, and I really appreciate it,” says Bowman Scholar Janel Riseling, Class of 2024. “I’m glad to know there are women behind me who I can always count on.”
Who was Sister Thea Bowman?
Alverno’s leadership institute honors the late Thea Bowman, a Black Franciscan nun from Mississippi who was educated in Wisconsin. Sister Thea held a Ph.D. in English and served as a professor at three universities. She gained national and international renown for her passionate advocacy for racial justice.
“We watched a video where Sister Thea was the only Black person in the room. Standing in front of hundreds of people, she shared her experiences, her beliefs, what she thought needed to change and how we could change it. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak up for what was right,” says Bowman Scholar Amira Adams, Class of 2024.