Vanderbilt hosts global network of women in higher education at CHAT-WHEN conference focused on research collaborations, mentorship

Vanderbilt University hosted a global network of women in academia on March 29 when it hosted the international CHAT-WHEN conference on campus.

With a goal of establishing international research collaborations among women in higher education, the U.S.-based Chair at the Table Network and U.K.-based Women’s Higher Education Network explored career advancement and partnership building
themes at the hybrid event.

Chair at the Table (CHAT) + Women’s Higher Education Network (WHEN) Conference. Photo credit: Vanderbilt University

“It’s my hope that this event serves as a platform for us to brainstorm innovative ideas and strategies to further advance international collaboration of women in the higher education network,” said C. Cybele Raver, Vanderbilt’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Together, we can create a more inclusive and empowering environment where all women thrive and succeed.”

The opportunity to connect peers across the world is emblematic of Vanderbilt’s increased global presence and effort to forge international collaboration among peers, said Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, vice provost for arts, libraries and global engagement at Vanderbilt, who helped to organize the conference and served as a panelist.

“The Women’s Higher Education Network allows Vanderbilt to partner with some of the leading research institutions in the United Kingdom,” Sharpley-Whiting said. “It reflects our commitment to Discovery Vanderbilt and our strategic objectives to grow our collaborations and bring the world to Vanderbilt.”

Tracy Sharpley-Whiting (Vanderbilt University)

Conference sessions paved the way for international research collaborations, networking and mentoring for faculty, administrators and graduate students. Among the speakers featured were Raver; Cianne Jones, chief operating officer for WHEN; Stephanie Y. Evans, founder and co-chair of CHAT and a professor of Black women’s studies at Georgia State University; Stephanie G. Adams, a professor of systems engineering dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas; Jenny Douglas, a senior lecturer in health promotion at the Open University; Carol E. Henderson, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer and adviser to the president at Emory University; Temi Lawal, senior programme manager at WHEN and researcher; Yolanda Pierce, dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School; Sydney Savion, vice chancellor for people, culture and belonging at Vanderbilt; and Claudine Taaffe, senior lecturer in African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt.

Last week’s conference was the first time Vanderbilt sponsored a joint meeting of CHAT and WHEN on campus. Both organizations are designed to support women in academia. A similar conference will be held in the U.K. in the future, bringing the groups together again.

CHAT is a research collective established in 2018 as a peer-mentoring network. Members are current and former department chairs at colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. The project centers on Black women’s perspectives of academic leadership.

WHEN aims to propel women to achieve their ambitions and enables universities and the higher education sector to accelerate change. Their current initiative 100 Black Women Professors Now is a pioneering systemic change program aiming to increase the number of Black women in the academic pipeline. It addresses how out of 23,000 U.K. professors, only 66 are Black women.

The event was supported by Vanderbilt’s Vice Provost Office for Arts, Libraries & Global Engagement.