Hello all! I am happy to be one of the first women to write on the Utah Women and Education Initiative blog. It is a late afternoon in September, and finally there is a minute to sit down and think. Alone in my study, I am in a familiar pensive state. Each year as my children find their way back to school, I begin the process of assessing our summer. What did we learn? How many books did we read? Did we experience enough of nature and art? Then, after an unusually long, for me this would be about an hour or so, period of uninterrupted time, I begin to obsess on the deeper questions of motherhood: Are my children happy people? Are they understanding the essence of life’s experiences? Are they resilient and confident?
The value of an educated woman and mother cannot be overestimated. I am the mother of four daughters who are caught in a society that has returned to an unbalanced emphasis on the superficial. My own mother understood the shallow way in which men and women looked at women in the contextual image of Barbie. In the late 1960’s the Barbie doll was still a fairly new concept. My mother would not let me play with these dolls. She said many times, “Girls who play with these dolls will grow up wanting to look like Barbie, and girls who focus too much of their time trying to look like Barbie will give up much of themselves to an ideal that pleases others, and takes them away from thinking and becoming the person they could be.” Well she said it almost like that… The point is that the “topsy turvy” nature of our world is telling our young women to put most of their energy into looking the part instead of becoming the part.
Education has the potential to take young women to a place where they are able understand what “being the part” means. Making the commitment to earn a college degree opens up opportunities for women and builds a strong sense of self. This seems obvious, yet according to recent research, the percentage of women in Utah who are graduating from college is falling.
I want my girls to know that being the part, taking the time to educate themselves and develop their own interests and talents, not only gives them the strength and wisdom they will need to deal with the unpredictable nature of life, but this commitment to education will also add interest and purpose to their daily experience. A college education provides an intellectual interior that develops and deepens the beauty of the individual even in the most plastic of realities.
Christine Ivory sits on several boards at the University of Utah. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University and in a former life taught English at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. Currently, she and her husband Clark are generous donors to higher education and are committed to improving education in Utah. Christine is the mother of five children.