Renee Dickens Callan ’91
Current job title and employer and briefly describe what it is you do: I am the Executive Director of Student Life at the University of Miami. I am a proud mother of two amazing adults, and I have been married for over 25 years to my husband who I met while studying in Vermont. I majored in English and Political Science while at St. Mike’s and went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education from The University of Vermont and a doctorate degree from the University of Miami. I have worked in higher education for over 27 years with special emphasis on supporting historically underrepresented and marginalized student populations.
Academic experience at Saint Michael's College help prepare you for your career: It was not easy attending Saint Michael’s or living in Vermont because there was a lack of resources and representation. Thankfully, there were caring administrators who did their best to support Black students at that time. Most of the Black students who attended SMC and those from neighboring institutions created a community that helped to support and encourage me. I am not sure what I would have done without them. I had the privilege of co-founding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Society and being a part of the committee that hired the inaugural director of the Multicultural Student Center. These experiences influenced my career path and desire to create more diverse and equitable spaces for college students.
What advice would you give to women students: My advice for women-identifying students is to be brave and fearless in pursuit of your dreams and goals. Build community and strive to empower other women. There are numerous ways to show up and make a difference, to open doors for others, to create community. We each bring a different perspective based upon our unique lived-experiences, so it is important that we have confidence in our own voice and ability to contribute.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations: Seek out mentors and role-models that can assist you in navigating professional environments. Build a network that uplifts and challenges you. Be open to feedback and be a student of your profession. We should never stop learning! Remember that empowered women empower other women.
What keeps you motivated and driven on a daily basis: Along with my family, meeting and interacting with college students keeps me motivated. There is a wonderful energy that happens on college campuses that inspires and motivates me to keep going; to make things better for the next generation.
What woman most inspires you and why: My mother was a source of great inspiration. She, like many other women in my family, are positive examples of what humanity looks like on its best days. Despite the circumstances, they were willing to help others and tried to make a difference each and every day. The desire to carry on the legacy of my family, many of whom did not have the ability to attend college, serves as a reminder that I am my ancestors’ wildest dream, and I should strive to honor our rich legacy of perseverance.