Story and photo by Delancey Pryor III
PV Assistant Editor
The Margaret Corbin Women’s Leadership Forum hosted an event on Sept. 20 at the Regimental Room inside the Cadet Mess Hall during Women in Leadership Day. The event centered its message on “Leveling Up Your Leadership.”
Filled with prestigious guest speakers and current members of cadet leadership, the focus of the morning panel discussion was about women accepting increasing levels of responsibility.
The Corbin Women’s Leadership Forum’s mission is to educate, empower and inspire the Corps of Cadets to serve as commissioned leaders of character by facilitating discussion of gender diversity and inclusion within the Corps, the Army and society, and by providing opportunities for education, mentoring and networking in support of cadets, staff and faculty.
The panel discussion was moderated by PL300 Instructor Maj. Kimberly Cowan, who also serves as the officer in charge of the Corbin Forum club. Panel members included Lt. Gen. Laura A. Potter, deputy chief of staff of intelligence of the U.S. Army; retired Brig. Gen. Cindy R. Jebb (Ph.D.), former dean of the U.S. Military Academy and current president of Ramapo College in New Jersey; Class of 2022 Cadet Anna Tovkach, deputy brigade commander; and Class of 2022 Cadet Holland Pratt, first captain.
The discussion began with the posed question — As you were moving through your career, or for our cadets moving through their time as a cadet, did you seek out increasing levels of responsibility or was it something that a mentor or maybe another leader in your life, helped direct you toward?
Pratt answered, “A little bit of both for me. I came into plebe year under the impression that I was just kind of going to glide through the year, stay super quiet and just not commit myself to anything.”
She explained to her instructor how she was not comfortable talking in class, let alone giving any type of input. Despite being the only female in the class, Pratt’s instructor encouraged her to speak up and be heard.
“From that point forward, he helped me realize that I had a responsibility to step up and be a voice. He pushed me ... to understand there’s nothing wrong with giving forth my best effort,” Pratt said.
That experience and the additional influence from her tactical officer led her to understand that she can make a difference and, as a leader, help to develop other leaders.
Potter added from the mentorship perspective, “I don’t know if these guys know this, but she (Dr. Jebb) was my mentor when we were in the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Meade. She’s part of the reason why I stayed in the Army and a part of the reason why I navigated Army life and mother life, which is absolutely doable if that is something you want to do.”
Potter then described more of her experiences with increased levels of influence, saying, “One of the things I have found very rewarding is the ability to impact change.
“What you have to hone as you’re growing up through the ranks with your increased level of responsibility is how you understand all the options your team is presenting to you, what the tradeoffs are between those options and what sort of risk you’re accepting when you make that decision.” Potter added.
When asked the same question, Jebb explained how she had no idea how much the Army’s education mission meant to her and her journey in impacting future officers.
“I surveyed the landscape and thought, if I perhaps compete to be an academy professor, I’ll have an opportunity to try and shape the curriculum in very important ways to make sure that our graduates are going to be able to critically think and be up to the challenge for complex problems that we are seeing before us,” Jebb said. “The job I have now is based on the fact that I really truly believe in the educational mission, how it transforms lives and why we need an educated citizenry here in the country to ensure that our democracy is healthy, that we’re able to prosper and able to contribute in all different ways across all sectors.”
Pratt provided a cadet’s perspective to the question, explaining the unexpected opportunities her leadership position has afforded her thus far.
“For me, it’s kind of been twofold. Number one, the opportunity to really engage with higher leadership on some perspectives that I think we have missed out on in the past.” Pratt said. “At the end of the day, the awesome thing is cadets want to do the right thing and higher leadership wants to do the right thing.
“Second thing. I would say is, any position you’re in, you are obviously always humbling yourself ... I feel like I’ve really transitioned my mode of thinking to being more of an empathetic leader not just down the chain of command but also, up the chain of command,” Pratt added. “I get to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes decision making that goes on and all the different parameters that they’re constantly having to weigh and balance.”
Tovkach added, “I think one of the best opportunities I’ve already experienced is ... everybody that works under me, I get a little piece of them so that I can help with their individual goals. Seeing how many people are working to make West Point better and to make all of us better is inspiring and an eye opening.”
After the panel commenced, the floor was left open for cadets to ask questions and carry out candid conversations with the panel members.