Women in Leadership Connect: CGSC staff, students share mentorship, camaraderie
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ret. Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia, Women in Leadership, Make the Connection coordinator, second from left, talks with Monique Guerrero, director of interagency programs at the Command and General Staff School, during a social for the Women in Leadership, Make the Connection mentorship group Aug. 11 at the Frontier Army Museum. (Photo Credit: Prudence Siebert) VIEW ORIGINAL
Women in Leadership Connect: CGSC staff, students share mentorship, camaraderie
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command and General Staff Officer Course students Capt. Sacarra Pusey, Capt. Elisha Darby, Maj. Lacey Dean and Capt. Sheila Holder get to know one another better at the Women in Leadership, Make the Connection mentorship group social Aug. 11 at the Frontier Army Museum. (Photo Credit: Russell Toof) VIEW ORIGINAL

Female faculty and staff members from Army University met with women attending the Command and General Staff College to discuss mentorship connections and enjoy refreshments during the Women in Leadership, Make the Connection August social Aug. 11 at the Frontier Army Museum.

Women in Leadership, Make the Connection Coordinator ret. Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia explained that the program connects Army University students to mentors, many of whom are retired military professionals with shared life experience who have attended Army University courses. She said the program also allows students to interact outside of their classroom and hallway environments, which are sometimes the only spaces students connect with peers and teaching teams.

“This allows the women to see more of the women who are students, to find people who they have a common bond with — common life experience or a common branch or job — that they might not meet or encounter in their normal school socialization,” Garcia said. “The school offers social events at the staff group level, and there are typically two women in a staff group, sometimes only one.”

For example, she said, the Tailored, Talent-Based Military Education program has one of the best dynamics this year for women to learn with five female students in a class of 15.

“I’m excited to see how the dynamics in those classrooms evolve with the instructors they have.”

One of Garcia’s roles as coordinator includes matching mentors and mentees in groups of two to four over e-mail. She said she asks students what kind of mentorship they are seeking, such as shared experiences in single motherhood, dual military or in certain fields.

“Sometimes it’s just someone to bounce ideas off of,” Garcia said.

Monique Guerrero, interagency programs director at the Command and General Staff School, serves as a Women in Leadership, Make the Connection mentor, sharing expertise from her four years as an instructor and her experience with women in leadership during her military career.

“Having been on staff, I understand that there is a shortage of female leadership inside the building. These women are outstanding and amazing, and they deserve the same kind of mentorship as everybody else,” Guerrero said. “The things that (these women) are going to be concerned about are things that women who have already walked that path are best suited to help them with. They’re more likely to come to us with a problem, issue or concern than go to a man.”

Guerrero said she wants mentees to believe in themselves and make sure their voices are heard.

“They have something to offer, and they have a different perspective, and that can be extremely important when you’re working…across the board,” Guerrero said. “You can’t teach confidence, but you can help them explore themselves and what they’re going to express based on their personality.”

Potential mentees spoke to each other about their classroom experiences and career goals.

“I thought it was kind of cool to look for a mentor,” said Capt. Sheila Holder, CGSOC student. “Females are low in the numbers, and I think it’s cool to see what other (women) are around to connect with them.”

Holder and other mentees agreed that working with a male majority is not uncommon; it’s something they have experienced throughout their careers.

“To meet other women, not just Army women but our sister services and the international women, where we have this common experience across the globe is really awesome because we don’t get that in our day-to-day lives,” said Maj. Lacey Dean, CGSOC student.

Garcia said the Women in Leadership, Make the Connection program began under the leadership of former CGSS Director Col. Scott Green after Garcia attended a conference on women in leadership for professional development.

“One of the things I learned is the first barrier for women to find another woman as a mentor was access. Typically, if a woman is in a position to be a mentor, she’s crazy busy, she’s got a full schedule, and she interacts with people that may not be at the same level as the potential mentee.”

When Green asked how the school could better support women in its program, she recommended a group to provide female students and faculty access to each other. Garcia said the school first hosted socials in the fall of 2019 and the program has since evolved to provide access, support relationships and to remind students they are not alone in their experience as female students in male-dominated spaces.

Garcia said the group plans to host monthly events, sponsored by women who volunteer to be mentors, with optional attendance. To get involved, e-mail Garcia at michelle.m.garcia.civ@army.mil or the CGSC Foundation at office@cgscf.org.