People

Alumni Spotlight: Carolyn Cavicchio, MGA '91

December 7, 2016

Carolyn Cavicchio, MGA '91, is currently the Associate Director at Colorado Women's College. Fels student Meghan Pierce, MPA '18, sat down with Carolyn to discuss Colorado Women's College, her career, and Fels. 

Please describe your role as Associate Director at Colorado Women's College and how you became interested in this work:

I first worked with Colorado Women's College (CWC) as a consultant, helping them develop their most recent strategic plan. I'm now on staff in the newly-created position of Associate Director, focusing on implementation of that plan. CWC is a 127-year-old women's college and has been part of the University of Denver (DU) since 1982. Over the years, the college has evolved from a 4-year program for traditional undergraduates to a night and weekend program for non-traditional women, many of whom deferred college in order to work and raise families.   

Unfortunately, like many women's colleges around the country, enrollment has been on a decline, and the decision was recently made to end operations as a degree-granting institution and transform into a Collaboratory, focused on gender equity and women's leadership and advancement. We're looking across the whole of DU -- students, faculty, and staff -- to address issues of gender equity, and are also developing a research agenda in partnership with both DU faculty and other colleges and universities around the country. We're even exploring how we can turn our building, the Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women, into a shared workspace for women's organizations that want to collaborate in order to address common challenges. It's an exciting time to be here at CWC, and it builds nicely from my recent work as Interim Vice President for Programs at the Ms. Foundation for Women, where I oversaw grantmaking efforts in Women's Safety, Economic Justice, and Reproductive Justice. As my classmates will remember, I'm a lifelong feminist and social justice advocate, so having the opportunity to work on behalf of women, after a career in the corporate sector, has been incredibly satisfying! 

How has Fels helped you in your career? 

Fels helped me learn to think more strategically, and to look for outside-the-box solutions to problems. It also taught me great lessons about working in teams, which continue to benefit me in my work.  As an alumna of the Spady era, I benefited a great deal from the public speaking classes we took with Jamie Humes, who has published books on the art of public speaking, was a Presidential speech-writer, and delivered an impressive Winston Churchill impersonation! 

What was your favorite Fels course and why? 

My favorite Fels classes were the evening workshops featuring Fels alumni, who were always incredibly candid about their careers and the challenges they faced, and the ways that Fels had helped them.  Beyond the practical advice provided, it was interesting to see what a diverse group of people had gone through Fels, and how many different career paths could be launched from a Fels degree. 

What advice do you have for incoming students? 

I think I learned as much from my classmates at Fels as from any class I took; most people had worked for at least a few years before coming to grad school and had really fascinating experiences. That proved extraordinarily helpful when we worked together on group projects -- having a range of backgrounds and experiences on a team made for a higher quality work product, and a much more enjoyable work experience. I would encourage incoming students to get to know their classmates and to try and work with a wide a range of fellow students during their time at Fels. And to definitely stay connected after graduation -- the Fels network is a powerful one! 

Anything else you would like to share? 

I would suggest that Fels students really take part in the University of Pennsylvania. Attend plays at the Annenberg Center, visit the University Museum and the other incredible institutions of University City. Take advantage of the other schools outside of Fels as a way to broaden your knowledge. Most importantly, enjoy time with classmates while you have it!

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu