Shelley N. Fidler '68, P'09
This interview is dated 8/26/2013.
Ms. Fidler is a non-lawyer Principal and Managing Director of Environmental and Government Resources at Van Ness Feldman, a Washington, D.C. law firm. She supports Brown in many capacities, including as a Women's Launch Pad Mentor. We are honored to have Shelley serve the University as new Co-Chair of the Women's Leadership Council.
Describe your experience as a Brown student and alumna.
I basically grew up at Brown. My father and uncle attended Brown in the 40s and 50s and were active on campus even while I was an undergraduate in the late 60s. When my father was a member of the Brown Corporation, I tagged along whenever possible.
In particular, I remember being very proud of Brown's relationship with Tougaloo College, which was formalized in 1964, and how important the leadership of Chaplain Charlie Baldwin and the Brown Corporation was to the cause of civil rights. My siblings and sister-in-law, nieces and son who followed me to Brown made it possible for me to stay engaged with the University every year for decades. I saw a lot of football, baseball, and soccer and many dorm rooms and off-campus apartments. College Hill remained a part of my life as I watched the University grow in quality and stature.
In a lot of ways, traveling to Brown today feels like coming home. I loved my time on campus as an art history concentrator and participated in a huge amount of Brown theatre. My favorite professor was, and is, Jim Barnhill, Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.
I loved and still love College Hill. Providence, and Brown, have changed for the better, and Brown is now the source of the city's vitality. The University continues to welcome me back, and being a member of the Women's Leadership Council gives me an excuse to come to campus to connect with all of my wonderful, intelligent, and engaged peers, the faculty, the students, and the staff at Brown.
As the new Co-Chair of the Women's Leadership Council, how do you and the Council plan to engage more Brown women to serve as volunteer and philanthropic leaders?
We have no shortage of women who want to attend events and participate in philanthropic initiatives. What the Women's Leadership Council aims to do is provide more options to connect with Brown. We want to give women graduates full opportunity to deepen their involvement with the University and continue to make Brown a part of their lives long after commencement. Their life choices, their skills, and even their families are part of Brown's past, present, and future, and we celebrate them and their achievements. We want to host them on College Hill and in their own home towns, and invite them to help the WLC connect us all and help us give back to the University. The women I encounter through Women's Leadership Council activities and events have inspired new friendships and extraordinary experiences at Brown, such as the Women's Leadership Conference in 2012. The WLC has provided the most involved and unique opportunity for me and all our members to engage creatively with the University. Through the WLC we want every Brown alumna to be able to have their own such experience.
"What the Women's Leadership Council aims to do is provide more options to connect with Brown. We want to give women graduates full opportunity to deepen their involvement with the University and continue to make Brown a part of their lives long after Commencement."
You have served as a Women's Launch Pad mentor for each of the seven years since the mentoring program began. Why is this program important? How has it benefited you?
I love the Women's Launch Pad program. I've found the engagement with Brown women in their senior year of college to be one of the most meaningful experiences I've had as an alumna. Through my participation I feel connected to the student body even without being on campus, and I enjoy working closely with my mentees to help them in any way I can. I am in touch with most of my mentees, even today, and they have also begun to mentor one another.
Each of my mentees has used the Women's Launch Pad differently. Brown students are unique; they all have different ambitions and needs. As a mentor it is challenging and exciting to discover what each student brings to the table and how I can support them. Our Brown women are changing the world!
I think the best part of being a mentor has been maintaining connections and continuing the relationships I've built with my mentees and other mentors during their time in the Women's Launch Pad program.
How do you see the Women's Leadership Council moving forward?
The University is maturing in its relationships with its alumnae. And we'll be the beneficiaries of some great new opportunities for engagement with the University under President Christina Paxson's leadership. Brown offers a rich experience which involves not only a world-class education but also addresses the critical issues of our ever-changing society. Alumni have the opportunity to learn, to contribute their unique talents and their philanthropy and to stay involved with College Hill. I see the Women's Leadership Council as an extension of that philosophy of increased and valued engagement. Through the Council we can and will continue to provide many avenues for involvement. As a volunteer I feel we receive enormous benefits for our efforts.
It is my hope that our relationship with the president and the University will flourish, and the WLC will continue to be part of this great University's ongoing, unique and irreplaceable contributions to the community of scholars, our society, and our world.