MSU holds women’s leadership panel

From left to right: Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill; Camille Scales Young, principal and director of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Jackson; Susan Seal, executive director of MSU’s Center for Distance Education, the event's moderator ,Rev. Allison Stacey Parvin, ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and pastor of Beth-Eden Lutheran Church in Louisville and MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Judy Bonner. The women participated in a panel on women's leadership in the rural South
Staff Writer

Four female leaders from the Starkville community took part in a panel on the Mississippi State University campus Wednesday evening.

The Women’s Leadership in the Rural South Panel Discussion was hosted by the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Participants included Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, Principal and Director at Cornerstone Government Affairs Camille Scales Young, Ordained United Methodist Elder and pastor of Beth-Eden Lutheran Church in Louisville Rev. Allison Stacey Parvin and MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Judy Bonner.

Executive director of the MSU Center for Distance Education Susan Seal served as moderator.

“One of my flaws is I am a workaholic,” Bonner said. “If I had to give my younger self advice, it would be to enjoy the ride. Time does fly by, and enjoy the ride and have some fun along the way.

Bonner also said making the sorority system at the University of Alabama more inclusive while she was president there was one of her proudest achievements.

“When it came time to make change, they were scared,” Bonner said. “They needed someone to empower them to do what they were ready to do. I was extremely proud of the young women. By the time we finished the semester, I gave them all an opportunity to continue to engage in recruitment in an un-traditional way throughout the semester. By the time we finished the semester, every traditionally-white sorority had extended invitations to friends who were African-Americans to be sisters.”

Spruill, a former U.S. Navy officer, discussed some of the challenges she faced in the military.

“I was coming of age when the answer was, ‘girls don’t do that,’” Spruill said. “This was pre-Title IX , and when I wanted to go into the military, a lot of the recruiters thought that was pretty darn funny that I wanted to fly airplanes for the military.”

Spruill ended up being the first female pilot qualified to land and take off from aircraft carriers. She also flew as a pilot for Delta Airlines.

“Somewhere in there, you’ve got to have someone who sees life differently and offers opportunities, but then it’s up to us to see those opportunities and then seize them,” Spruill said.

Parvin said it was important for women to call out inequality when they saw it.

“I sort of have this view that this whole world is a place where all are welcome and all are loved and all are respected,” Parvin said. "One way that I constantly do this is just speaking up. I was in a room today, and I realized there were no people of color in the room and there were only two women. You know, you just sort of have to keep raising awareness that we don’t have all the voices in the room.”

Parvin also said failures were often as important as successes. She said growing up seeing inequality was a big part of what shaped her childhood and drew her to the ministry.

“We moved to Starkville that was a very segregated place, and at the same time we’d never gone to church much, and my grandmother was here, and she made us go to church,” Parvin said. “I was hearing this beautiful gospel that everyone is beloved, everyone is made in the image of God and all are loved, all should be respected, all should be honored. At the same time, I was seeing a little bit of a different Starkville. I saw people being treated a little bit differently there."

Young credited her family and several organizations she was involved in with developing her leadership ability.

“My parents were very much a part of teaching me that you can do anything, and you can be anything you want to be,” Young said. “You can learn anything. You get an education, you get experience, you can do so many different things. It was people who were in some of those community organizations whether it was the sorority or 4-H or Junior League. They would see that I worked really, really hard. They would see that I would come to things early. They would see that I would stay late, that I wasn’t above sweeping the floor.”

Still, Young said she had encountered resistance through her career.

“All of the time as a female, but especially as a black female, I’ve had to be twice as good to get half as far,” Young said.

In addition to the commission, the event was also sponsored by the MSU Gender Studies Program, Student Association and I.D.E.A.L. Women organization.