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Simmons discusses her experience in higher education on PBS

President Ruth Simmons appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS last Thursday night to discuss higher education and the challenges of leadership, basing her comments on her experiences as a black woman in a leadership position.

During the 24-minute segment — which was taped while Simmons was in Los Angeles for another event — the president talked about her education and upbringing as one of 12 children in Texas, before going on to detail the challenges she and other women face in pursuing education.

"I frankly held myself back, because I thought that the boys were supposed to be the first in class," she said. "In our community, we still have problems with women achieving."

But Simmons said boys face their own set of challenges, and that the American education system is "antithetical to the way boys are socialized."

"It's easier for girls to go through that process and to succeed — and colleges reward good behavior," she said. "Good behavior is testing well, making As. … Colleges reward people who are fast developers, and often boys, as we know, develop more slowly than girls."

Simmons also discussed other challenges and opportunities for education, specifically higher education, to serve traditionally underserved groups. She described African-American studies programs as "very valuable" and discussed the importance of historically black, hispanic-serving and women's schools.

"What has been great about our education system in this country is that it's diverse," she said. "We can be different and still be unified."

Simmons also outlined the importance of education for low-income students in the context of Brown's need-blind admissions initiative.

"This is one of the great responsibilities that nations have," Simmons said. "Everybody that was born in this country should believe in their heart of hearts that with the right amount of work and the right amount of help, they can do anything. … So we very much wanted at Brown to make sure that this idea of rich schools not being for poor kids was eliminated."
Smiley, a journalist, talk-show host and author, also asked Simmons about her high approval rating among students. "It's not approval that's important to me — I want to do something that's meaningful, and I want to do something that really makes a difference," she responded. "I seek to be courageous enough to do what's difficult."



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