By Angel Lea Regalado and Franciss Nikole Elli | April 4, 2021
The university is home to numerous women leaders who work in diligent silence. The university president, Dr. Betty C. McCann, is no exception. In an interview, we were granted an exclusive narrative from the president herself on what it means to be the university president, the role models she looks up to, and even her thoughts on why we should let women lead.
Childhood experiences shaped Dr. McCann into the woman-leader that she is today. The president shares her fun moments as a child, playing games, vividly recalling how she took the “leader” roles amongst her playmates, surmising that it was perhaps because of her height and size. She recounts assigning tasks to her playmates that fit them most, mobilizing them to solve problems in all the indigenous games they played. During elementary and high school days, Dr. McCann joined service-oriented groups like the 4-H Club (Head, Heart, Hands, Health) and Girl Scout.
With eight siblings, her mother gave many roles and responsibilities that she had to fulfill. She shares that she may have resented these responsibilities before, but Dr. McCann attributed her resourcefulness and discipline today from these small roles she took as a sister. The president humbly narrates that one of the lessons she learned from these small roles was to cope and manage whatever was available to use for the family. “Because we are a big family,” she says, “we have to share whatever we have, and do the most we can.”
Being in a family that fostered her in swaddling arms of care, she looks up to the women in her family. Dr. McCann shared that her ideals are a composite of qualities she sees in her mother, her sisters, and even her nieces. The qualities of persistence, resilience, and resourcefulness are the three distinguishable traits she sees from these women.
These traits of the women she looks up to are the same ones she exhibited as a classroom teacher, Department chairperson, Dean of a college, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and now, the University President. Sometimes, she has hesitation or dilemma on how to respond to comments on her being the university’s first woman president. The remark seems as if it is more solely based on her gender and not on the work itself. She adds that while it is a historical feat for a university that never had a woman president, it is also her role to acknowledge that when a woman rises the ladder of success, she is truly qualified to do the job.
While her roles in the university are aligned to uphold its values, vision, and mission, she also fosters the university’s faculty and personnel through retooling and upskilling. During the pandemic, Dr. McCann emphasizes her interest in transformative change among faculty members. She aims to empower certain units in the university that have expertise in digital technology. To dive into the specifics, she mentioned elevating the role of the Dean of Computer Studies as the full-time director for the learning management system of the university – the Silliman Online University Learning, commonly referred to as SOUL.
As the interview drew to a close, we asked Dr. McCann how she envisions Silliman after her presidency. She says, “As I leave my position, I’d like to see more women be considered for the position of presidency.” She joins other women leaders who have been in the position for the first time as she says, “This I hope, will not end during my term.”