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Jan. 5, 2024

New MSU program to champion leadership opportunities for women in business

Portrait of Priya Balasubramaniam
A gift from MSU alumna Priya Balasubramaniam, vice president of operations at Apple Inc., established the Dashney Women’s Leadership Accelerator in the Broad College of Business.

Research published in 2023 found that men are 2.5 times more likely than women to be executives in top leadership teams and only 10% of CEOs are women. A game-changing gift to Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business seeks to address the gender gap and propel women graduates into the C-suite.

The gift, from Priya Balasubramaniam (MBA ’01), establishes the Dashney Women’s Leadership Accelerator, or DWLA, to equip dozens of students each year with the abilities and confidence to pursue professional leadership positions. With long-term mentoring, coaching, workshops and experiential learning opportunities, the DWLA provides a powerful, immersive experience for select undergraduates.

For more than 20 years, Balasubramaniam has called Broad College faculty member Helen Dashney a mentor and friend, and her gift is in honor of their lasting relationship. Dashney will serve as the DWLA director, offering one-on-one mentorship to admitted students — known as DWLA Scholars. Her role also will include crafting personalized leadership development plans and cultivating a champion network to assist scholars after they graduate and to connect them with future DWLA cohorts.

“I have grown and derived joy from special relationships with students over the years, many of them still ongoing,” said Dashney, who has worked at the Broad College since 1996. “To have someone as accomplished and humble as Priya recognize my work at Broad with this gift is perhaps the pinnacle of my 50-plus-year career. I will strive to honor her by contributing to the confidence with which DWLA Scholars and their connected peers launch their professional careers.”

Balasubramaniam, vice president of operations at Apple Inc., says the unwavering support she received from Dashney was her driving inspiration to pay it forward. Whether it meant knowing she had someone who cared or having a sounding board to provide meaningful guidance when facing professional challenges, she found Dashney’s mentorship immensely helpful.

“She exemplifies the kind of support from advisers that can help you turn hopelessness into hope, and that is paramount in the creation of the accelerator.”

A group of women posing
The inaugural cohort of Dashney Women's Leadership Accelerator Scholars. Credit: Broad College of Business

Balasubramaniam has given back to MSU in many ways over the years and said establishing the DWLA is all about “making sure young women are geared up to be intentional and have purpose in their actions and activities. Shining a light and passing things forward.”

Selections for the inaugural cohort were announced on Dec. 8, 2023, welcoming 14 DWLA Scholars to the accelerator with programming beginning in January 2024.

Alexis Cuellar, a junior majoring in accounting, is one of the first DWLA participants. As the first in her family of eight siblings to attend college, she said being selected helped validate her decisions and expand her leadership skills.

“I am grateful and beyond excited to be part of a community of women with diverse experiences that can add to my learning and personal growth, and I hope to contribute to their journeys as well,” Cuellar said.

Learn more about the Dashney Women’s Leadership Accelerator at MSU.

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