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Updated 8:30 PM March 4, 2008




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Coleman among women leaders to speak at Dubai gathering

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Undergraduates in Africa, around world >

President Mary Sue Coleman will join women leaders from the worlds of philanthropy, social activism, journalism and entertainment to address the Women as Global Leaders Conference March 10 at Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The international conference, established in 2004, brings together an audience of women students from 85 countries to learn lessons of leadership from outstanding women.

Among those addressing the conference are Jane Fonda, actress and social activist; Sarah Ferguson, the Dutchess of York; Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer and the first astronaut of Iranian descent; Helen Thomas, former White House Bureau Chief and noted journalist; and Carol Bellamy, former head of UNICEF, CEO of World Learning and president of the School for International Training.

Coleman says she accepted the invitation because she wants to support and encourage the United Arab Emirates' progress in higher education offerings for women.

In her remarks Coleman will share lessons she has learned as president of one of the largest and most research-intensive universities in the United States.

Universities have an extraordinary purpose, Coleman noted in her speech. "Unlike a business that must make a profit, or a military that must keep the peace or win wars, or a nonprofit agency that pursues the social good, a university exists to promote a limitless marketplace of ideas — a marketplace in which ideas are tested, refined and sharpened by competition.

"That is why we matter. We embody the aspirations of a society that turns to us for solutions, cures and answers."

Coleman says her responsibility at the University is to protect the right of students and faculty to "express and pursue ideas."

"The overriding value of a university is academic freedom. As president, I have a huge responsibility to protect the rights of individual members of our community to express their ideas and opinions.

"All this activity stimulates the intellectual ferment that is the foundation of democracy."

Coleman offers simple and direct advice to the future leaders attending the conference:

• "Own what you inherit; learn and understand what has come before you and build on it;

• "Embrace the differences that surround you; diversity of knowledge and point of view add richness to ideas, approaches, and solutions;

• "Use your voice as your most commanding tool; organizations look to leaders to inspire and show the way through their words;

• "Make the difficult choices, and inform them with clear ethical standards;

• "Don't take it personally. People will praise and blame the leader, no matter who is in the position; and

• "It's OK to be human; it's part of leadership."

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