The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


From women's empowerment to global awareness, Jennifer Potter exemplifies Chatham's ideals

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Potter

Alumna Jennifer Potter wants to show Chatham students how to be well rounded, cultured, successful and empowered women.  She graduated with a degree in Political Science in 1966 and in 2003 was the founding CEO of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), which focuses on the reduction of poverty in Third World countries, mostly in Africa.

Between the administrative staff, human resources, fundraising staff, and the communication and marketing departments, IGD has offices around the world. Commenting on her 10 years at the company, Potter said that leadership and the ability to cooperate are key points to every successful venture. The positions called for hiring people who were highly organized and goal-oriented.

Potter’s responsibilities included hiring and conducting interviews. She commented on the need for writing programs like those at Chatham because of her experience conducting those interviews.

A key attribute to a successful interview is demonstrating that you can compose a, “persuasive, literate, and grammatical email,” to ensure efficient and accurate communication, given the company’s number of locations. In fact, communication skills are a major aspect of the position.

While CEO of the company, Potter also sat on the leadership council of the organization. Members of the council took personality tests that measured their communication skills. After taking the tests, she said the results were helpful when it came to discovering each person’s role in the company.

The test pointed out the peacemakers, the enforcers, and leaders within the company.  Once these roles were clear, cooperation within the company was strengthened. “Two heads are better than one, four are better than two and 12 are even better,” Potter said.

After retiring as CEO last year, Potter was approached by another board with similar aims.  She is now working on the board of a company called Landesa.  Landesa’s mission is to aid in securing land rights for the impoverished of the world. Potter’s background in global poverty and business made her a perfect match for the company.  Landesa has very influential supporters such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Potter still cares about the welfare of others, so she is serving on another board this year. For 2014, Potter will serve as the President of the Board of Trustees at Chatham University. She said that all of her endeavors are important, “but that Chatham takes top priority.”

Potter has not forgotten her love of Chatham and understands that the school helped her to achieve her goals. She spoke of the importance of a liberal arts education. She pointed out the need for core psychology, sociology and philosophy courses in order to understand the multiple facets of life.  Also, these courses carry over into the workplace when working with other people.

She went on to explain that the need for cooperation and leadership in the workplace can be formed at Chatham University through rigorous classes and extracurricular activities.  She also said that women are underrepresented in many fields including business and some academic arenas, but hopes that will change with a new generation of inspired students. Potter went on to explain her theory that it is important to “not only do well, but [do] good,” as in good in the world.

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