Spotlight on: NYU Women’s Initiative
March 15, 2023
Read about one woman’s drive and dedication to engage NYU’s more than 200,000 alumnae in University life as chairwoman of the NYU Women’s Initiative (WI). “My personal mission is that every woman I meet reaches their full potential and enjoys the life they envision for themselves.” Judith Balkin (TSOA ’72), chairwoman of WI, tells all about the Women’s Initiative as well as how alumnae can get involved with WI.
As the chairwoman of the NYU Women’s Initiative, it has been Judith Balkin’s (TSOA ’72) great privilege to serve the alumnae of NYU. She says, “my personal mission is that every woman I meet reaches their full potential and enjoys the life they envision for themselves.” Over the last eleven years, the Women’s Initiative has put on an impressive array of events in an attempt to engage NYU’s more than 200,000 alumnae.
The mission of the Women's Initiative (WI) is to empower NYU alumnae through educational, cultural, or networking events. Programs and events featuring outstanding NYU faculty and fellow alums provide graduates opportunities to return to the University, meet prominent leaders and scholars, and continue lifelong learning.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Balkin to share more with fellow Violets about who WI is as a group, how WI has evolved since she became chair in 2012, and how other alumni can get involved.
How long have you been part of WI and why do you continue to show up?
I have been the chairwoman of the NYU Women’s Initiative for the past 11 years. Whether we’re doing a fun event, such as attending a Liberty basketball game at Madison Square Garden, going behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or learning how to stand up for yourself at work, our events have enabled women to change and grow and bond with each other. I pride myself in that all our events offer behind the scenes, exclusive and private elements that are not offered to the general public.
What are some of the ways the NYU WI has evolved since its inception?
When I took over the NYU Women’s Initiative 11 years ago, it existed only on paper. It enabled me to think long and hard about what this unique alumni group could offer for the women of NYU. The first thing I did was write a mission statement, to empower women through educational, cultural, or networking events. Through the last 11 years, I have done approximately two events a month, except during the summer. They have been extremely varied and appealing to women of all ages and stages in life.
What are some of the events or initiatives that you’re most proud of?
Every year we honor women in the military during Fleet Week which is a high point for us and what I’m most proud of. Past events include a collaboration between WI and the United Nations, which focused on the economic outlook for women.
Some really fun events were Breakfast at Tiffany’s where we were able to see the work room where they design and execute their beautiful jewelry, followed by a delicious reception.
We also visited NFL headquarters, where we met some current players and got a tour of the Superbowl rings and every team’s uniforms. The NFL made a yummy violet cocktail to honor NYU’s official color along with a lavish buffet. There’s just been so many memorable events.
Are there any exciting events or programs coming up for your fellow Violets to look forward to?
We just celebrated Valentine’s Day with fellow alumni at Tandoor Oven in NYC where we ate wonderful food and played some games.
On March 16, the NYU Women's Initiative and Stern Women in Business Alumnae Council will host a special conversation on discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Ann Olivarius, renowned lawyer on sexual harassment and equal rights, will lead a conversation on how to recognize normalized discrimination and advocate for yourself in a challenging environment. This event is in support of NYU One Day, NYU’s University-wide 24-hour day of giving, so a portion of your registration fee will count towards One Day!
Other upcoming events include another joint event with the United Nations but this time the topic will be on the climate crisis and will feature speakers from all over the world. Plus, we will continue our time honored tradition of honoring women in the military during Fleet Week in May.
Do you have any stories you want to share about your time and experience since joining the NYU WI?
My executive board has been with me for many years, some from the beginning. I have made deep friendships with my board members and do everything in my power to help them in their career and/or personal life.
Because my job entails finding and curating events, and making sure they are successful, I had to develop talents that I didn’t even know I possessed. I always have to negotiate for the best price at venues due to budget and needing to keep the costs to a minimum; I get to write interesting copy for the invitations; I am always on site with other executive board members to make sure that everyone is having a good time and feels included.
I’ve gained both invaluable skills and friendships over the last eleven years with the Women’s Initiative.
What do you hope to accomplish within NYU and what impact do you want to have on the wider community?
I want our members to feel a part of something big and great, and to feel that NYU is a family they can rely on. There are so many resources available to our alumni and I am proud that the NYU Women’s Initiative is there to support our alumni no matter what age or stage of life they are in.
How can alumni get involved with the NYU WI?
Join our club (by joining the Women’s Initiative listserv) and come to our events!