By Michelle Niewald/Stephens College Senior
The values of Stephens College are no secret to the student body.
Each year, a secret society of 10 senior women team up to recognize those students who embody the Ten Ideals—10 core values Stephens women live by. President Dianne Lynch and her husband, Philip Coleman, are the only two who know the identities of those representing the Ten Ideals…but their presence is known across campus thanks to posters with messages such as: “We’re watching you … and have been since 1921.”
The group’s mission? To recognize others who demonstrate values such as respect, courage, independence and support. And when they “catch” faculty, staff and fellow students demonstrating the Ideals, “The Ten” leave elaborate gifts and displays for them in a public spot on campus, typically in Columbia Foyer.
“The Ten serves our community in extraordinary ways,” Lynch said. “Every college and university has a mission statement, and most have a set of values they articulate and point to. At Stephens — thanks in large part to the Ten—we live those values, we recognize those among us who best represent those values, and we are reminded of them on a daily basis. We walk the talk, as they say—and we do that because every year, an exceptional group of very special students is willing to do the incredibly hard work to make that possible.”
Being charged with nominating women who embody the Ten Ideals is no easy task. According to the student representing Responsibility, the group consistently works to nominate others outside of their familiar circle. “Responsibility” specifically nominates students who, in her opinion, are quiet, perhaps a student who does not hold a leadership position in an organization.
On the contrary, the student representing Leadership nominates those who take charge. “Being responsible or intelligent or creative is important, but being a leader and exemplifying these qualities inspires others to do the same,” she said.
Alumna Megan Tongue, a past member of “The Ten,” described the group as Stephens’ “private superhero club.”
“There was something heartwarming about seeing fellow students’ faces the morning of a reveal,” she said. “So many were so excited about being selected, and it made the late nights completely worth it.”
The confidence women gain from being recognized by “The Ten” is easily recognized when a display appears.
Essentially, “The Ten” hold themselves and others accountable for upholding the values and mission of Stephens College. As the role of women evolves and advances in the workplace, society and the world, “The Ten” agree it is important to empower others, especially when they may not realize anyone is watching.
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