WLAG Women Leaders: Leadership Lessons We All Can Grow From
Chrys Egan: Communication Arts and Youth Leader
by Randal Joy Thompson
Randal Joy Thompson is an International Development Scholar-Practitioner and Founder of the company Excellence, Equity, and Empowerment.
The backstories of the many high caliber women leaders in ILA’s Women and Leadership member community offer valuable lessons for young women moving into leadership positions and inspire all women leaders to keep pushing, sometimes against all odds, to break the barriers that women face. This article is the fourth in a series that highlights women in the community and shares their stories of perseverance and exceptional achievement. Sketches of their personal lives also provide us a view into how high achieving women balance their work and home lives. Incoming 2020 Women and Leadership Chair Chrys Egan brings a communication and arts perspective into the community as Chrys is not only a Communication Arts Professor at Salisbury University, but also a musician, poet, and media personality. Chrys is also dedicated to fostering leadership among the youth to prepare them for the emerging challenges of the future. Chrys’s work is another example of the diverse backgrounds held by members of the community.
Chrys Egan: Communication Arts and Youth Leader
Named as one of Maryland’s Top Women Professionals for 2019 by The Daily Record, a Baltimore-based business newspaper, incoming 2020 Chair of ILA’s Women and Leadership member community, Chrys Egan, is Professor of Communication Arts at Salisbury University (SU) in Maryland, where she is also a Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) Scholar in Residence. Chrys blends a panoply of creative talents with her professional leadership and provides us with a model of how to blend creativity with our responsibilities and how to design a healthy work/life balance. We look forward to enhancing the creativity of our member community in 2020 under her leadership.
Chrys is devoted to fostering youth leadership, both at SU and also in the ILA Youth Leadership member community and recommends that all leaders give their leadership experiences and expertise to the next generations. She leads the Youth Innovation Academy at SU where middle school girls and boys explore innovation and leadership. The cohort of middle school students from several Maryland counties discovers inventive programs at SU and the local area through a variety of field trips that Chrys often leads. At SU, Academy students have the opportunity to gain a variety of experience including: 3D printing, information technology, blogging, light board video, TV and audio production, amination soundtracks, stop-motion video, visual design, medical simulation, neuroscience, chemistry, solar energy, geoscience, bee keeping, sustainability, business development, international dance, vision boards, and daily leadership training. Her emphasis is on inclusive leadership. She is committed to helping others enhance their leadership, especially people who may have been marginalized.
“Supporting and developing very young leaders will teach you a lot about the human spirit and capacity. Creating age-appropriate leadership training and opportunities allows these young people palpable growth in skills and confidence toward their leadership identity.”
At SU, Chrys holds several other leadership positions, including most recent past president of the Faculty Senate and co-director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity to promote student conferencing and publication. Chrys also serves as co-principal investigator of a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant to form the PROMISE Academy at SU, which will recruit scientists from traditionally underrepresented groups into faculty positions. She has received several awards including President’s Diversity for Faculty, Student Government Association Outstanding Faculty, Alumni Faculty Appreciation, Outstanding Research Mentor, President’s Faculty Recognition, Distinguished Faculty, and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Excellence in Mentoring. However, her long-time partner and two sons, age 11 and 15, ensure her humility and humor.
Chrys is an acute observer and a passionate critic of popular culture. She served as President and on the Executive Council of the Popular Culture Association of the South. At SU, she teaches about how media plays a big role in how we communicate at the university and in other aspects of our lives and she encourages us to reflect upon the impact media is having upon our ideas, our values, and our time. Her popular culture work includes appearing on the WBOC-16 television station to discuss the effects of binge-watching televisions shows. She says binge watching gives us instant gratification, which appeals to us as viewers.
"It's like going to a buffet…There's all this food available to you, you're kind of interested in checking everything out…You have a busy day, you're stressed out, you can sit down and get totally engrossed in the storyline that can go on and on for as many hours as you choose."
She also has published “Hungry for Change: The Hunger Games’ Sociopolitical Impact on Global Audiences” in Heroes, Heroines, and Everything In Between: Challenging Gender and Sexuality Stereotypes in Children's Entertainment Media; and “Producer as Star: The Influence of Dick Wolf in NBC’s Popular Crime Drama Chicago PD,” in Celebrity Media Effects: The Persuasive Power of the Stars, as well as many other articles that ask us to reflect on the role of media in our lives. Perhaps her most unusual article is, “Gourmet Babies: French Accents in American Baby Food,” in the European Journal of American Culture.
Chrys began connecting with ILA and the Women and Leadership member community through a visiting international colleague from New Zealand who encouraged her to attend the Women and Leadership Colloquium in 2014. Since then, she has been very active in the community, serving as Chair of the Communications Committee and Co-Chair of the Women and Leadership Conference in 2017 at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Since then, she has presented at all of ILA’s Women and Leadership, Annual Global, and Youth Leadership conferences.
“What I appreciate most about the International Leadership Association are the members, who display the best of leadership practices. Especially in the Women and Leadership member community, colleagues support and challenge each other to reach higher. My most significant leadership training and experience have been thanks to the ILA and its communities.”
Chrys is co-editor along with Dionne Rosser-Mims, Janet McNellis, and Juanita Johnson-Bailey, of the upcoming 2020 book, Pathways into the Political Arena: The Perspectives of Global Women Leaders, a book inspired by ILA’s Women and Leadership: Research, Theory, and Practice series. The book brings together theory, research, and practical lessons for scholars, practitioners, and current and emerging leaders in the realm of political leadership. Overall, too many women in politics hit a “glass ceiling” or go over a “glass cliff” that is financial-, social-, racial-, or gender- based. The book explores current research findings, development practices, pedagogy, and lived experiences to deliver provocative thinking that enhances leadership knowledge and improves leadership development of women around the world.
Chrys’s extensive research on women’s leadership includes her work with a bi-national cohort of female scholars to develop the Capacious Model of Leadership Identities Construction, which illustrates the fluidity of leadership identities over time. She co-authored the chapter, “Capacious Model of Leadership Identities Construction,” in the 2017 volume, Theorizing Women and Leadership: New Insights and Contributions from Multiple Perspectives, edited by Julia Storberg-Walker and Paige Haber-Curran. She also co-authored the 2019 article, “The Capacious Model and Leader Identity,” in the Journal of Leadership Studies (ILA members, log in to ILA Intersections and follow the links to gain free access to this journal). Some of Chrys’s other leadership publications include her co-authored 2018 case, “Women and Self-Leadership: Necessary and Successful,” part of the SAGE Business Cases: Women & Leadership Series and her co-authored 2017 chapter, “Women’s Leadership Identity: Exploring Person and Context,” in Handbook of Research on Gender and Leadership.
When not at her “day job,” Chrys has worked as a fitness instructor for yoga and indoor cycling (spin), and has competed in marathons, triathlons (swim, bike, run), and century cycling (100 miles). She has performed live and on several musical albums, providing vocals, bass guitar, and percussion for punk, blues, and acoustic bands. She has competed in “slam poetry” events, published in feature magazines, and appeared on a spoken word album. She recently took 39 undergraduate students by plane several states away to all present individual projects at a conference (and brought them all back) and chaperoned 22 middle school students on a canoe trip (nobody tipped over).
With so many creative talents and passions, Chrys is a model for integrating her creativity with her professional responsibilities and can provide us all with lessons in how to balance our lives. As she says,
“Rather than use the metaphor of work/life balance as a scale, I prefer the notion of work/life enhancement or spillover. Instead of aiming for a 50/50 separation and equilibrium between two spheres of life, consider how multiple parts and roles in our lives blend. There are both positives and negatives in all areas of our lives, so the key is not life versus work, but making peace with the unavoidable negatives and truly enjoying the positives.”
Connect with Chrys and the Women and Leadership member community at Leading Differently: Capacity Building, Knowledge Sharing, Intergenerational Networking, the 5th Women and Leadership conference, which will take place in Albany, NY at the Women’s Leadership Institute at The College of Saint Rose from June 7-10, 2020, or online at the Women and Leadership member community.