Women’s Leadership Certificate Program a ‘Life-changing’ Experience


August 30, 2022
Gonzaga University News Service

SPOKANE, Wash. – Prior to 2021, Tienaya Sigmund-Godes struggled with her confidence. A dedicated mom of six children who described herself as “really quiet,” Sigmund-Godes had served on numerous boards regionally and nationally, but had difficulty seeing her own strengths. That all began to change when she enrolled in Gonzaga University’s Certificate in Women’s Leadership in the fall of 2021.

Sigmund-Godes learned about the certificate while participating in the Essential Skills program, an initiative launched by the ZoNE Project in partnership with Gonzaga University's Opportunity Northeast program to help Northeast Spokane women develop job readiness skills. One of the presenters, Rachelle Strawther, Director of Gonzaga’s Center for Lifelong Learning, encouraged her to join the Certificate in Women’s Leadership as a way to continue learning and enhance her confidence.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Sigmund-Godes gushed. “I had an amazing cohort of women. It forced me to look deeper inside myself. What we read and listened to gave me a new lens, a different perspective.”

Gonzaga’s Center for Lifelong Learning is expanding the university’s continuing education offerings, partnering with campus units such as the School of Leadership Studies on certificate programs like the one Sigmund-Godes took.

Emerging Stronger

For Sigmund-Godes, the Gonzaga experience elicited what was latent, learned through the rough and tumble of ordinary living.

“My certificate helped me gain skills in what I already had,” she said. “I don’t have a college degree but I have life experience. I am easily relatable, empathetic. I was always ‘less than’ but the certificate program brought out my strengths.”

Her instructor, Julie Kelsey, noticed the transformation.

“After getting over some initial fears and discomfort as the course began, I could see Tienaya’s confidence grow week after week,” Kelsey said. “As a result of rolling up her sleeves and diving headfirst into the experience, Tienaya has grown as a leader in ways she never imagined.”

No Longer on Sidelines

Sigmund-Godes stays in touch with her certificate cohort. “I get to pick my village and it’s full of strong, powerful women and men. I know I have shoulders to lean on,” she said.

“Now I can be proud of what I’ve done. I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor. I hold my shoulders back, my head a little higher. I’m stronger as a person.”

She’s also proud that her children, now ages 8 through 18, show their support for her. One of her daughters told her, “You’re different now.”

Sigmund-Godes has served Head Start at every level as a parent ambassador. Beyond local involvement, she landed on the state’s parents board and received training in telling her story. She was the only parent advocate on Head Start’s national board of directors during her term, offering input alongside program directors, teachers and managers of childcare centers.

She’s also involved with the Save the Children Action Network, serving as outreach lead. Further, Sigmund-Godes works for Alphy, a new social and learning network for women. She met its CEO at an Essential Skills social and networking event and it later turned into a job offer.

‘It is life-changing’

Sigmund-Godes offered this advice to someone hesitant to take the plunge with the Certificate in Women’s Leadership:

“No matter what gender you are, taking it is life-changing. I would encourage a guy, my sons to take it. It gives you a different lens to look through. If you really want to grow as an individual, that class will do it. The classes and experiences are just amazing, with a powerhouse team.”

Encourage her sons to take it? She’s not kidding. She’s teaching some of the lessons to all of her children.

Explore professional development programs.