We may see her in the dining hall, taking scrolls around campus, or working hard through her office window. We see her as our first woman president and potentially someone we can all look up to. We see a professional, a woman who is motivated and about her business, or we may even see someone who could make a difference. But, do any of us see her as our friend? Do we see someone we can get to know on a personal level? Anne Skleder, President of Brenau University, is full of love, excitement, and so much more than meets the eye.
As I walked into our interview, Skelder greeted me with a big hug and an even bigger smile. Immediately, she told me how excited she was to meet with me and how she was interested in the angle for my profile story. But, something caught my eye while she was talking with me. As I looked around her office, I noticed that her four walls were not white, but they were butter yellow. Skleder then begin to explain to me that yellow was her favorite color. Skleder says, “When I was younger, my family and I moved around a lot and it was my mother’s tradition to always paint the kitchen yellow in every new house.” In fact, there are many landmarks in Skleder’s office that express her interests and personality. She has many photos of her beautiful family, especially nieces and nephews. Also, she is a lover of all art forms and she has the beautiful sculpture “Uptown Girl” by Don Haugen in her office corner.
As she sings in the shower or listens to jazz and blues, Skleder spends her relaxing and spare time cooking and reading. She describes herself as a “big foodie” with her favorites being middle eastern food, Thai food, Indian food, etc. But, there is almost no food in the world that Skleder does not like. However, food ties into one of her favorite things to do which is to travel. Skleder and her family have developed a tradition that every 2 years they take a trip somewhere around the world such as Germany, Spain, etc. With traveling, Skleder has been able to see, eat, and experience many different things. Nonetheless, the most adventurous thing Skleder has done was staying remotely in a remote village in Africa for community service work helping teachers educate students.
Skelder is a life-time girl scout which impacts the social movements she is passionate about and supports. Skelder says, “Selling cookies was an extremely important part of my younger life and my brother would help me drag them around. It taught me how to talk to strangers, learn how to sell, make change, figure out the money, etc.” Women’s education and interpersonal violence involving women are social movements that Skelder hold near and dear to her heart. It is very disturbing to Skleder how in 2020 there is still a large number of women who go through violent situations and may not have a way out or even children who are exposed to this type of violence. On the other hand, the percentage of women with a college degree are still slim and Skelder feels strongly about the need for change on that number. However, I had the privilege of seeing her passion for these social movements through her eyes while talking to her. I could see how she had support, concern, and passion for many women she did not even know which I saw as truly genuine and I lived in that moment with her.
Whenever Skelder is having a bad day or feels down, meeting students is always something that will brighten it up regardless of how she feels. One of Skelder’s life changing experiences was when she found out she wanted to be a teacher. Skelder says, “When I walked into a classroom to teach for the first time, it was like magic and it was like the scene on The OZ where everything turns from black and white into beautiful colors. I thought that this is paradise and where I need to be for the rest of my life.” Skleder loves her job and being around students so much that work does not ever seem like work to her. Sydney Hencil, a sophomore at Brenau University says, “She is a very vibrant and lovely woman who always has a smile on her face and makes me feel welcomed.”
Skleder is so much more than just our president. She is now someone who likes the same food as you, someone who gives you big hugs and smiles, or someone who loves the same music as you. Jody Wall, Chief of Staff and Executive Assistance to the president says, “The three words I would use to describe her personality is kindness, concerned, and boundless energy.” Skleder is more relatable than most people get to see, and she is full of surprises with a very caring persona. So, now whenever you see her taking that walk around campus, join her and maybe ask how things are going in her life or even ask about her lovely cat Nutmeg. Who knows? Maybe now she’ll even be the person you call for new cooking recipes.