Making It Matter: Joan King Salwen '82
In 2008, Salwen and her husband Kevin Salwen ’79 (Medill) sold their 6,500-square-foot home in Atlanta and moved into a house half that size. As a result, they were able to donate $800,000 to the Hunger Project and to write their bestselling book, The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back. Salwen is now the interim head of the Atlanta Girls' School.
Since leaving Northwestern, I've had two very different careers. My first for 20 years was at the technology services company Accenture, where I became the first female partner in the Southeast. Near the end of my time there, I developed a mentoring program for women in the company. One of the things I observed was that these tremendously well-educated women had flagging self-confidence, little appetite for risk, and no ability to forgive themselves for failing at times.
Around the same time, a woman MBA from Harvard founded the Atlanta Girls' School, which is devoted to understanding how girls learn and to applying research-driven methods to encourage them to become thoughtful, capable leaders. It's very diverse. Roughly a third of all students receive need-based financial aid, and a greater percentage are students of color. All go on to college. When offered the opportunity, I left Accenture, went back to grad school and became a 42-year-old rookie teacher, which was humbling and sobering.
In my work, I devote myself to girls and young women, supporting them as they explore and develop their curiosity, tenacity and resilience. Although it was difficult, I am unbelievably grateful that I was able to begin something new in my 40s that is extremely important and fulfilling.