Kymm Carlson ’94 and Carolyn Miles ‘83
If worrying about your children’s well-being has ever kept you up at night, imagine worrying about 70 million of them. That is the responsibility Carolyn Miles ’83, P’14 took on when she became president and CEO of the international organization Save the Children, which serves children in need in 120 countries, including the U.S. The first woman to lead the organization, Miles has helped double the number of children it reaches with food, education and other programs and also helped boost its budget from $140 million to more than $650 million.
So how does one prepare for such a staggering role? Miles says Bucknell paved the way. “You’re not just sitting in a class absorbing information. You’re engaging. People listen to you. You learn that your ideas matter. What that did for me was give me the confidence to take risks, try new things and put myself out there.”
Indeed, she soon put herself in a whole new environment—working for American Express in Asia. There she came face to face with the dramatic poverty in which so many children around the world live. “I realized that poor children had virtually no opportunities compared to my kids. It really hit home for me and I wanted to change that,” she says.
While one often hears the phrase “be the change,” how many actually answer the call? With a rare combination of knowledge, ability and courage, Bucknellians often seem to do so. On campus and in the world, students, alumni and faculty not only want to change things for the better, they do.
Miles sees that drive in fellow Bucknellians such as Kymm Carlson ’94, who came to Save the Children at the same time Miles did. “When we hire Bucknell interns, we see it too,” Miles says. “They have intellect, poise and passion, but something more. They have an ability to read situations, which is so important. In fact, it’s a key to leadership. Especially in the kind of work we do, sometimes the best thing you can do is convince somebody else to lead. It’s something seasoned leaders learn how to do.”
Just how does one become seasoned? Miles advises new leaders to do exactly what Bucknell taught her: “Take the scarier path. The one that’s not comfortable. The one where you will learn the most.”