Meet Legacy Leadership Executive: Lita Hooper-Simanga

Lita Hooper-Simanga is one of the Legacy Leadership Executives at the Lola.

Working closely with The Lola and Sage D, Lita is one of the many Black women business owners who break bounds in order to provide further opportunities for others in the community. Her collective efforts throughout the Legacy Leadership program have not only enriched The Lola’s DEI efforts but has encouraged executives to recognize their own worth and expertise in their respective fields. By affirming their intrinsic value, untethered from mere work, Lita empowers Black women business leaders to leave a lasting impact and forge a legacy that will inspire them.

Legacy Leadership Executive, Lita, is an advocate of digital education for both personal and professional growth.

I have been in higher education for over 25 years. I started as an English professor and during the time I was teaching, I went from, face-to-face, campus-based teaching to online teaching. I worked for a variety of colleges and universities, from public two-year colleges, to HBCUs, to private for-profits. And those three are important because they are very different in the way that they grant access. Digital learning is important to me because of access to higher education for more people of color and people who are in rural communities. It has opened the door for a lot of people who would not have access to higher education.

I am currently getting my small business, the PDE Team, up and running. PDE stands for Professional Development for educators.

The PDE team is me and my partner and best friend who also has a strong background in higher education and online learning. The two of us have seen from all the positions we have held from director and dean every time we come across people of color they say, “I have a master’s degree. Tell me how I can teach college. And we’re like, “okay. It’s not that easy.”

We are almost always the only brown people on these calls because the higher up you get in higher education the less there are of people of color in those positions. Online learning is now changing higher education.

We want to make sure there is a space for faculty of color because the student population is diversifying, but the faculty is not at the same rate.

Therefore, we need to address access on the faculty side. Our goal with the PDE team is to help and first of all train people who want to teach online, whether they are already teaching online in the field of higher education or not. Our next goal is to improve online learning experiences for students, all students. Especially students of color and rural students in that space.

Online higher education can be very different for some students. Research shows that their presence in online spaces can be intimidating. These students can be unprepared for working online and collaborating with people they do not physically see and interact with. Both of which can impact how well students perform. There can be bias on the part of the faculty.

Some of them are just not prepared for college in general. The speed and the pace of online, which is very different from face-to-face, can get students caught up very fast in regards to time management problems. Then students end up doing poorly very early. Then there is very little recourse.

The PDE Team is trying to help faculty understand who is in their class, who do they need to look out for, and what are the red flags? You can’t just say, I’m gonna treat everybody the same. You have to really know who you are dealing with and then come up with really strong strategies to help be more inclusive in the online learning environment. So the PDE team is trying to help faculty in that regard, not just for their own personal professional growth, but to help their students as well.

Last year when Jocelyn and I started the PDE team we needed help. So the timing of joining The Lola as a Legacy Leadership Executive was perfect.

I was looking for somewhere to get out of the house and work. When I joined, I had no idea how much The Lola was more than just a physical space. The founders and freelancers community group at The Lola was essential last year because I was able to share what was happening and get ideas from other people who had already started their businesses or who were like me and just getting started.

The Legacy Leadership Program helps expand your network by giving access to other founders and freelancers.

The Members have been so helpful. They gave us recommendations on resources. Some of them literally sat down with me and showed me how to do stuff because running a business is completely different than designing curriculum and running programs. Business was not really my thing. I knew the content, but I did not know how to start up a business. The resources at The Lola and expanding my network have been really helpful and of course, meeting Sagdrina.

PDE just advertised our first event which was going to be a free webinar. After almost two weeks of marketing it, we did not get very many people to sign up, so I canceled it. Upon speaking with Naeemah, another Executive in the Legacy Leadership cohort, she told me I should have hosted the event regardless. “Even if it was one person, you should have done it,” she said. We talked about why that was so important. You have to pull the trigger, you have to do it. Nothing is going to be perfect.

You have to learn from it, even if it was just one person. And even that one person could have been someone who said, “oh, this is such a great experience. I’m gonna recommend this.” Then that could have been another 20 people.

And I was like, you’re right.  I thought the experience of a webinar with just a couple of people would not be as fulfilling for them. She told me it would not matter. I think that was a win in what I learned from that experience. To take a chance, even if it’s not what I expected or not what I wanted.

Legacy Leadership Executive Lita Hooper-Simanga on Resilience:

Men tend to have a lot of power in higher education. Middle management tends to be women, but when you get past a department chair or even a dean, when you get to the VP level, it’s a bunch of men.

“For me, as a woman of color, I have struggled with whether I was put in places, allowed onto committees or into rooms because I was Black. Sometimes I do not know if it is simply I am fulfilling a quota, and that’s really tough.” – Legacy Leadership Executive: Lita Hooper-Simanga

Some people are like, “I do not care why they have me in here. I’m here,” But I do think it matters. I care because if I only have a seat at the table because they are filling a quota, they are not gonna listen to me. Now, other people have said, the fact that I am at the table means they will listen. But that is not true. I have been very strategic in trying to figure out if I am being invited or moved up in leadership positions and spaces if it’s because of race so that I can know what I need to do when I get in there.

There is a little trick I learned years ago from my mentor. She was like, “first of all, [upper management] does not care where you fit. They do not, they are not thinking that way. So they are just sitting all over the place.” She instructed me to sit next to whoever called that meeting.

So, I sit next to the leader; I position myself.

If people are coming in and sitting down, typically the leader or whoever called the meeting is gonna stay here. I make sure I am in one of these seats. Because people start seeing you next to the leader, and that has a psychological effect on them.

Why Legacy Leadership? Why Now?

“I was looking for an opportunity to revisit my “why” as I pivot in my career. Legacy Leadership offers a community of support and a safe space for introspection… and as a bonus I get to support others who are on a similar path.” – Legacy Leadership Executive: Lita Hooper-Simanga

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

Connect with Lita:

Lita is  a former full-time English professor who pivoted to instructional design, and partnered with a friend to start a faculty development consulting business. She is also a freelance content creator looking for interesting projects and clients who need a strong writer/researcher. When She not working, she enjoys meditation, yoga and traveling!

The PDE team website
The PDE Team LinkedIn
Lita’s LinkedIn
@litahooper

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