Sometimes the best things in life aren’t things—they’re opportunities to find your purpose. That’s the message Constance Collins, president and executive director of Lotus House Women’s Shelter, told more than 130 University of Miami students, faculty, and staff who attended the 46th annual University of Miami Women’s Commission Breakfast on Wednesday at the Shalala Student Center.
Collins was 46 years old in 2005 when she retired from a 22-year career as general counsel and chief operating and financial officer for a major real estate investment firm. She realized she didn’t want her legacy to be “building buildings and accumulating things,” she said. “Now I live a blessed life serving as a bridge between the haves and have-nots.”
In 2006, Collins opened Lotus House, a shelter in Miami’s Overtown district for homeless women and children. The shelter currently houses more than 250 women and children daily, and construction is under way on Lotus Village, a five-story, 500-bed complex with a wellness center, health and dental clinic, computer library, children’s day care, arts and activity lab, and other services.
Following the keynote address, the Women’s Commission presented its 2017 May A. Brunson Award, named in honor of the University’s second dean of women, to Ann Olazábal, professor and vice dean of undergraduate education in the School of Business Administration, who founded the school’s Women in Business Group to support development of women in the professional workplace, particularly in predominantly male industries.
The Women’s Commission presented its Louise P. Mills Award, which recognizes students who exhibit “leadership, creativity, caring, and high academic performance,” to Monica Bustinza, a senior political science major and president of the nonpartisan student organization Get Out the Vote. Her leadership elevated civic engagement at the U to unprecedented heights, including a record 2,500 students registering to vote and designation of UM as a Voter-Friendly Campus by Campus Vote Project and NASPA—Student Affairs Educators in Higher Education.
In addition to the breakfast, the Women’s Commission hosted or participated in several activities this academic year, including Get Out the Vote initiatives, the Patricia A. Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium, a lunch-and-learn discussion on the Culture Transformation featuring School of Education and Human Development Dean Isaac Prilleltensky, a Veterans Day celebration for the Veteran Students Organization, and a partnership with Junior League of Miami to donate more than 400 books for two housing communities benefiting survivors of domestic violence.
The forthcoming Reflect & Reignite event on Friday, April 21 at 12 p.m. invites all members of the UM community to share future programming ideas.