Saint Mary's College Partnership Program

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Tallship Unicorn Trains Top Women Executives

H20 Notes - June 9, 2006

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One of those romantic-looking tall ships that will be sailing into Great Lakes ports this summer isn't there for just for fun and adventure. On the three-day voyages between ports, a half dozen women executives will be aboard Tallship Unicorn learning how running a tall ship teaches lessons that can be applied to running a business.

The 110-foot Tallship Unicorn, built after World War II from steel plate cut from captured German submarines, has been turned into a comfortable but real-world executive training ship with a professional crew that often includes a psychologist and trainer.

Dawn Santamaria, an accomplished business woman and co-owner of Unicorn, worked with experts at BeamPines to create "Chart Your Course", an executive development program specifically geared to high-potential business women. BeamPines is a nationally-known human resources consulting firm with headquarters in New York and offices along the east coast.

Santamaria explains,"Managing a wind ship and managing a company have many similarities. Both run on a chain of command and both succeed or fail based on the competency of the leaders and crew. Both have a plan-a business plan or a course to sail-and both run into unexpected circumstances that demand expert decision-making and leadership skills.

"Unicorn's professional mariners run the ship and share their skills with our guests, and BeamPines personnel take over for evaluation and training in strategy-setting, leadership, problem solving, decision making and authentic teamwork. Our participants are high-potential women with positions from director to CEO. "

A graduate of Saint Mary's College at Notre Dame, where two of her four daughters now attend, Santamaria has established a Saint Mary's Partnership program that will involve alumnae and students in this summer's Great Lakes sailing and waterfront activities.

This summer, Chart Your Course has a sold out program offered on the sail from Green Bay to Chicago on July 31 to August 3. The all-women executive crew will take part in the 2006 Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes Series arriving Chicago in the company of many tall ships and just in time for the Windy City's big waterfront festival.

Santamaria says, "It is a lot of fun and very exciting to see the world of tall ships from the inside and make landfall as a party experience that provides memories for a lifetime."

But, she says, Chart Your Course is serious business, designed to produce results by stretching its participants outside the box of their normal experiences. "Training aboard Tallship Unicorn is a real life experience, not a contrived game. Just coming aboard a tall ship takes most people out of their day to day comfort zone, and operating there is what can make the difference between business success and failure. We see examples of that every day in the business news."

Dr. Gloria Bullman, a BeamPines psychologist who helps conduct the onboard programs, says the development program begins before the women set foot on the boat. They go through a battery of assessment tools that act as a starting point for their Chart Your Course development.

Says Dr. Bullman, "During the training we focus on five critical business competencies: use of self/emotional compass, owning and positioning your power, leadership and executive presence, managing relationships and executive communication skills."

At the conclusion of the voyage, the women receive a detailed evaluation of their strengths and challenges, and a plan for personal development.

Women who have completed the course are believers. One of the women in the first Chart Your Course program two years ago recently became the president of a new publishing division being launched by one of America's most respected companies.

Her comments: "I enjoyed being in an environment where I felt comfortable pushing myself to try things I had never done before. I felt energized to push myself to new limits. The combination of fresh air, hard physical labor, supportive peers, a knowledgeable crew and BeamPines facilitators allowed me to feel safe in opening myself to new learning and relationships."

On its other voyages this summer, Unicorn offers "Sisters Under Sail" a program for 13 to 21-year-old girls designed to build confidence and self-esteem in a shared learning experience.

Information on Tallship Unicorn is available from Dawn Santamaria, 908-713-1808 and at

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