August 28, 2017 | By Amy Everhart, '08
Earlier this summer, 12 Albion College students and two staff members attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) at the University of Maryland, College Park. The conference, organized by the national office of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), has a legacy of more than 30 years and annual attendance of about 1,000 participants from around the country and world.
At the conference Albion attendees participated in workshops and a career and graduate school fair, as well as large group activities such as the Women of Distinction awards ceremony and reception. They also heard from keynote speakers Melissa Harris-Perry and Jessamyn Stanley. During the weekend right after the conference, the group had some time to explore museums and monuments and visit with Albion alumni in Washington, D.C.
Ten of the 12 students received scholarships from AAUW’s national organization—three full and seven partial scholarships—to cover the costs of conference registration, housing, and on-site meals. Additional substantial contributions from the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service, Albion’s AAUW student organization, the AAUW Albion branch, and an Albion College alumna made attendance at the conference feasible for this group.
After the conference, Abby Thomm, ’19, reflected on her experience.
“Throughout this conference, I felt a sense of family and a tremendous amount of love and support from my fellow peers,” she said. “I obtained a newfound confidence that I will use to pursue opportunities offered in my education and everyday life. I want to empower women on Albion’s campus and in the town to never be afraid of failure and know there is a community who will always love and support them and their endeavors.”
Victoria Stewart, ’18, said a discussion at the conference about imposter syndrome has stuck with her.
“It is very easy to second-guess yourself and think that you do not deserve to be in the space that you inhabit; however, it is extremely important to remember that you are in that space for a reason,” Stewart said. “If you put in the work to get where you are, you cannot let anyone tell you that you don't belong. Moving forward, especially in my position as a [First-Year Experience] mentor, I want to help the incoming students know that despite what they may think of themselves, or what others think, they deserve to take up space.”
The student attendees look forward to carrying their energy from the conference throughout the 2017-18 academic year. Members of the new AAUW student organization will have a table on the Quad at the August 30 Briton Bash, during which they hope to recruit new students who are passionate about women’s equity and empowerment. Briton Bash will run from 4:30-7:30 p.m.; the rain location is Upper Baldwin.