Clothesline Project at UMBC

The Clothesline Project is a program that started back in 1990 and has been established “to address the issue of violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt.” Here at UMBC we do this project twice a year – in October for Relationship Violence Awareness Month and in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Survivors of sexual violence are welcome to decorate a shirt with their feelings and message. Then the shirts are anonymously hanged on a clothesline display, shoulder to shoulder in Commons Main Street “to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against [anyone].”

For the past three years that I have been part of UMBC community I have seen this project and its strong impact on the community. This is a great chance for anyone who has experienced violence to share their stories in a safe setting, and also practice self-care. Making these shirts is an act of therapy in its own way. Last semester for the first time, I made my own shirt. I shared my story with many people without putting my name out there. I was able to take a story out of my chest and feel so much lighter immediately.

As a student staff member at the Women’s Center and a Resident Assistant, I had the privilege of being involved with this project more closely. Last semester with the help of the Women’s Center and some of my Resident Assistant co-workers, we were able to hold another t-shirt-making event in the residential area. This event has happened before in the residential halls, but seeing the work in person was such a powerful experience. Seeing people coming in, making shirts, and sharing their stories shows how they trust us, which challenges us to provide the best support we can as Resident Assistants and Women’s Center community members.

I personally believe having this project on campus is a great opportunity for our UMBC community members to express their feelings about their experiences with sexual and gender-based violence.

There will be a Clothesline Project display on Wednesday, April 30th from 5:15-7:15 in the Harbor Hall court yard.  Shirts and supplies will be available for any survivors who wish to create a shirt that tells their own story. Shirt-making for the Clothesline Project is also available year-round in the Women’s Center.

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Ebony Tongo

March is Women’s History Month!
Last year’s Women’s History Month’s national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year’s theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
Since last year’s spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we’re back at it for year two. This year’s national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
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Ebony Tongo, Chemical Engineering Major
President of UMBC’s Society of Women Engineers
Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
What primarily sparked my interest was the fact that I was always told that I couldn’t do it. Being continuously told that engineering was for men made me want to do it even more. I guess I like a good challenge! I chose chemical engineering because I realized just how diverse the job prospects were after graduation; from cosmetics to consumer goods to refineries it seemed like there was nothing they couldn’t do!
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
An internship I am really proud of was the one I did last year at the L’Oreal Research and Innovation campus in New Jersey. It was my dream to work for a cosmetic company and acquiring the internship alone was something to be proud of. I really liked that my project had a direct impact on the company, my findings would actually be used in their formulations. It was really cool.
Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field?
My role models tend to shift every now and then, I think women who are able to balance a strong work life and home life are the ones that really inspire me. They are the ones I often ask “how do you do it?”. Every time, its a slightly different answer but one thing still remains the same – hard work!
In your experience, how has being a woman in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
There are definitely some moments that stick out to you more than others. You constantly wonder why your opinion is being disregarded first hand or why you need to speak louder to get your point across. It’s an ongoing battle but it takes a lot of character, keeping professional and realizing that you have to gain the respect of people and not just expect it to be handed to you. If you do good quality work, people will notice and you won’t need to speak up so loudly any more.
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit:http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Kevin Johnson

March is Women’s History Month!
 
Last year’s Women’s History Month’s national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year’s theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
 
Since last year’s spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we’re back at it for year two. This year’s national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies… which we’re specifically featuring in this spotlight today!) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
 
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Kevin Johnson, mechanical engineering major
Men in CWIT group facilitator
Tell us about your experience in the CWIT community.
Joining the CWIT community has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have loved becoming so close with other success-driven students who share similar majors to mine. The CWIT community really is one big family who all support and look out for each other. It is a great feeling knowing that you have so many friends to help you with any problems you may have. The directors of CWIT have done a great job of making themselves extremely accessible and supportive as well. They are always willing to help scholars with any of their problems, whether they are academic or personal. It is also nice being around other students who share a similar mindset as me. We all support the inclusion of women in STEM fields and use the community as a way to support the women in our program and other women who are not in our scholars program. The CWIT community has helped me make some lifelong friends who I will always stay in touch with and never forget. Each new class of scholars is unique in their own way and when we all come together as a family, anything seems possible.
 
Based on your internship experience, what do you want other men to know about the gender gap in engineering and IT? 
I would say the most important thing men need to realize about the gender gap in engineering and IT would be that the inclusion of women is going to be necessary to keep moving forward in a constantly changing world. I have had 2 internships now and it is quite obvious in each one that I have been part of a male majority. Although both places I interned with are extremely successful, I would be remiss to not say that both places would benefit from more women involved in STEM fields. Right now, many engineering problems are being solved by males, which account for half the population of the world. Why are we solving problems that affect everyone with the brainpower of only half the population? It doesn’t make sense. Encouraging more women to get involved in STEM fields and giving them a real chance to succeed in the workplace will allow us to create and design more diverse and effective solutions to the difficult engineering problems that we face in today’s modern world.
 
How do you feel you are a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT?
I feel like I can be a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT in many different ways. I am comfortable talking to anyone about CWIT and our mission and I believe this is the most important aspect of our program. Spreading the word about our program and why it exists to other men could make a huge difference about how they view women in STEM fields. Sometimes it just takes someone informing another person of a dilemma for them to view it in a different light. I also feel comfortable standing up for women who are being discriminated against. I have no problem pulling a male teammate aside and suggesting they treat a woman in our group more fairly. This is only fair to the woman and will help the team in the long run. Sometimes the males are not even conscious of how they are discriminating against females. Other men in engineering and IT should learn to be accepting of women in STEM fields because this will lead to more robust solutions to advanced technological problems.
 
In your experience, how has being a man advocating for women in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
Being a man advocating for women in engineering and IT comes with its challenges. A majority of males do not agree with my opinion, or if they do, they do not go out of their way to vocalize it like I do. There have been several occasions during group projects where I have had to talk to my male colleagues to encourage them to include the women’s opinions more because their opinions hold just as much weight as ours do. Some of my closest and smartest female friends are women in STEM fields at UMBC, but some males do not have the privilege of knowing them because they think they are on a higher level compared to the females. I have stayed committed to the CWIT mission even when many other students do not agree with it. Even in the workplace I have had to stick up for female interns so their voice will be heard among the masses of male voices. Advocating CWIT and their important mission has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. I know that every person deserves a fair chance in the engineering and IT fields and I will continue to support this mission throughout my lifetime.
 
 
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
 
 
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit:http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Lauren Mazzoli

Last year’s Women’s History Month’s national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year’s theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
 
Since last year’s spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we’re back at it for year two. This year’s national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
 
 
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Lauren Mazzoli, Math/Computer Science Major

Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
Throughout high school I always enjoyed math, but I never had any experience with computer science until my first semester of college. My first computer science professor was very enthusiastic about the material, which made me more invested in the course. After that first semester, I knew that I wanted to double major in Mathematics and Computer Science because I loved solving complex problems with the computer. 
 
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of. 
I am currently working for DoIT at UMBC as an IT Security Technician. I am currently working with my boss, Andy Johnston, on digital forensics. He has been showing me new tools that I can use for digital forensics, and we are both discovering new tools as well. I help write scripts that maintain the campus logs, I analyze the logs, I track and identify infected computers on campus, and I collect infected computers on campus for detecting what information was compromised. 
 
Who are your role models int he engineering or IT field?
One of my role models is Dr. Hrabowski. He has always encouraged me to pursue my education in Mathematics and Computer Science, and has been a great mentor to me. What I admire most about him, is how dedicated he is towards improving education in the STEM field. I really appreciate his involvement in programs that encourage minorities to major in STEM fields. 
 
In your experience, how has being a woman in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
Being a woman in IT has allowed me to become an example to younger woman that all women can be successful in the STEM field. I am very committed to changing the male dominated field into a gender neutral field. It is important for every young woman to receive a strong education in STEM courses, and to not be dismissed because of their gender.
 
 
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/

RETURNING WOMEN SCHOLARSHIPS!!!!

Calling out to all women over 25 returning to college with 60 acquired credits. It’s scholarship time! What a wonderful thing! The scholarships this year have been streamlined into one form. That means three scholarships – The Bryson-Neville, The Charlotte Newcombe, and  The AEGON– will all be accessible through one application! What terrific news!

Being an AEGON scholar has vastly changed my life. First of all, I have never received such a gift like this in my life. I am a single mother of three children and the cost of living is expensive. I began school to better my prospects, achieve my dreams, and teach my children that working hard and doing well is the key to a good life. Through my 35 years worth of experience, I have decided that higher education is the best road for humanity. It is the road to peace, tolerance, equality and compassion. While higher education constantly expands one’s mind and demands a great sacrifice of one’s time, the struggle and the commitment to follow through is priceless. Here we grow, we change, we share, we exchange, we bond, we exist and carry on through the hard times and celebrate our accomplishments. There may be different majors, but in reality, there is no division. We co-exist together, no judgments, no adversity, we are a university. A universal city.

AEGON taught me that there are forces who want to see me succeed. I must be on the right path. God knows I’ve been down so many roads. Somebody, I’ve never even met, believes in me. That is powerful. With fresh, sweet wind at my sails, I’m propelled into the future knowing that I’ve been chosen for this award. Therefore, I have a responsibility not only to myself and my family, but now to the world to follow through with my vision. The motivation is stronger, the will to succeed is greater, and it feels awesome!

REMEMBER: Scholarship applications are due April 4, 2014! Good luck!

My Journey to Claim the Feminist Label

It wasn’t long ago when I became interested in equality for everyone and started to research this area more in depth. When I moved to United States five years ago my knowledge about feminism and equality was so basic, and I never identified as a feminist. Two years after my arrival to the United States I started my higher education at a community college and would go to school with my aunt. She is an activist for women’s rights and those car rides to campus were full of amazing conversions, questions from me and answers from her. We would talk about many different topics – from education to women’s right, to gender equality, to kids in abusive families. After a year of these amazing car rides I came to the conclusion that I am interested in the topic of equality for everyone, women’s rights, and violence against women and children.

Meanwhile I started working with a foundation in Iran that works with disadvantaged women to help empower themselves and gain control over their lives. After working with these girls and expanding my knowledge about women’s rights and equality, I decided to continue my education in the social sciences. I decided to major in Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology and it wasn’t until my first course in Women’s Studies that I realized feminism is for me too – but what did that mean for me? I will never forget at some point in the middle of the semester, my professor asked us who identifies as a feminist. I kept my hand in the middle – I wasn’t sure! I thought I knew but I didn’t. As the class progressed, though, and as we talked about this topic more, I did realize I could and would claim the feminist label.

With this identification, though, I realized that the way I define my feminism is different than the way my family members, my classmates, friends, sister and others might define it. When I say I am feminist I mean I am an activist for equality for everyone regardless of gender, race, age, etc. I am saying that I want to promote human rights for everyone – especially those who are from underrepresented identities. “Coming out”  as a someone who is interested in women’s studies was not easy to some of my family members, especially my dad. We live thousands of miles away and our only way of communication is through phone calls. When I told him that I added Gender and Women’s Studies as a second major, a long silence came after. He wasn’t impress or happy about my decision, but he did not stop me at all. Later on I realized that when I told him about my second major, that it implied to him that I was also saying that I am a feminist. His view of feminism and feminists was vastly different than mine, though – he saw it as breaking away from cultural gender norms, and at the same time breaking traditional family values in a damaging way .  Yet, as the months passed by, every time that he would call he would ask me to share something with him about my women’s studies classes. We started having long conversations and arguments on the phone regarding women’s right and women’s issues. They were long, fascinating, and surprisingly enjoyable. Over time, he would often put the phone on speaker just so other people around him would benefit from our talk! It was great to see that how his support for my interests had grown by simply just having conversations with him.

During the same time that this evolution with my father was taking place, I began to discover TED Talks. These short videos would soon become one of my favorite things. One that has stood out to me that most is titled “This Isn’t Her Mother’s Feminism.”  I can relate to her story and her path of getting involved in activism and feminism. I love the diversity of thoughts that she bring up here. How I define and see feminism might be very different of how my classmates or professor defines it, just as it may be different for my various family members.  I believe seeing and understanding these differences, are needed and at the same time beautiful.

What has been your experience of coming to feminism? When did you realize your first identified as a feminist? What conflicts or bridges has this created for you between family members or friends? Share your thoughts via comments… or better yet, join us in person for the International Women’s Day Brown Bag Discussion* on Wednesday, March 10th at 12pm in the Women’s Center!

*Please note this event is co-sponsored with the English Language Institute at UMBC and due to the cultural norms and expectations of several of the students, this event will be open to those who identify as women only.