The Character that Never Left Me



Shrijana Khanal is a Student Staff member at the Women’s Center. She is an Economics major with minors in Computer Science and International Relations. Shrijana is a co-facilitator of Pop Culture Pop-Ups at the Women’s Center. 



As my fingers traced the glazed, gold-plated title of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the seventh time, I felt the same rush of euphoria, nostalgia, and bittersweetness that I did when I read the books for the first time as an eager seven-year-old girl. The Harry Potter series became my refuge during the dark times in my life: an escape from reality and sad thoughts. At the quick turn of a page, I would be transported into another world: a place filled with adventure, love, and friendship. One of my favorite parts of reading the series was my quick attachment to  the characters. The character that stuck with me the most was Hermione, the fearless, smart, and empathetic female member of the golden trio. She became my fictional shero at a young age, and remained this way as I grew up. Hermione taught me that girls can be studious, warriors, and social activists all at once.


How many times did Hermione save Harry and Ron’s lives? Without her, they would have been slaughtered in the first book. There would be no story to tell about the Boy Who Lived without Hermione. I always admired her for her bravery and wit, whether in the classroom or the battlefield. She was not afraid to be herself. Despite being labeled a “bookworm,” “bossy,” and a “nightmare,” Hermione never abandoned her true qualities. She fought for herself and others along with what she believed in. As a young girl trying to maneuver through a harsh world, Hermione gave me the power to stay true to my values. She taught me that reading books and being the highest-achieving student in your class is cool, and something to be proud of. Hermione gave me the courage to take a stand for issues that were dear to me. She showed me that having emotions is not a bad thing. Most importantly, in a world that is always trying to tear you down, deter you from following your goals, or even presumptuously label you, being an unapologetic girl was the most positive, life-changing thing that could happen to me. For me, Hermione was the best friend and role model I needed.

I saw myself in her; she gave me the confidence to be who I am, a young outspoken, nerdy, and caring woman. Unknown to me at the time, she also gave me the confidence to be a feminist.

Being a woman of color, Harry Potter made it difficult for me to connect with the characters based on race alone, since the series only contained the bare minimum of diversity. However, I did not need race to feel a connection with Hermione. I felt connected with her through her qualities of being studious, kind, and brave. I could easily identify with Hermione because she was not perfect to begin with: she had to go through awkward transitions and transformative setbacks to fully grow. Her development from an “insufferable know-it-all” to a brilliant heroine made her an authentic character.


However, others may have not have felt this connection with Hermione as I did. Rowling shared that she made the character racially ambiguous on purpose after people were angry that a black actress was cast as Hermione in a London stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling supported her claim by referencing Hermione’s frizzy hair and ambiguous skin color. The concept of a minority playing Hermione is something that makes me immensely happy, but why did it take so long for Rowling to highlight this fact, and for others to accept it? Is the concept of a female lead being played by a woman of color too absurd to digest? For me, this is not feminism. A white girl is not the only person with the power to possess the positive characteristics I saw in Hermione. It is important to see color, because not seeing race devalues what women of color have to offer.


Although the series was published 10 years ago, it is still relevant to my life and the lives of others (even with its sometimes problematic stances). Personally, I still revisit the books whenever I go through a tough change in my life, as a coping mechanism. Discussing the issues of the series forces me to grow from the innocence I had in my childhood while reading it for the first time. But through everything, Hogwarts will always be there not only to teach you to see the magical and real world differently, but to welcome you home each time.

Click on the links below to learn more about the topics discussed in this blog!

Importance of intersectional feminism

How many times Hermione saved Harry and Ron’s lives

JK Rowling Loves Black Hermione Casting In ‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’



Survivorship Looks Different in the Asian American Community



Samiksha Manjani is a Student Staff member at UMBC’s Women’s Center. She is a Political Science and Sociology double-major and is currently a co-facilitator of the Women’s Center’s discussion group, Women of Color Coalition.  



As a survivor of sexual violence, I have found myself re-traumatized by the recent events that have happened at UMBC. In the aftermath, I struggled to focus in my classes and could barely complete my work. Despite this, I somehow managed to get by with everyday going by in a blur. I went through the motions day-in and day-out. I was slowly sinking back into depression.

One of the most common emotional and psychological responses to sexual violence is depression (RAINN). Depression is a mood disorder which occurs when feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for long periods of time and interrupt regular thought patterns. It affects a person’s behavior and can disrupt their relationships. Just like many other survivors, I also struggle with depression.

During this difficult time, I was shocked that no one in my life had asked me how I was doing. None of my friends had asked me how I was handling the news, despite knowing that I’m a survivor and that I also struggle with depression. They knew about the lawsuit against UMBC too. In fact, they knew so much about it that they talked to me about their opinions on the matter. Yet, they never asked me how I was processing the news or if I was doing okay.

At first, I thought, “wow, I have really shitty friends in my life.” But I realized that this was a drastic conclusion to make considering my friends were normally compassionate. Instead, I tried to put myself in their shoes. Why would my normally compassionate friends be so inconsiderate? Had my external behavior reflected my internal suffering?

I realized that, from an outsider’s perspective, I seemed completely okay because I went to my classes and work as usual. My behavior, communication, and demeanor had basically stayed the same so nothing seemed amiss. However, this was completely contrary to how I felt internally. Inside, I felt awful. Every step I took was harder, every assignment I completed took longer, and every smile was faker. I was falling apart on the inside, yet no one around me could see it.


At first, I thought that this was just how I expressed trauma. But after some reflection, I realized that I knew so many other Asian women dealing with depression that were also still high-functioning. I was not the only person who exhibited depressive symptomology this way, and more importantly, it had seemed that this was especially common for other Asians.

My assumption was not wrong. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (2011) found that Asian-American teenage girls have the highest rate of depression compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group. Furthermore, the suicide rates for 15-24 year old Asian American females are 30% higher than the rates for white females of the same age (Mental Health America). Yeung and Kam (2006) found that none of the Asian patients in their study considered depressed mood as their main problem. However, more than 90% of them indicated having a depressed mood when asked to rate their symptoms on a depression rating scale.

Despite these alarming statistics, 51% of Asian Americans have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, compared to 29% of all Americans (Mental Health America). Furthermore, 21% of Asians, ages 25 or older, have attained an advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.), which is significantly higher than the national average of 12% (Baum and Steele, 2017; United States Census Bureau, 2016). Lastly, the median annual household income of Asian American households is $73,060, compared to $53,600 among all U.S. households (Pew Research Center, 2017). It is important to note, however, that there is variation in educational attainment and median annual income among the different ethnic groups which makeup “Asian Americans.”

These findings made me wonder, why do Asian women express depressive symptomology so differently than other ethnic groups?

One reason could be because of the immense pressure Asians deal with to live up to the model minority stereotype. The model minority stereotype characterizes Asians by hard work, laudable family values, economic self-sufficiency, non-contentious politics, academic achievement, and entrepreneurial success (Kang, 2010). There is a lot of American cultural pressure on Asians to fit into this “intelligent and self-reliant” stereotype. Such a stereotype has dire consequences; for-example, Asian students are pressured to rise to an academic bar that keeps rising. The mental health cost of reaching an unrealistic standard is demonstrated by the statistics mentioned above.

This pressure is worsened by the fact that many Asian immigrants experience downward economic mobility upon arrival to the U.S. Most Asian immigrants are highly educated and held middle-class status in their country of origin (Lopez, Bialik, & Radford,  2018). Because of this downward shift in class status, Asian immigrants have to work their way up from the bottom of the social and economic ladder in the U.S. This is a very daunting task given that many Asian immigrants not only have to support themselves and their families in the U.S., but also relatives back home (United Nations, 2017). This leads to an immense pressure to climb up the socioeconomic ladder and become financially stable.

Both the pressure of the model minority stereotype and pressure to support family members removes any possibility for Asians Americans to display characteristic forms of depression without severe consequences. There are high costs for Asian American immigrants if they do not complete their education, capitalize on job opportunities, and/or perform at their jobs. If they do not perform, they are risking not only their survival, but the survival of relatives back home. This does not mean that people who display traditional depressive symptomatology are somehow less “able” or “motivated” if they can’t complete these tasks. It is simply that the pressure to economically succeed robs Asian Americans the ability to address mental health concerns.

Another reason could be the large stigma within the Asian community surrounding mental health illnesses and treatment. Asian Americans are 3x less likely to seek mental health services than White Americans (Nishi). Furthermore, it is taboo within the Asian community to speak about having mental health illnesses (Chu & Sue, 2011). One large reason this stigma exists is because of the concept of familial shame within Asian communities.

There is immense pressure in the Asian community to preserve the family’s reputation and status at all costs. This is reflected in popular terms used within various Asian cultures which represent the process of shame or losing face: “Haji” among Japanese, “Hiya” among Filipinos, “Mianzi” among Chinese,”Chaemyun” among Koreans, and “Sharam” among Indians (Sue, 1994). If an Asian person has a mental health illness, it could be interpreted by the community as a result of their family’s failure to raise the person correctly. Therefore, Asian Americans are unlikely to acknowledge and seek mental health treatment in fear of “bringing shame” to their families.

I think in a lot of ways all of these factors have influenced the way that I have processed the trauma of my assault and the resulting depression. Like many other Asian American women, I don’t outwardly exhibit depression through conventional symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean that I experience depression less severely than other people. On the contrary, I struggle with depression so much sometimes that it’s hard to even do basic tasks (even if I end up somehow getting it done). Because of the fact that depression is one of the most common psycho-emotional responses to sexual violence and also that the Asian community presents unique depressive symptomology, it is logical to conclude that survivorship is likely to look different in the Asian community.  

Therefore, it is extremely important for friends, family members, and mental health professionals to recognize that survivorship manifests differently in various ethnic communities. As such, the type of support given must be individualized to meet the needs of survivors of different backgrounds. To best support survivors, the people within the survivor’s inner circle should adopt a lens of cultural humility.  

The Women’s Center uses this lens of cultural humility to best support survivors of different backgrounds. Cultural humility is a humble and respectful attitude towards individuals of other cultures that pushes one to challenge their own cultural biases. This departs from “cultural competency” in that it recognizes that a person cannot possibly know everything about other cultures. Instead, people should approach learning about other cultures as a lifelong goal and process.

I truly believe that if my friends had adopted a lens of cultural humility, they would have easily picked up on my struggles. If they had understood more about Asian culture and what it means to be an Asian immigrant, they probably would have been able to recognize my signals of distress. This is especially important for mental health professionals; they would be able to pick up more details from their clients if they held the mindset that “there’s always more to learn.” Using this lens, we can better support the survivors in our lives.

**Please note that not every Asian person experiences depression this way. The goal of this blog is to highlight a common phenomenon in the Asian community. If an Asian person does not process depression or trauma this way, it is not a reflection of their Asianness, intelligence, reliability, or any other characteristics.**

Bikes, Haircuts, & Lenses: the Fluidity of Intersectional Feminism


Harini Narayan is a Student Staff member at the Women’s Center. She is an MLLI major and is currently a co-facilitator of the Women’s Center’s discussion groups, Between Women. 



The lyrics, “I am woman, hear me roar!,” made history thanks to singer Helen Reddy, lending an amazingly catchy slogan to the movement of women’s rights. The phrase itself is innocuous, associating strength with femininity. Girl Power and the Future is Female are other popular slogans adopted by modern-day feminists (these examples are literally lifted from shirts that I own) with the goal of empowering their users.

Empowerment is like a haircut: the styles that suit people largely vary, and not everyone prefers what looks conventionally attractive.


A huge issue with modern-day feminism, or the Second Wave, is the Westernized perversion of what liberation looks like. This concept is commonly dubbed, “white feminism,” and usually consists of white women enforcing standards of equality centered solely around their status while simultaneously disregarding the privilege afforded to them by their race. This type of indirect discrimination is often not purposeful, but can be a product of ignorance. When people do not consider the varied lens through which others experience the world, they do not consider the effects of multifaceted identities on marginalized people’s perspectives. Intersectional identities overlap like different colors, creating new ones through these combinations. If sexual identity and ethnicity are the colors red and blue, respectively, then the intersectional identity they create would be purple. However, when those representative colors are not alike between individuals, confusion arises: one person’s purple identity can be misidentified by someone who does not see both blue and red; to someone who cannot see blue, red is the only identity that is recognized. Building bridges toward intersectionality begins with understanding this concept of different lenses. No two people have identical sets of lenses, but that does not invalidate the existence of lenses unlike our own. I may not have a blue lens to mix with my red, but perhaps my intersectional identity is represented by orange, made by the same red with my unique yellow. What makes an inclusive feminist is a person’s ability to recognize and validate the identities that are unlike their own and respect cultures to which they might not belong or even understand.

Upon reading the phrase, “Forcing opinions about religious head coverings on female and nonbinary Muslims,” what do you imagine? Is it a man forcing his wife or daughter to wear a hijab, or is it a “free the nipple” Westerner telling her/them to take it off and conform to their idea of freedom? White feminism is very exclusionary and, more often than not, is also subtly cissexist and racist. It’s what decrees that all Muslims that choose to wear head coverings must be oppressed, because why else would they do that? It can’t possibly be their own choice. An intersectional feminist, Muslim or not, would be able to understand that freedom from oppression lies in the ability to make decisions for oneself.  

Exclusionary logic undermines women under the guise of liberation: it implicitly creates a preconception of what freedom looks like. Objectively, housewives that choose their own lifestyle are every bit as empowered as a female CEO. The power lies in the freedom to make such decisions for oneself. Making the assumption that a woman can’t be free unless she emulates men in mannerisms, occupation, or lifestyle perpetuates misogynistic stereotypes that only further the stigmatization of feminism. The concept of “white feminism” is overtaking a movement that is supposed to represent equity over equality.



The concept of equity vs. equality is pictured above. Equality is everyone receiving the same exact bike, even though only one person of the four can ride it comfortably. Equity, on the other hand, is everyone receiving something catered to their individual needs for a result of all four people being able to comfortably ride their own bikes.

Perception of women is an equity vs. equality issue, as well. Empowerment is not a one-size-fits all concept, but rather it is the readily available option to live on one’s own terms, without answering to stereotypes or discrimination. Empowerment should mean nobody looks down on nurses, teachers, or homemakers, as if their occupations are unworthy of respect because they are female-dominated fields. For some women, empowerment is Helen Reddy’s, “I am woman, hear me roar!” but for some, empowerment is quiet and unassuming. Power comes from the ability to make a choice, and to have that choice be respected.


For more information on the concepts discussed, here are some resources!

September Knowledge Exchange Roundup: A Voter Resource Guide


Student staff member Hannah Wilcove provides a recap of the semester’s first Knowledge Exchange

Last week, we had our first Knowledge Exchange of the Fall 2018 semester. With the midterm elections coming up in November, our overarching theme for these Knowledge Exchanges is political and civic engagement. The topic for this Knowledge Exchange was knowing your voting rights, and over the course of the event, we talked about the history of the fight for the right to vote, some of the reasons people don’t vote (such as gerrymandering and voter suppression), and issues of accessing information. We also did an activity to demonstrate the overly-strict matching standards some states use to maintain their voter rolls, and discussed the accessibility of political engagement in the United States as well as stories of feeling encouraged or discouraged from voting. For people with family and friends that are active in politics, it can be hard to think that there are people who don’t know how to vote, but the truth is, seeking out that information can be difficult and time-consuming. From this conversation, the need for a voter resource guide was born.  

Side note: This blog is meant to be a general resource, and election laws vary by state, which means it’s hard to cover all the complexities and variations. Because so many people at UMBC are from Maryland, that’s what my examples will cover, but if you want more detailed information about a specific state, I encourage you to look up your state’s name and the information you’re looking for (ex: “Virginia voter registration deadline”).

  • Registration: The first step in voting in the United States is registration. Unlike some other countries, voter registration in the U.S. is not automatic. So if you’re not registered to vote and you would like to be, take 2 minutes to register here. Make sure to do that before your state’s voter registration deadline, and if it’s passed, check whether or not they have same-day registration (you can do all of that here). In case you didn’t know, Maryland’s voter registration deadline is October 16th, 2018 at 9:00 pm. One thing we focused on in our conversation was voter suppression and the fact that many people–including active voters–have been purged from the voter rolls in recent elections. If that’s something you’re concerned about, you can take 30 seconds to double check your registration status here.nu1110_vote
  • Voting Method: So you’ve got your registration all worked out; now it’s time to figure out how you’re going to vote. Depending on your situation, you have a few different options. If you have some time on Election Day (Tuesday, November 6th), then you can go the traditional route: go to the polls, wait in line, and vote. However, that option won’t work for everyone. If that’s the case, fear not. Maybe you have some time before Election Day, but not on that Tuesday. If that’s the case, you should look into early voting. The details vary by state, but here is a link where you can look into which states have early voting (Maryland does), and here is a calendar that tells you when the early voting period for each state is. If that still doesn’t work, you can look into absentee ballot. With absentee ballots, you don’t have to go to the polls because you just mail in your ballot. This is a great option for people who don’t have reliable transportation, but note that there are two downsides to doing this. The first is that absentee ballots aren’t counted unless the difference in other votes is close enough to warrant it (i.e. if Candidate A is 100 votes ahead of Candidate B, and there are only 20 absentee ballots, those 20 votes won’t be counted because they won’t change the outcome), and the second is that you don’t get a sticker. Still, you shouldn’t assume that your vote won’t be counted, so if absentee voting looks like the best option for you, then check out your state’s rules for it here. Just like early voting, the deadlines around absentee ballots vary by state, so take a look here at what your state’s deadlines are.computers-clipart-confusion-7
  • Action Plan: Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to vote, the next step is making an action plan. This might seem like overkill, but given the craziness that is life, an action plan can help you make sure that you don’t forget to vote or run out of time on election day. So what do you need to know? If you’re voting via absentee ballot, then you just need to make sure that you apply for your ballot and send it in by your state’s deadlines (links are in the above section). If you’re going to the polls, either during early voting or on Election Day, then there’s a little bit more to it. First, you need to figure out where your polling place is, so you can actually go there. You can use this link to find your polling place, but the most reliable method is to use your state’s board of elections website (a list of those is provided on the linked page). For early voting, there may be fewer polling locations open, but you can use this website to find out the specifics for your state and county (you just click on “early voting” under topics and your state, and voila). With these sites, you should also be able to find the specific hours that your polling place is open. Lastly, once you figure out where and when you’re voting, you just need to figure out how to get there. If you have access to a car, then that’s taken care of, but if not, have no fear. If you can’t get a ride from someone, check if your polling place is accessible by public transportation. If so, look up the schedule and make sure that there’s a time you can get there. Not the case? Not a problem. The rideshare company Lyft is offering 50% off rides to the polls on Election Day. For UMBC students, SGA is providing free transportation to early voting in six counties across the state, which you can learn more about here.action
  • Research: You’re all set; you know how you’re going to vote and when, and you’re ready to head to your polling place and vote for…oh, right, you actually need to know who’s on the ballot and what they’re running for. At our Knowledge Exchange, we talked about how hard it can be to figure out all the details because, frankly, not everyone has the time to do that kind of extensive research. The good news is that there are people who have already done some of the work for you. If you need to know what district you’re in, you can use this website if you live in Maryland (just click on the button that says “who represents me” at the top right), and this one if you don’t. The League of Women Voters also has a great tool on their website where you can enter your address and see all the races on your ballot, learn about candidates’ backgrounds, and compare their answers to various questions. For all you Maryland folk reading this, The Baltimore Sun has a voter guide just for you, with comprehensive bios, questionnaires, and articles about each candidate running for elected office in our state.


  • Tell your friends! Now you’re really all set. If you want to increase the voter rate in the U.S., then one of the best ways to do so is word of mouth! As I’ve said before, it can be difficult and time-consuming to figure all this out, but now that you’re basically an expert, you can help your friends work through it. Plus, with all the links right in front of you, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; just share this guide with your friends to make voting a little more accessible.


Further Reading:

  • A video about gerrymandering that we played at the Knowledge Exchange
  • An article that lists and describes 12 current methods of voter suppression (note that this article does have a clear slant, however it does a great job at explaining each method)
  • A webpage by the League of Women Voters that has several articles about current efforts to combat voter suppression and increase voter turnout


Come Check Out the Clothesline Project Display on 10/3!

The Clothesline Project display on  Wednesday, October 3, 2018 from 10 AM- 4 pm in Commons Main Street.  

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 byIMG_2185 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.


Shirts and supplies will be available throughout the month of October 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.

Our Discussion Groups This Fall!

Identity-Based Discussion Groups

All groups meet beginning the week of September 11th. Groups are closed for the privacy and confidentiality of the attendees and take place inside the Women’s Center lounge. Check out a detailed description of all of our discussion groups down below!

Between Women: Biweekly, Mondays at 4 pm

Women of Color Coalition: Biweekly, Tuesdays at 4 pm

We Believe You: Weekly, Thursdays at 5:30 pm

Women in STEM: Monthly, Third Fridays at noon


Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates Program

This program is designed to support undergraduate women over the age of 25 returning to college later in life. Students receiving a returning women student scholarship are required to participate in this program designed to support their personal, academic, and career goals of adult learners at UMBC. ALL returning women students at UMBC are invited to attend the monthly meetings and workshops designed specifically to meet the needs of adult students. You can also request an invite to join the Returning Women Students Forum on Facebook for news, resources, and community building. The scholarship deadline for 2018–19 was Friday, March 30, 2018 – next year’s application will be available beginning January 2019.


Between Women

Between Women is a discussion-based program that centers the experiences of women students who identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. This structured, topic-based program discusses sexuality and sexual orientation with a focus on intersectionality and provides a safe space for women and feminine-identified students to share their feelings and experiences with other women. This program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model in order to create a community environment that fosters learning and critical discussion. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those in the LGBTQAI+ community and it is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: Between Women meets biweekly on Mondays at 4pm in the Women’s Center.


We Believe You

Hosted in collaboration with the Women’s Center and the student organization We Believe You, this discussion group creates space to center the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on support and healing for survivors of sexual violence. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those who identify as survivors and their allies. It is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: We Believe You discussion group meets weekly on Thursdays at 5:30pm in the Women’s Center. For more details, join the We Believe You myUMBC page (where you can also learn more about their general body meetings and activism efforts) or connect with a Women’s Center staff member.


Women of Color Coalition

WoCC LogoAll self-identified women of color students, staff, and faculty are welcome to share their stories and learn about others’ experiences at Women of Color Coalition. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on the intersections of gender and race. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those who identify as women of color and it is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: Women of Color Coalition meets biweekly on Tuesdays at 4pm in the Women’s Center. Subscribe to the WoC Coalition email list to learn more!


Women in STEM

A discussion group for UMBC’s women in STEM. Each discussion will take place monthly and will be hosted by a different woman faculty member from the STEM disciplines focusing on a different topic related to Women in STEM. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on the experiences of women students studying in the STEM fields. Fall 2018: Women in STEM discussion group will take place on Friday, September 21st at noon and Friday, October 19th at noon. The November date is TBD.


Spectrum: Trans Programming and Resources Hub

Spectrum SpotlightSpectrum is a programming and resource hub for UMBC community members who identify as trans, genderqueer, gender fluid, outside of the gender binary, and/or those who are questioning their gender identity. Supported by the Women’s Center and the Mosaic Center, Spectrum has evolved from a discussion-based program to an umbrella of resources, discussions, and events. Currently, the Spectrum discussion group is not being offered so we can ensure support of groups like Trans Tuesdays hosted by the LGBTQ Student Union and the Trans Support group run through the Counseling Center. The Women’s Center and Mosaic Center offers trans-related events each month. For details, connect with a staff member or check out our events page. Additional resources can be shared through our offices and we encourage community members to connect with us.


For more information about each of these groups and their intentions, please visit

Our 2018-19 Women’s Center Student Staff

Another school year, and another group of fantastic, creative, passionate UMBC students lending their talents, strengths, and energy to the Women’s Center! Please take a minute or two to read through some short bios below, and hopefully, you’ll be able to meet and make friends with each one of these lovely folks working with us over the school year.


Alexia Petasis (she/her), Interdisciplinary Studies intern

Hey! My name is Alexia Petasis and I am a senior at UMBC. I’m pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Dance.

In my free time I like to go on hikes, watch French movies, or choreograph. I’m looking forward to an exciting year at The Women’s Center!

Briscoe Turner (she/her)


Hello Everyone! My name is Briscoe Turner, and I am a sophomore here at UMBC. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Writing. I am passionate about promoting social justice and hope to use Community Psychology to address the needs of underrepresented populations in the future. I am also a Sondheim Scholar and a member of the Black Lives Matter club, so service and impacting social change through policy and other means of political action are also very important to me.

This is my first semester working at the Women’s Center, and I’m excited to build community and have good discussions. I love that the Women’s center allows me to explore my identity through an intersectional lens, and I looking forward to exploring it further this year!

Dua Raja (she/her)


Hi! My name is Dua Raja. I was born in Pakistan, and moved to the US at a young age. Now a transfer student from CCBC at UMBC, I am on track to achieve my Bachelor’s in Business Technology Administration (BTA), all while working at the Women’s Center surrounded by wonderful people. I plan to use my degree to become an entrepreneur looking to start her own business and work on a technical management program.

I love to hike, dance and travel. Most importantly, I love dogs. Especially German Shepherds.

This is my first year as a Women’s Center staff member. I look forward to meeting new people.

My personal mantra: Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.

My favorite quote: The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.

Hannah Wilcove (she/her), Honors College & Gender + Women’s Studies intern


Hi! My name is Hannah Wilcove and I’m a senior with a major in Gender & Women’s Studies and a double minor in Sociology and Statistics. I’m super excited to be returning to the Women’s Center this year. While I love studying any and all issues pertaining to feminism and social justice, I’m most passionate about reproductive justice, representation, and increasing political participation.

When I’m not at the Women’s Center, you can probably find me doing work for various student theater groups on campus, be it in rehearsal or as an executive board member of AF Theatre Company. If that’s not the case, then I’m probably in my bed watching Parks and Recreation and wondering how I can become Leslie Knope.

Harini Narayan (she/her)

My name is Harini Narayan and I’m a sophomore here at UMBC.It’s my second semester working at the Women’s Center and I couldn’t be happier to return! This year, I’ll be co-facilitating our discussion group for LGBTQ+ women, Between Women. When I’m not at the Women’s Center, you can find me running around campus because I love staying busy! I’m an MLLI major and am very passionate about learning new languages, which I hope to continue doing professionally.

I’m looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces around the Women’s Center this year!

Marie Pessagno (she/her), Returning Women Students leader


Hi everyone!  My name is Marie and I am a recent graduate from UMBC!  I am super fortunate to be returning to work (super part-time) at the Women’s Center with the Returning Women’s Students of which I am also an extremely proud alumni! While at UMBC, I was a Social Work and Gender + Women’s Studies double major, and am now beginning my first, and last year, as an advanced standing student at the UMB School of Social Work.

I am a proud single mother of two girls, Lily and Lyla, who are my main inspiration on my journey towards furthering my education.  I am continuing to pursue and expand my knowledge of social work, particular in the field of child welfare, while completing my internship with child protective services at the Department of Human Services this upcoming year.

Morgan Mullings (she/her), Media and Communication Studies intern


Hi! My name is Morgan and I’m a senior here at UMBC pursuing a BA in Media and Communications major with minors in English and Cinematic Arts. I am a poet, photographer, and aspiring filmmaker and most of my work stems from my own identity and experiences as a woman of color. If I’m not working at the Women’s Center you can find me watching Ghost Shark (2013) with my friends. I am also a huge stationary nerd and I work at commonvision so ask me any question about a piece of paper.

If I could be any mythical creature it would be a unicorn that only speaks in quotes about intersectional feminism.

Samiksha Manjani (she/her)


Hi! My name is Samiksha Manjani and I am a senior here at UMBC. I’m excited to return for another year as a part of the Women’s Center team! I’m a double-major in Political Science  and Sociology, and am currently on the pre-law track. I hope to one day use my law degree to legally combat violence against women and children. During my time at the Women’s Center, I hope to create a diverse, empowering and safe environment for everyone.

On a side note, I love learning about people’s backgrounds, cultures, histories, and politics. I love fitness, soccer, and yoga. I’m all about self-care (i.e. art, journaling, meditation) and being positive! I love baking and cooking. I’m a crime show nut (i.e. Law & Order, Criminal Minds), and I try to keep up with the news. Feel free to stop by for a chat or to say “Hi!” to me if you see me around campus!

Shrijana Khanal (she/her)

Hi friends! My name is Shrijana and I am a sophomore at UMBC. I am an Economics major and minoring in Computer Science and International Relations. When I am not at work, I am reading a thrilling book or watching the sunset.

Ask me about zodiac signs or the latest updates in soccer!