Celebrating our May 2019 Returning Women Student Scholar Graduates!

A post curated by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Last week, the Women’s Center celebrated our Returning Women Student Scholars graduating this semester at our pinning ceremony. This event has become a tradition in the Women’s Center as a means to celebrate our continuing and graduating returning women students who are UMBC students 25 years and older seeking their first undergraduate degree. These students are called “returning” because they often have various circumstances that have kept them from what our popular culture deems as a traditional college path and they are now “returning” to college to pursue their degree. Student scholars in this program not only receive scholarships to help financial supplement their tuition, but also benefit from tailored support and programming from Women’s Center staff through individualized meetings, programs, and events that meet the specific needs of older students on campus. Each year we have between 20-25 scholars and affiliates participate in this unique program.

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Many members of the 2018-19 Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates celebrate their accomplishments whether it’s finishing up another semester or making it to graduation day!

At this special “pinning” ceremony, graduating seniors receive their Women’s Center Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates pin to wear at graduation along with a yellow rose. Each scholar was invited to share a short reflection, many of which included joy, excitement, gratitude, and sheer exhaustion. “I finally made it!” rang through the Women’s Center lounge walls along with laughter and tears.

Students not graduating were also invited to share their reflections on the year and one scholar asked to read a poem her friend recently shared with her as a note of encouragement. As the poem was read aloud, the group of students present became captivated by the reality this poem had in their own lives. At its conclusion almost everyone said “you will you please share that?!” (we’ll share with you too… a condensed version is below). For a non-traditional adult learner who often feels like they are taking on the weight of the world, this poem is a powerful testament to their strength and determination.

“…I’ve hated this woman. I’ve not loved her at full capacity. I’ve fed her lies & told her she wasn’t good enough and have allowed others to tell her she wasn’t good enough. I’ve allowed her to be broken. I’ve allowed others to treat her disrespectfully. I’ve allowed her to run through brick walls & battle for others who won’t even stand for her. I couldn’t stop individuals from abandoning her, yet I’ve seen her get up and stand to be a light to the world & love others despite all that. I have stood paralyzed by fear while she fought battles in her mind, heart and soul….She is who she is. Every mistake, failure, trial, disappointment, success, joy, and achievement has made her the woman she is today…. This Woman is a WARRIOR. She’s not perfect but God calls her WORTHY! She’s UNSTOPPABLE. Gracefully broken but beautifully standing. She is love. She is life. She is transformation. She is ME and She is BRAVE!”

Anyone who has spent time in the Women’s Center knows that working with this special group of students is one of my favorite experiences in my role as director of the Women’s Center. At a University which celebrates, grit and greatness, no other student cohort exhibits both with such deep grace and humility. As individuals and as a community, they are brave and unstoppable. So, it is with great joy that I invite you to join me in celebrating these fantastic students and their accomplishments. Below are some of our graduating students who in their own words share what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and some sage advice for other adult learners.

Happy Graduation!!!

Lex Ashcroft, Newcombe Scholar 

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Lex and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration.

I started my journey at UMBC as a transfer student from AACC in the fall of 2016 as a psychology major. My first semester at UMBC was rough to say the least, being a single mom working full time in addition to taking evening classes. I didn’t have time to take part in any extracurricular activities or campus groups. I remember feeling very disconnected and discouraged at times. Thankfully, I came across the Parents Club in my second semester and connected with other student parents. Through them, I was introduced to the Women’s Center and the Returning Women Students (RWS) program. The RWS scholarship fully covered the rest of my tuition costs, and took such a burden off of my shoulders. Not only that, it allowed me to connect with other “nontraditional students” and women who had similar challenges as mine. The support that the RWS program (and the Women’s Center as a whole) offers is so important, especially for students who have competing responsibilities outside of school.

To say I am excited for graduation is an understatement, I’m eager to get started on the next lap of my educational journey. I will be applying to doctorate programs at the end of this year, and hope to enter a program in the Fall of 2020. I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing professors here at UMBC, and through them I further explored areas of study that I hadn’t considered before. I hope to combine my love of psychology and education into a career as a behavioral health policy analyst.

My advice to returning women students, don’t be afraid to explore. Your time here will pass much faster than you think. Join clubs, service based or professional orgs. Get familiar with our awesome resources like the Women’s Center, the Mosaic Center, and Off Campus Student Services. You will find your tribe within the UMBC community, and it will make your college experience so much more fulfilling.

You can also read more about Lex’s story which is featured in one of UMBC’s graduation news stories

Giovanna Carbonaro, Newcombe Scholar 

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Giovanna and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

Graduation has been the front and the center of my ultimate goal since I began going to school. I still remember walking to my classes pregnant, postpartum and walking around the halls with my little guys. Yes, it was hard, difficult and exhausting; however every time I reminded myself all the reasons I am getting an education. My best gift of all! That has helped me to focus. There have been countless times where I felt despair and I didn’t know how to find school resources. Here is where Returning Women Students community has been the backbone to my success by not only offering me a safe place to rest, but also to connect with other students/adults like me. Their staff were always ready to help with a big smile which made me feel so welcome and put me at ease; for which I am SO thankful. Thank you!!!

As for my career path, I am looking into part time teaching positions so I can be around my young boys who are under 5 years old. The thought that I will be walking to receive my undergrad diploma in Multicultural Linguistics Communication has proved to me once more that if we set our minds to do it….anything is possible.

Jaime Engrum, Newcombe Scholar 

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Jaime and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

I started my journey at UMBC 4 years ago after spending 4 years completing my associate’s degree. I knew that a career in social work was what I wanted and I was willing to do another 4 years of college to achieve my bachelors. Taking only 2 classes a semester, I felt it was going to take forever to finish. The time went by faster than I expected and I was 2 semesters away from graduating and an internship I felt I was prepared for was about to begin. My professors at UMBC prepared me with the knowledge I needed to enter by internship, however I was not financially prepared. I had met the limits to all my loans and I saved as much vacation time I could to help with the hours I would lose going from working full-time to part time, however it wasn’t enough. I feared all my hard work was not going to end with a degree. My advisor recommended I apply for the Newcombe Returning Women’s scholarship the semester before my internship. She said I have a story and it should be shared!

The short version to my story is I didn’t decide to go to college until 10 years after graduating high school. I was a teenage mother raising my son on my own. College to me was not an option at that time. Once he was older and I had more family support close by, I decided to go to college. It has taken a tremendous amount of time away from time spent with my family to have my degrees; however, I have shown my son the value of a college education. During my 8 years of college I have married and my son is preparing himself for college.

As my internship approached, I received a notification that I was a recipient of the Newcombe Returning Women’s scholarship. It brought tears of joy that I received an award that allowed me to finish my senior year at UMBC and earn my degree in social work. Not only did this scholarship help me financially, but it allowed me to connect with women, like myself, and have a support system to encourage me to keep going when I couldn’t find balance in my life.

I now am about to walk across the stage next week with thanks to the amazing professors at UMBC and the amazing support of the Returning Women’s Program. The following week I then get to sit and watch my son graduate from high school! It may have been a long 8 years, but the reward at the end is priceless. I plan to begin my Master’s in Social Work this fall!

Rachel Mansir, Newcombe Scholar 

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Rachel and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

Sitting here, looking at the calendar, I am in utter disbelief. Thinking about graduating unleashes a torrent of mixed emotions. Chipping away one class at a time, this twenty-year endeavor has proven to be more than merely pursuing a piece of paper. This has become a personal journey. My diploma will contain the blood, sweat, and tears not only from me, but of my family. Returning to school as a non-traditional, older student is scary stuff. The college environment had become unfamiliar and was foreign ground for me. The Returning Women Students program created a place for me where I felt like I belonged. I connected with other single-mothers and found a brave, supportive place where I could spread my wings. Without the Women’s Center, their dedicated staff, and their financial support, I am not sure I would have been able to finish my degree. Of course, the support of my wonderful parents and daughters helped me persevere through the rough patches.

I am very much looking forward to the next stage of this grand adventure, graduate school. I have been accepted into the Advanced Standing Master’s program at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work where I will continue studying under the Title IV-E program, which is preparing me for a career as a public child welfare social worker.

I would love to tell you that going back to school was fun and has been a breeze. I can’t, because it is not easy. It’s just not. There are (many) days where you want to throw up your hands and quit. The late nights and bleary-eyed mornings can drive you to the brink of madness. The continual sacrifices and trying to balance work, raise children, juggle their activities and school is truly a struggle even on the best of days. Returning to school to finish my degree was the first thing I have ever really done for myself. But this has been, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It’s worth it. My children are worth it. I am worth it.

Tenier Simms, AEGON Scholar 

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At the age of 39, my journey began in Fall 2015 at UMBC. Undecided on whether I wanted to do nursing or social work, I ask myself who was I fooling to think I had four long years in me to do it. Unbeknownst to me, it was going to be a lot harder than community college. It was a rough start. Throughout the semesters I contemplated quitting, but my passion was to help others so giving up wasn’t an option. I remember meeting with my social work advisor and she was a little concerned. I reassured her I was going to do better, and after that first semester, I maintained A’s and B’s. As the years went on it, seem to get easier, and now that I am just days away from graduation, I can say I’m glad I stayed the course. On May 23rd, 2019 I will walk across that stage in front of my friends, family,  but most importantly my kids. My journey will show them and others that no matter how old you are, no matter how many obstacles come up against you, KEEP PUSHING! Push through the tears, doubts, and frustration because, in the end, I promise you it will be all worth it!

Being a Returning Women Student Scholar has meant so much to me it has allowed me to connect with a group of women from all ages, races, and backgrounds. The last few semesters I have had a few hardships, but because of the support I have received from Jess and the staff at the Women’s Center, it has given me the encouragement and motivation to get through. We as women make so many sacrifices in our personal and professional lives and to have a support system here at UMBC has been amazing.
My plans after graduation are to work at a local hospital as a Medical Social Worker as well as attend grad school at Morgan State University.

My advice to returning women students is don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of your dreams. Take full advantage of the Women’s Center and all that it has to offer; you will thank yourself later. Remember you have what it takes to be a victorious, independent, fearless woman!

Congratulations to our other Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates graduating this May:

Briana Graves, Newcombe Scholar 
Kiona Hines,
Newcombe Scholar 

Laura Popp, Newcombe Scholar 
Estelle Ra, Affiliate
Jenny Sage, Newcombe Scholar 
Ellen Tippet, Newcombe Scholar 

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Graduating Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates pose together with their graduation pins.

For more information about the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates program, visit the Women’s Center website. Returning Women Students at UMBC are also encouraged to join the group’s Facebook group.

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B-I-N-G-O spells SCOUT…with the Women’s Center

Last semester we launched everybody’s fave, the Women’s Center Scouts! And it was really, really popular.

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Like really popular and if you missed out you’re probably feeling a little sad right now. Well, don’t be because we’re rolling out the Women’s Center Scouts Spring Challenge!

BINGO!!!!

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We still have the Women’s Center Scouts, but this semester it’ll be a little different. If you haven’t already, start by joining the Women’s Center myUMBC page and following at least one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). If you’re already a member and following one of our pages, great! You’re one step closer.

Now, instead of completing three different Women’s Center events throughout the semester, you’ll be racing to get a Connect 5 on our brand new bingo board (aka Punch the Patriarchy Card)!

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  • Attend any one Women’s Center event
  • Bring a friend to the lounge and give them a tour
  • Donate paper towels, tissues, or food to the Women’s Center
  • Attend one program before Spring Break Attend one Women’s Center workshop
  • Color a coloring page in the Women’s Center
  • Bring a friend to a Women’s Center event or group
  • Fill out the question of the week on the whiteboard
  • Attend one Knowledge Exchange
  • Make a ~new~ friend in the Women’s Center!
  • Read a Women’s Center blog on womenscenteratumbc.wordpress.com and ask the author a question
  • Introduce yourself to a Women’s Center student staff member and learn about their astrological sign
  • Free Space (Because We Love You)
  • Share a Women’s Center post or event on your social media and tag or mention us!
  • Follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter Instagram) and comment on one of our posts!
  • Attend a Women’s Center Pop Culture Pop-Up (look out for when they’re announced but they’ll always fall on Wednesdays at noon)
  • Attend one discussion group (i.e. Between Women, Women of Color Coalition, Returning Women Students, or We Believe You. Not sure if the discussion group is for you? Check out our website to learn more about each group’s purpose and community).
  • Attend one Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) event (calendar coming later this semester. All SAAM events will take place in April)
  • Celebrate Galentine’s Day with the Women’s Center on 2/13/19
  • Donate coffee or tea!
  • Check out a book from the Women’s Center Library
  • Bring back a book from the Women’s Center library
  • Make a Take Back the Night rally sign
  • Go to the Clothesline Project Display on 4/8/19 on Main Street
  • Attend Trans Day of Visibility film screening on 3/27/19

A few rules! It is completely up to you to track your progress. The Punch the Patriarchy Cards are already printed and ready for you to claim in the Women’s Center. Each person’s card will stay with us at the Women’s Center front desk, but you’re welcome to take a picture to help map your moves and keep track of your progress. When you complete a square, it’s up to you to “punch” it with a pen or marker of your choice. Don’t forget to date the square when it is completed. And finally, we’ll trust you to keep a scouts honor and mark challenges you ~actually~ did complete.

Any UMBC community member who completes the challenge by May 1st gets a Women’s Center T-shirt! If you already have one, you’ll get a shout-out on our social media pages for being a stellar scout (or maybe, just maybe you might be able to get one of our awesome Take Back the Night t-shirts).

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All UMBC students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate!

IT’S BINGO TIME WOMEN’S CENTER STYLE!

For questions, stop by the Women’s Center or email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.

Celebrating our Returning Women Student Scholar Graduates!

A post curated by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Last week, the Women’s Center celebrated our Returning Women Student Scholars graduating this semester at our pinning ceremony. This event has become a tradition in the Women’s Center as a means to celebrate our continuing and graduating returning women students who are UMBC students 25 years and older seeking their first undergraduate degree. These students are called “returning” because they often have various circumstances that have kept them from what our popular culture deems as a traditional college path and they are now “returning” to college to pursue their degree. Student scholars in this program not only receive scholarships to help financial supplement their tuition, but also benefit from tailored support and programming from Women’s Center staff through individualized meetings, programs, and events that meet the specific needs of older students on campus. Each year we have between 20-25 scholars and affiliates participate in this unique program.

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Returning Women Student Scholars celebrating the end of the semester and our December graduates at the pinning celebration.

Anyone who has spent time in the Women’s Center knows that working with this special group of students is one of my favorite experiences in my role as director of the Women’s Center. It is with great joy that I invite you to join me in celebrating these fantastic students and their accomplishments. Below are some of our graduating students who in their own words share what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and some sage advice for other adult learners. Happy Graduation!!!

Ariel Poirier, Newcombe Scholar

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Ariel and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

I became a full-time student at UMBC in the fall of 2016. Before this I was working through my associates at AACC and completed that with a degree in general studies and photography. My major at UMBC and what I’ll be graduating with is environmental studies and geography! I’m so excited to finally end this long journey to my Bachelor’s degree.

My future plans are to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I had a great experience interning with them last summer in Jacksonville, Florida. I also plan on returning to school within the next few years to earn my Masters degree in ecology.

My advice to returning women students is to connect with your professors! I had such great relationships with my professors and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been bold and introduced myself. This goes a long way with building a rapport and establishing trust. Another thing I would say is to try not to become discouraged! You’re here for a reason!

Laura Newman, Tydings Scholar

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Laura and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

I was a UMBC dropout in 2004 when I could not continue as a student. I spent years struggling with mental health issues and my family has told me how they had thought I would never be capable of going to school again. A genetic test called GeneSight helped determine what medicine to take and I quickly began to recover. I went to communtiy college for a semester and got As and gained confidence to return to UMBC. My grades have been above 3.5 my whole time here. I am proud to be graduating and already employed full time. I hope to be an inspiration to anyone who has struggled with the balance of mental health and school.

My advice to returning women students is to connect with the Women’s Center which provided me amazing professional development support for me as I began to transition into a full career. Additionally, the scholarship program provided me additional financial support and helped me work an internship that led to an awesome job. The Women’s Center had helpful workshops, including salary negotiation and helpful tips on Google apps. I was surprised how much I learned!

Lauren Hall, Newcombe Scholar

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Lauren and Jess at the Returning Women Student Scholars pinning celebration

Stay tuned for more from Lauren in her own words. In the meantime, let’s celebrate Lauren who is graduating with a degree in English Literature. We’re excited that Lauren will be staying on campus as she pursues a Masters in the Art of Teaching for secondary education beginning this spring. Happiest of birthdays to her son who is very excited to be celebrating his birthday on Lauren’s graduation day!

 

For more information about the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates program, visit the Women’s Center website. Returning Women Students at UMBC are also encouraged to join the group’s Facebook group.

Women $POWR in the Crypto World!

Missy SmithStaff member, Missy Smith, takes a deeper look into cryptocurrency trend.

Every winter break or summer season, I choose something to study and dive into when I’m in between “stuff” with a little more time to grow a hobby or a part of my dream. Last summer, I scratched my creative butch itch and learned how to do some woodworking. I sanded and polyurethaned a bench in my driveway in the hot summer sun. The result is pretty awesome! Here is an after and before pic. 

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Someone asked me what I learned in the process. I made a list. 

  1. Sanding by hand is tedious, but I got to know the wood better by taking my time and using patience with each stroke, resting when necessary, and being more perceptive of changes when I come back to approach the canvas.
  2. No shortcuts. I cannot rush the work. When I rushed or tried to take shortcuts, the end result was blegh. 
  3. There are not a lot of women hanging out at Home Depot and sometimes I had to figure things out on my own or wait for a long time before anyone would help me.
  4. I met a lot of cool folks in the woodworking and refurbishing community!

This past Winter break, I decided to dive into creative work and finish some lingering music projects from 2017. After reading headlines about something called Bitcoin and pondering my own investments, I accidentally stumbled into cryptocurrency. Like Home Depot, when I started researching, I didn’t see a ton of women (or African Americans) talking about it. I did some digging. To no surprise, I quickly learned that there are not a lot of queer folks, women, or women of color in the crypto universe, just like STEM, corporate America, and higher education. But I know we exist. I see us all the time, and I am one of the few in these spaces sometimes. Being an outlier is not new to me, so I was curious about crypto. If the boys can do it, why can’t I? Why can’t we?

What is it? A Blockgeeks Inc. guide explains it well. “If you take away all the noise around cryptocurrencies and reduce it to a simple definition, you find it to be just limited entries in a database no one can change without fulfilling specific conditions.” Even more simple, your bank has a ledger that accounts for transactions, but in the crypto world a network of your peers owns the ledger. Everything is tracked, there are not mistakes (so far. And yes, I know things get hacked. Banks get robbed too!). If you are still confused, here is an image that links to a deeper dive.

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Why am I so interested in cryptocurrency? I think that for the first time in a long while (however long that is), there is something that is leveling the playing field for folks who might not have a chance to get ahead. Millenials know that should save money and invest in their retirement. Some folks are fortunate to be able to do it, and others may not be so fortunate. For me, I am in the weird generation before Millennials, and I have a unique outlook on tech, financial security, and I’m DIY enough to want to make my own way. Beyond investing, there are some great companies doing innovative work and reimagining the ways we send, spend, and receive money. 

I found some Facebook and Reddit groups for my identities as a woman and as a black person investing in crypto. There are minority professors and business leaders working as admin, holding FB live chats to talk about new coins and market strategies, all while growing the network of folks who are looking for a different way to make and spend money, digitally. I even learned about an LGBT cryptocurrency that wants to showcase the buying power of small(er) and mighty communities!  

Working at the Women’s Center has exposed me to global issues that impact women, and after studying eco feminism for one of our events last semester, I was excited to hear about sustainable currency initiatives. There are a lot of women and minorities working in the crypto space, leading companies that are offering innovative solutions to 20th century problems, thinking forward and manifesting a better future.  I learned about Power Ledger ($POWR), an Australian company that wants to recreate buying and selling of energy using blockchain technology. Their CEO, Dr Jemma Green is taking her team from Down Under to work in North America, earning headlines as “the woman powering the energy industry on the blockchain” from her peers! 

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Lympo ($LYM), a new coin that may change the healthcare industry, is led by CEO Ada Jonuse. Her company is changing the way the internet uses healthcare, data, and fitness apps and incentivizing wellness. There are even some companies that are making it easier to send money to family members in other countries. They do it faster and cheaper than traditional currencies. Women are also creating their own powerhouses networking groups to support each other and teach the world about crypto. So after all my digging over break, what did I learn? For starters, I am not a financial advisor.  But also . . . 

  1. Coming back from break is hard, but I get to know myself by studying the pieces of my bigger dream. I’m in school to make my dream concrete, so I continue to dive into work that I love. By thinking of the future, I am able to find joy vs stress in the work.
  2. There is no quick way to make money. I cannot rush the calendar year. When I rush, I stress and become obsessive. Be careful with your spending. Learn about investing and how to use the different exchanges! 
  3. There are not a lot of women working in the crypto space. I had to search for us, and I know we are knowledgeable about making money in the crypto world. We make our own networking groups to empower each other #girlsclub 
  4. I learned about a ton of cool people (people that look and live like me) making big headlines and leading 21st century companies, global entities, that will change the world.

Many mornings, I wake up and find headlines about women in crypto. We are leading and contributing and the world is taking notice. Crypto will not last as another boy’s club, not if we can change the narrative. If you want some more reading, here are a bunch of recent articles, mostly about women and crypto, that have made my morning coffee more enjoyable! Have fun!

Supporting Survivors – Kelsey Donnellan

givingday3.jpgWe see you. We believe you. You matter.

Yesterday, across the UMBC campus, community members came together to support the Black & Gold Rush! The Women’s Center is so happy for the donations this year. We raised almost $700 on behalf of our campaign yesterday! We cannot express our gratitude, so we figured we’d let someone else tell a story about how awesome it is to be a part of the Women’s Center. For our final post, we got some stories from a West Coast alumni, the amazing Kelsey Donnellan! Kelsey shares a story about creativity and art as meaningful ways to heal.

Name – Kelsey Donnellan

UMBC Major/ Minor – Interdisciplinary Studies

Hometown – San Jose, CA

Current Job Title/ Employer – Analyst, Health Improvement

How did your time at the UMBC Women’s Center support your current work or career path? The UMBC Women’s Center was instrumental in my success at UMBC and in my career. The staff, resources available, and partners helped me recover from trauma that impacted me everyday. My need to survive affected me in ways I didn’t even know, which is why I needed the kind and gentle support of the Women’s Center.

How would you describe your UMBC experience? My UMBC experience was filled with activities and experiences from clubs to living on campus to working on campus. One of my favorite experiences was with the Women’s Center as I healed from trauma and learned how to be a better advocate for myself and with others.

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Share a special moment from your time in the Women’s Center. How did it shape your experience as a survivor? During my second year at UMBC, I worked as an RA and had the opportunity to host events. Another RA and I decided to host spaces for survivors, like us, to create shirts for The Clothesline Project. Art therapy was a major part of my healing. Seeing people come in reminded me the importance of creating these spaces as people processed artistically. I was also reminded that my story, while only mine, was not unique. For those hours we painted, there was a shared understanding of the trauma we experienced and the healing we had left to do.

Kelsey! We thank you for sharing your stories and for the work that you did/ do to help other survivors. There are so many people who benefit from having a supportive community!

UMBC Giving Day Black and Gold Rush is an inspiring example of what the UMBC community can accomplish together. If you would like to support survivors of sexual violence at UMBC, and build a coalition of supportive allies, consider giving to the Women’s Center’s GritStarter campaign.  Giving Day at UMBC may be over but our campaign plans to keep going strong through the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month which is in April. 



What are Pop Culture Pop Ups?! The Golden Globes: Black Out and Oprah

Sydney Phillips

A blog post written by student staff member, Sydney.

 

It’s official! The Women’s Center has a new ongoing event starting this spring semester. What is it you ask?

Pop Culture Pop Ups!

You’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a Pop Culture Pop Up?” Well, that’s what I’m here to explain.

If you frequent the Women’s Center you know that it is often a space for spontaneous discussion with others regarding shared interests (about life, events,  and school to include the awesome, the good, the bad, and the frustrating – and more!). The energy and critical dialogue that comes from these conversations are what make the Women’s Center the Women’s Center and we wanted to nourish more of these moments by carving out time for more intentional dialogue surrounding both fun and serious topics that come up in our daily lives. Hence, the pop up of these Pop Culture Pop Ups.

We envision these pop ups will create a space for anyone who is on campus and wants to discuss an event, movement, hashtag (and more!) that has gotten huge attention or gone viral to come to the Women’s Center and have a brave space to discuss their feelings, reactions, and ideas linked to the topic. Of course, we’ll make sure to talk about how these pop culture moments intersect with gender and women’s issues, feminism, and social justice. Yet, unlike many of the other events that we hold in the Women’s Center, there won’t be a planned agenda, prepared questions, or a panel of experts and practitioners to guide the conversation.

Essentially, our plan is to take the conversations we notice people are often having on social media and make them into IRL conversations! We may do a bit of background research or read an article that shows up on our Facebook, but this is really a space for raw, immediate reactions to what it happening in a fun and thoughtful way with other people on want to engage in a conversation around the same topic.  That’s why our Pop Ups won’t come with a “save the date.” While they will be held on Wednesdays at free hour, they will be spur of the moment decisions (get it, Pop Ups?) in reaction to an event. This means we we could decide to have one the Sunday before or Tuesday night so check our social media for updates!

Pop CUlture Pop Up_ EVENT...

Some of you may still be confused about what it is we’d talk about or what is considered pop culture, and the ambiguity is kind of the beauty of it (it can really be anything), but it may help to have an example.

A Pop Up we would have loved to have, but unfortunately weren’t able to because of winter break was all things Golden Globes. From the second I heard about #TimesUp and the #whywewearblack Black Out/ Protest, I was hooked and invested. This is something I wanted to discuss and dissect with others. Who was involved in the decision? Did everyone wear black? What is the point? These would all be questions that would definitely come up in a Pop Up.

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Hollywood showed up in black this year at the Golden Globes.       Photo Credits: Getty/WireImage

If you watched the show, or saw any of the coverage after the fact, you’d know that almost everyone did indeed wear black, but you also would have seen the backlash about why this form of protest just wasn’t good enough. Wearing black isn’t that hard-especially for men, said some while others said that a better idea would be to protest the event all together. Not only did the dress-code come under fire, but so did the men (and some women) who showed up wearing black and the Times Up pin. What about the actors and actresses that are wearing black but work with Woody Allen or other stars that are being held accountable? What does wearing black do when you’re still silent about sexual violence and believing survivors in your daily life as well as career? I know these questions flew around my head and basically everyone’s on the internet. I wish we could have had a Pop-Up to really reflect on how we were feeling post black-out. I still don’t know how I feel about the whole thing. I love the men and women who came out to support, I love that a lot of them made donations and brought activists as their dates, and I love that we’re finally TALKING ABOUT IT…. but I also ask, is it enough? This is why Pop Ups are important. They’ll come together fast, bring us together about current issues, and let us digest these potentially confusing emotions and reactions.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

While the Blackout is something that could take up a whole Pop Up on its own there was another highlight of the night that we would have LOVED to talk about. You guessed it folks — OPRAH!

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Me listening to Oprah’s speech!

Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement (the first Black woman to do so) and delivered a speech that BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. She discussed growing up and representation in the media, people who took a chance on her and how that led to success in her career, her value of the press and the pursuit of the truth, the sexual violence in the entertainment industry and beyond, and the women who are speaking up.

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It was moving, brought tears to my eyes, had me fist-pumping, and cheering her on (I encourage you to watch it here). I wish I would have had the chance to see how others felt in person rather than on Facebook and tumblr, especially with so many mixed feelings surrounding the activism at the Golden Globes. Not only could we have discussed this epic speech, but we could also unpack the public’s call for a presidential run and what that really means. Should Oprah run? Some say HELL YEAH, others think she’s just another billionaire and we should support other Black women who are already in politics, while others are saying no more to celebrity presidents. There’s a lot more to unpack here in terms of politics, who we support, and how the institution (both Hollywood and politics) may be changing.

Discussions about how we feel in the present as well as how we move forward in the future about this moments in time are important to have and that’s why the Women’s Center will be bringing you these Pop Culture Pop Up moments.

To stay informed about when Pop-Ups will happen make sure to follow us on myUMBC, Facebook and Twitter. Also follow us on Snapchat (@womencenterumbc) where we will be posting more about daily happenings in the Women’s Center.

If there’s something that comes up over the next semester you want to talk about, be sure to let the Women’s Center staff know (you can also use the hashtag #WCPopUp). It just may become the next Pop Culture Pop-Up! 

 

For more on the Blackout:

On why it’s about more than a dress

On what it means for designers

For more on Times Up:

On the Time’s Up Movement

On how #METOO and Time’s Up relate

For more on Oprah’s Speech:

On Black women being the “clean up” crew for America- and why that’s a problem

On the “missed point” of the speech