A Mother’s Day Shout Out (Plus Some Action Items)

This post was written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers as a tribute to our UMBC moms. Special thanks to the moms who provided photos to help curate our Women’s Center moms collage. Wishing happy thoughts to all our UMBC moms in your first and hopefully last quarantined Mother’s Day! 


Self-Care Content Note: There’s lots of reasons why Mother’s Day can be hard for a lot of different people. We see you and your story and your pain and hurt matter to us too. Be kind to yourself. Create boundaries in ways that feel right for you. Reach out to someone who can validate your real emotions that don’t require censorship.

Image with 6 different flower bouquets to represent various challenges for people on Mother's Day. Text reads: Thinking of you: Mothers who have lost children; Those who have lost mothers; Those with strained mother relationships; Mothers with strained child relationships; Those who have chosen not to be mothers; Those yearning to be mothers.

To those who may be hurting. We see you.


Okay, so let’s just put this out there. My mom is my favorite human being. So much so, I just got teared up writing that last sentence.

How else can I explain it? I remember one Mother’s Day when I was in high school. My mom and I were in the car to go visit my Busia (that’s grandmother in Polish). We were listening to the radio and a caller request came in. The caller explained that the requested song for her mom was “their song.” And, as caller requests go – she shouted out her mom, said she loved her, probably gave a woooo!!!, and then the song came on.

It was Celion Dion’s Because You Loved Me.  

It took all of three seconds for my mom and I to look at each other with the biggest “wows” on our faces (also mom upside down is wow). A love song. A love song for a mother and daughter. By then we had pulled up to my Busia’s house, but we just sat in the car, listened to the lyrics, and cried. And, that was the moment we too had a love song.  I am everything I am because my mom loves me.

IMG_6610

Jess and her mom with True Grit at UMBC’s Faculty and Staff Awards celebration in 2018! 

I could go on and on, but the point of this blog post isn’t to gush about mom (well not exactly). It’s about gushing about you, Dear Moms of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

To the moms who serve or who have served on the Women’s Center Advisory Board

To the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates Moms and all of our student moms

To the moms who have spent countless hours in our lactation room pumping away

 To the moms who have served as staff members over the decades

To our Friends of the Women’s Center Moms

To the moms who have donated their money, their time, their skills to support our mission

To those who aren’t moms but support and champion the work of the Women’s Center because of the space and meaning it holds for moms

Thank you for you. Thank you for being a part of the Women’s Center community. In the words of Celine Dion, we are everything we are because you love us… you make us a stronger and richer community because we get to learn from you, benefit from your skills, and call you our friends and allies.

 


So, in honor of all these brilliant moms we offer some suggestions and action items to take this Mother’s Day weekend:

Virtual ways to celebrate or honor a mom in your life:

  • Plan a virtual Mother’s Day celebration. I know, the Zoom burnout is real but how can you get creative so it doesn’t feel like another work or school meeting? Send invites, encourage people to dress up or bring some fancy snacks to the call, or make it a game/trivia call. 
  • Not up for organizing something? Watch something together that’s already planned like Un Dia Especial con Mamá (Special Day with Mama) hosted by Creative Alliance, Somos Baltimore Latino, Nuestras Raíces Inc., and Artesanas Mexicanas. The live stream begins at 11am on Mother’s Day. 
  • Zoom again but this time with the kiddos! Give a mom you love the chance to take a deep breath by offering to entertain their little ones via Zoom by reading them a story or leading an activity.
  • Send or drop off a care package or meal.
  • Create a grateful jar. What are the things you’re grateful for when it comes to a special mom in your life. Write it down and put it in a jar so that gratitude can be called upon in times of need. This can be an individual or collective effort.  
  • Send some snail mail (or a text!). ! If there are people in your life that could benefit from feeling seen and appreciated on Mother’s Day, consider writing them a thoughtful note, reminding them you’re here for them, or simply drawing something that words can’t quite capture. As we reminded folks in the content note above, there are lots of feelings people can experience on or close to Mother’s day. Acknowledge and validate those feelings.
  •  This list not working for you? That’s okay! Let Google be your friend or let this simply be the beginning of a creative brainstorm session.

To help advocate for a mom in your life:

For those of us who aren’t moms, we may have no idea what it’s like to be a mom in quarantine. Even moms in quarantine won’t know exactly what other moms are going through. What we do know, though, is that at home and on the front line of this pandemic, women are essential.

So how can you learn more? Here’s a few recommended readings and podcasts. After checking out those, consider ways you can advocate for mothers in your own life and spheres of influence. As always, we appreciate your own ideas and suggestions in the comments!

 

Trans Women in Women’s Spaces: A Reflection on the Transition of Privilege and Belonging

Autumn is a junior Meyerhoff Scholar (M29), pursuing a BS in Chemistry and a BA in Gender, Women and  Sexuality Studies dual degree, and currently a student intern at the Women’s Center.

Content Note: The content of this blog may be triggering. Topics addressed by this blog include transphobia, menstruation, pregnancy, dysphoria, and gender-confirmation surgery.

When I first received an offer to intern at the Women’s Center, I was very excited. Throughout my years at UMBC, the Women’s Center quickly became my home away from home and was a place to feel safe, included, and accepted. I participated in as many events as possible and volunteered whenever I had the time. I even had the privilege of being able to facilitate Spectrum meetings for a semester before formally joining the staff. By working in the Women’s Center, I thought I would be able to help create an even better space for the people I shared the space with and new community members alike. 

However, even while writing this blog post, I experience imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.” I think that the sheer complexity of how this imposter syndrome is taking effect for me (and people like me with a pretty fraught, tenuous and ever-changing relationship with womanhood) is demonstrated in the carefulness of the words that I am using in this blog. This is a really multifaceted issue that deals with dysphoria, internalized transphobia, the differences of experiences between marginalized identities and intersectionality. 

Vaginas!? 

When I was born, the doctor looked at my genitals and proclaimed to the world and the government that “It’s a boy.” For those who know me, it is somewhat obvious that this label did not stick for the “normal” amount of time (read: the entire lifespan). If you’ve not caught on yet, I’m very much not a boy anymore and I identify as a nonbinary trans woman (I know its a bit of an oxymoron; gender is FUNKY).

gif of person dancing

I experience marginalization and oppression, but I also have privilege in this identity. I struggle with the privilege I have by being a trans feminine person that was able to come out early on in my life and that I was able to start my medical transition when I still was in high school. 

Even so, working in the Women’s Center at UMBC as a nonbinary, transgender woman is peculiar. Because of my experiences with transness and my body, I am not the best equipped to assist with issues that students may come to the Women’s Center to address. For example, I don’t have a vagina (YET!), and I didn’t grow up with one, therefore I don’t have the first-hand knowledge that comes with menstruating, pregnancy, or growing up as an AFAB person in a heterosexist and misogynistic society. 

This has made interactions with some community members weird when they ask for help with things I don’t have experience with. I’m deathly afraid of giving the wrong advice or having an interaction that makes someone uncomfortable. If a community member comes into the Center and asks about internal condoms or pregnancy tests (while I’m not uneducated on the subjects) I cannot give as good of an answer as someone with experience.  Even when I am pointing out the tampons and pads that the Women’s Center offers to the community for free, I deal with that fear and alienation. 

As a transfeminine person, I am acutely aware of how “womanhood,” as the greater society knows it, is defined in bioessentialist definitions. When doing the work that involves vaginas and helping people with vaginas, I am always reminded of the “essential” difference of my body and that I am not fully “them.”

I am wondering how much this anxiety stems from internalized transphobia that I have surrounding transgender women, including myself, not really being “full” women or that I don’t truly belong in a women’s space. Throughout my life, the topic of periods, reproduction and menstrual products have always been a sticking point for me and my experience: a constant trigger for my dysphoria. It’s a common trigger for a lot of trans women, not just because of the consistent TERF bioessentialist dog whistles, but because we as trans women lack the thing that is worshiped as a pillar of western societal femininity: the ability to reproduce. Of course, I want to acknowledge that this is a completely bogus measure of femininity because the ability to reproduce is completely disconnected to femininity. Femininity and reproduction are two distinct aspects of humanity that are conflated in a way that serves to not only enforce exclusion but to oppress those who do not fit the societal standards. To some extent, I believe that I’m invading a space that I really do not have the right to inhabit. 

Privileged Transitions

In terms of my transition, I am exceptionally privileged. I was born to an accepting family who supported me when I came out after my freshman (literally “man”) year of high school. Me coming out to them was a bit of an accident even, but it went well. I was able to access hormones soon after and I just scheduled bottom surgery for after I graduate from UMBC. I’m white and I pass as a cis woman reasonably well, and I have the resources to access my endocrinologist regularly and I am able to afford my medical treatment. I also have the privilege of growing up as someone who was assigned male at birth in a society that greatly values maleness, especially in science and in leadership. Because of my socialization, I am allowed a higher level of confidence and ownership in science and leadership than someone who was reared as a woman in the same fields.

All of these compounding areas of privilege greatly influence how I can exist in a space, and how much space I take up, especially at a women’s center. As someone who was reared as a male in our society, it sometimes feels really weird to go to events that specifically cater to women.

I also see my own experience paralleled in a previous Women’s Center staff member Daniel, as they had to grapple with the realities of being a trans man when working in the Women’s Center. In their blog post about male privilege, Daniel discusses how they strive to be cognizant of the space they take up within the Women’s Center because Dan’s privilege is not as cut and dry as one might see between a cis man and a cis woman. Their blog posts detailed how they saw themselves within the Women’s Center as a “white, medically transitioning, ‘passing’ man,” and how that influenced Dan’s participation. Even though they have the privileges afforded to white men, because of their transness, Daniel is precariously perched on the Glass Elevator and experiences marginalization at the hands of a heterocissexist society. Although the experiences of all trans people are not the same, I can deeply relate to Dan’s experiences as a student staff member at the Women’s Center.

Privilege aside, there is a level of marginalization that I experience in entering and being a part of the Women’s Center. Cis women come into this space and feel entitled to it. Me? I do… and I also pause. I enter the space tentatively because my sense of belonging is not always assured. 

Existing Within the Bounds of My Triggers

Throughout my transition, my dysphoria, anxiety, and depression has been pretty intensely triggered by the topics of menstruation, reproduction, and topics around cis-women bodies. 

I was really, really worried about this when I started at the Women’s Center because I imagined that it would be very hard for me to remove myself from potentially triggering situations when I’m working (such as a community member needing assistance with something). I still really struggle with this even as I am halfway through my internship. However, I’ve been a lot less triggered by these situations than I thought I would initially.

I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I feel like this ease comes in part from the ability to put boundaries between my own sense of self and my sense of representing the Women’s Center. Regardless of what this means about my self-esteem and coping, boundaries allow me to exist and operate in this work.

Ultimately, I think that it is okay and normal to be uncomfortable in some spaces. This discomfort is good. The oppressive nature of the gender binary and the heterocissexist society is diametrically opposed to the reality that trans people live so discomfort is inevitable. But when dealing with big, overarching systems of power that influence our lives, sometimes identifying that there even is a problem is the first step of trying to challenge the norms. In other words, without identifying the problem, it is impossible to generate a solution. It may seem like the big, overall problem is the Gender Binary™, but I think there is a smaller, more pervasive issue when thinking and talking about how transgender people fit within the model of a women’s center. 

I think that the problem isn’t that transgender people do not fit into the current framework of mainstream feminism. The real problem is with those who either knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate systems of oppression (read: most everyone), and don’t use their power or privilege toward the radical but simple process of affirming transgender identities. In spaces like the Women’s Center, trans people should not only feel welcome but also a sense of home and belonging–and it’s cis people’s prerogative to either build those bridges with intentionality and care or continue a system that oppresses everyone: the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

My transness is an integral part of my identity, and I’m exceptionally proud of it. However, I know that my belonging in the Women’s Center is not just tied to my identity as a nonbinary trans woman. In the Women’s Center, I am surrounded by people who support and care for me and it is in that where the promise of real and actionable liberatory justice resides.

Introducing… Bri Gumbs, Program Coordinator!

The Women’s Center is pleased to introduce Bri Gumbs, pronouns she/her/hers, as our full-time program coordinator and the newest addition to the Women’s Center professional staff team! Please help us give the warmest of UMBC welcomes to Bri! Below is a short bio so you can learn a little bit about the newest member of our team! You can meet her in-person when you come into the Women’s Center as she will be one of the first people to welcome you into our space. 

portrait of new staff member Bri; a person with long brown hair and a wide-brimmed hat smiling.Bri, identifies herself as an unapologetic queer, multi-racial Latinx, womxn. Born and raised in San Diego, CA Bri has devoted her work to being an educator, femtor and advocate for increasing and improving access, representation and retention for students with underrepresented identities in higher education by using an intersectional feminist framework. The revolutionary work of Audre Lorde, The Combahee River Collective, Marsha P, Silvia Rivera and Gloria Anzaldua continues to inspire and motivate her to be an agent of change. Bri hopes to empower others to speak their truth, mobilize and cultivate community care and joy in their various communities. Bri loves her two cats and her extensive hat collection! Bri expresses her truth through zine making, personal narratives, affirmations and through the various community programs she continues to create and facilitate. Bri holds a B.A in Psychology with a minor in Counseling and Social Change and a M.A in Student Affairs.  

Our 2019-2020 Staff!

As we enter into the 2019-2020 school year, we are excited to introduce you to the brilliant, creative, and driven UMBC students working in 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. group photo of the Women's Center staff membersKaitlyn Kylus, Social Work, she/her

Headshot of KaitlynHello! My name is Kaitlyn and I’m a junior this year. I’m majoring in Social Work with a minor in Psychology, and I’m super excited to be working at the Women’s Center this year. I can’t wait to meet you all!

I’m also the Secretary of We Believe You and the Vice President of UMBC Debate Club.In my spare time you can catch me painting, watching cat videos, or taking a nap. Feel free to come say hi, and if you have pictures of your cat, please show me!

 

Kay Hinderlie, Psychology, they/them

Hi folks! I’m Kay, and I’m a senior at UMBC. I am pursuing a BA in Psychology with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. When I’m not in the Women’s Center or in classes, you would probably find me watching cartoons or taking napping. I love trying new things! I’ve taken up playing video games and listening to podcasts less than a year ago. If you see me around, please feel free to say hi!

Morgan Mullings, Media and Communication Studies, she/her and they/them

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 worked 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.

Sam Hertl, Social Work, they/them

Hello! My name is Sam and I’m a Social Work major with a Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies minor at UMBC. I’ll be working in the Women’s Center this year to fulfill my senior year Social Work Field Placement. I’ll be helping facilitate the discussion groups Between Women and We Believe You. I am passionate about advancing gender equity especially with a focus on the trans and genderqueer community. I’m looking forward to the connections I will be making and the knowledge that I’ll gain while a part of the Women’s Center community!

Additionally, I’m a big animal person (please show me pictures of your pets)! I’m an RA on campus, an aries, an artist, and an activist. Feel free to chat with me anytime!

Stories from Survivors – Kayla Smith

We see you. We believe you. You matter.

givingdaybanner

“What would it mean to survivors for  the entire campus community to be behind them in their healing? What would it mean for survivors that the care we give to them is not limited to the few on campus either whose job it is to do this work, or who have taken a special, personal interest in it?”*

The Women’s Center has meant a lot to many alumni and we have their continued support for this season’s fundraising campaign. For Black and Gold Rush, we were lucky to chat with former (and current) community members about all of the ways the Women’s Center has been a useful and meaningful resources. Take some time to hear from Kayla Smith, a recent graduate, and ambassador for our Grit Starter Campaign for Survivors of Sexual Violence, and get some insight into why the Women’s Center was a big part of her UMBC experience! 

 

kaylstaffshotName – Kayla Smith

UMBC Major/ Minor – Interdisciplinary Studies – Public Health Advocacy

Hometown – Laurel, Maryland

Current Job Title/ Employer – J.D. Candidate (Law school student)

How did your time at the UMBC Women’s Center support your current work or career path? Working at the Women’s Center gave me a framework to explain and further understand the importance of intersectional activism and feminism when I approach a particular issue in the law.

How would you describe your UMBC experience? I loved being at UMBC. I made my best friends and had some of my most personally rewarding experiences while I was there.

DSC_3426 - Kayla Smith

Share a special moment from your time in the Women’s Center. How did it shape your experience as a survivor? After I led my second Take Back the Night march, I was approached by multiple women who told me that they were able to share their stories and process what happened to them because of my bravery and courage in sharing my own experiences with trauma and recovery. To me, that was the most rewarding experience because it reminded me why my work with the Women’s center was so important.

 

Kayla! Thank you for your bravery, for sharing your story, and for being a lifelong supporter of our mission!

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 during UMBC’s Giving Day this February 28th. 

 

Failing Feminism

marieblog.jpg

A reflection by student staff member, Marie, on her personal journey to becoming a feminist and beginning the process of raising her own daughters as feminists.

I am not usually one to make excuses for myself. However, there is a first time for everything, and I am about to give my excuse.  I am extremely behind the times when it comes to being a feminist and knowing everything there is to know about feminism.  

femblog2

Why is this, you might be asking?  Well, I can think of two reasons.  The first is because I am old.  It is hard to keep up with the constant evolution of feminism in this day and age when you have had a preconceived notion of feminism instilled into your brain for decades.  The second reason, which directly correlates with the first, is because of the circumstances surrounding my early education.  I was (un)fortunate to attend a private, catholic school from the time that I was in kindergarten all the way up until my senior year in high school.  I was an honored member of my school’s thirteen year club.  It felt so prestigious at the time.

During my thirteen year sentence, I can vividly remember taking the ONE class that spent a nanosecond talking about reproductive health.  This class, which was mandatory, was not even offered until our junior year in high school.  We literally looked at outdated (even for back then) pictures of both the female and male anatomy.  This lasted for about the amount of time in which the nervously sweating nun, teaching our class, could utter the phrase, “Abstinence only!”  I remember vaguely learning about menstruation, but by that time it was too late, I’d already gotten my own period.  And let me tell you the amount of time we spent on contraception, birth control, or even (gasp) abortion.  Hold on, wait for it…absolutely none.  I guess there was never any thought or consideration put into the fact that half of our class was already having sex.  Or maybe the nuns  really didn’t know, or they just chose to ignore it.

I tell you all this because my catholic education was the start of my lack of education that I was given in regards to women that had any sort of affiliation with the word feminism.  Here’s what I did know about feminism back in the late 1990’s.  It basically followed this particular guideline:feministblog1

  1. Feminists hate men.
  2. Feminists are angry.
  3. Feminists are unattractive and not feminine.
  4. All feminists are lesbians.
  5. Feminists are all pro-choice.
  6. If you are a feminist, you cannot be religious.
  7. All feminists are career women and do not support stay-at-home moms.
  8. Feminists are Bra- Burners who hate sex.
  9. Feminists can only be women.
  10. Feminists don’t believe in marriage.

I’m being 100% serious…this is what I thought.  This is what my girlfriends thought.   The idea that feminists were man hating, hairy arm pitted, bull-dykes was the epitome of the picture that came to mind if or when I ever even remotely thought about feminism.  Do you hear the problem in that last sentence??  There was a period in my life where I never even thought about feminism!  Now, you are probably thinking that this Gender and Women’s Studies double major who works at the Women’s center at UMBC, (which is centered around women and their experiences, stories, and potential) has been, since the late 90s, immersing herself in feminist theory and the constant evolution of feminism.  I am here to tell you that this has not been the case. Until recently.

beyonce.fem

I started UMBC in fall of 2014.  My intention was to get in and to get out of school.  I am 38 years old (I did it, I aged myself) and a single parent to two young, adorable children.  Going back to school was supposed to be the big catalyst that advanced my earning potential as a social worker.  It was not supposed to be this eye-opening journey down the ins and outs of a society in which there is an ever present need for the fight for equality and equity amongst genders, races, religions, ethnicities, sexualities, the LGBTQ community, etc.

social-work-rainbow

But that is exactly what happened!  I came here as a Social Work (SOWK) major with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies (GWST).  To be completely honest, I was required as a SOWK major to have a minor.  I thought that GWST was going to be my “easy out.”  Little did I know that it would literally change the way I thought, parented, lived, and experienced my day to day life.  I’m leaving here this coming May with a double major and a greater appreciation for the word feminism and all that it represents.  I owe it all to this school, in particular the Women’s Center and the Gender and Women’s Studies program.  

Summer session of 2015 was my first experience with GWST classes.  I took two “obligatory” online classes in order to expedite my graduation status.  The two classes seemed simple enough: Issues in Gender and Women’s Studies and Gender and Sitcoms.  I mean, how hard could it be to watch TV and write papers about the differences between Lucille Ball and Roseanne Arnold?  As for Issues in Gender and Women’s Studies??  I am a woman, duh.  That class was a “no brainer.”  Except neither of them turned out to be what I expected.

i-love-feminism.jpeg

I wanted more.  I needed to have interactions with “real” people.  Discussion boards were not enough.  I was dying to have feminist theories explained to me, (which I later regretted wishing as I was knee deep into Feminist Theory!)  I hated that I had boring gen ed requirements that I had to take because they took the place of GWST classes.  I began to LEARN what feminism meant, not only from my own personal perspective, but from a broader point of view.  

I have been so fortunate to have had some of the best teachers along the way who have challenged me, excited me, frustrated me, and really pushed me to think outside the box.  (Thank you Dr. Kate, Dr. Bhatt, and Dr. McCann…you all have changed me!!)  In addition to these amazing classes, I started meeting people who LIVED this way of life both inside and outside of the classroom.  These theories were ways of life and not just classroom rhetoric.  I learned about activism, and feminism on a global level.  I learned what feminism is, and most importantly, what feminism is not.

feministmyths1

AND…. I found the Women’s Center.  I found a home on this campus that incorporated everything that I was learning, and smooshed it all into a cozy center with amazing bean-bag chairs (seriously, come check them out, you won’t regret it) and a loving, safe, and colorful space.  I became part of a community that, as a non-traditional student, I struggled to fit into.  Not only that, but I could talk and ask questions about everything that I was learning  or struggling to comprehend with people who wanted to engage in this type of conversation.

Basically, what I am trying to say with all of this, is that coming to UMBC and having the engagement with the Women’s Center and the GWST program that I have been fortunate to have, has changed my perspective and my outlook on life.  I am now profoundly committed to being a better feminist on a daily basis.  I am passionate about carrying my knowledge outside of this institution and making a change in the world…or at least trying to.  I am confident in my ability to speak about feminism and am open and willing to expand my knowledge.  I am lucky to have learned what I have, even though it is considered to be “late in the game.” Feminism is an ever evolving concept, and I know that there is so much in this world that I still need to learn, and so much more that I am going to have to know how to teach…. Especially to the two little girls at home that call me “mama.”

woc-feminism.png

 

 

Women’s Center Student Staff 2017-2018

We are excited to introduce the new Women’s Center 2017-18 team! In no particular order . . .

Harini Narayanstudent staff/Honors College Intern (she/her)

My name is Harini Narayan and I’m a freshman in my second semester at UMBC. My majors are Global Studies and Political Science, with a minor in Public Policy. Social justice and advocacy is extremely important to me, so I hope to retain that beyond school when I enter the work field. I’m excited to work at the Women’s Center and explore my passion for activism with a wonderful group of people!

Harley Khaang, student staff/INDS Intern (she/her)

Hello!  I am Harley Khaang, and I am a transfer student, and a 2017 graduate of CCBC.  I am a returning woman student, currently a junior in INDS, writing my degree in Communication Strategies and Creative Resolutions and Mediation. I am happy and grateful to be attending UMBC, and honored to be working as an intern for the Women’s Center.  It is an amazing space where I feel at home, and at the same time, learn about and actively participate in feminism and activism.  I plan on being involved with the Women’s Center a long time to come!

Marie Pessagno

Marie Pessagno, student staff (she/her)

Hi everyone!!  My name is Marie and I am really excited to begin my final year at UMBC and my first year as a new staff member in the Women’s Center! I am a Social Work and Women and Gender Studies double major, and hope to continue on to grad school next year at UMB School of Social Work.  I really feel like combining these particular majors will be a tremendous advantage to my professional success in the future!  I am currently a second year Returning Woman’s Scholar, a member of the Phi Alpha Honors Society, and a first year Title IV-E student.

When I am not at UMBC, I am a (happily) single mother of two little girls that are two and one.  Between taking care of them and juggling my school work and personal life, saying that I stay busy is an extreme understatement.  However, it is because of my girls that I am able to be as committed to my education as I am.  I am psyched to have more of a presence in the Women’s Center this year, and hope to be able to showcase my passion for feminism, social justice, and the LGBTQ community.

Samiksha Manjani

Samiksha Manjani, student staff (she/her)

Hi! My name is Samiksha Manjani and I am a junior here at UMBC. This is my first year 
as a Women’s Center Staff member, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be a par
t of the community! 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 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! 

Sheila Suarez

Sheila Suarez, student staff/GWST Intern (she/her)
Hey! I am Sheila! I am double majoring in Social Work and Gender and Women’s Studies with a minor in Critical Sexuality Studies, hoping to make a career out of sexual health and LGBTQ+ advocacy, with a focus on counseling. This will be my second year at UMBC but my first year at the Women’s Center as an intern, and I am super excited to be part of this great space.

I am always running around campus, I am a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Incorporated, as well as the president of the Multicultural Greek Council. I also work at the new UMBC Arena and Event Center.

I love talking about politics, eating anything that has raspberries, and having conversations that are filled with witty sarcastic humor. I am loud, opinionated, and like talking about feminism and sexuality in crowded spaces… and not even remotely sorry about it. If you ever see me around campus, feel free to stop me just to chat.

Sydney Phillips

Sydney Phillips, student staff (she/her)
Hi everyone! My name is Sydney and I am currently a graduate student in the Applied Sociology program here at UMBC. My research surrounds social inequality and social justice based on intersectional identities such as race, class, and gender. I am also a teaching assistant on campus for Sociology 101 and love working with students! After graduating with my Master’s, I hope to become an adjunct professor in the Sociology department and become more involved in activism and advocacy, both on campus and in local non-profits. I hope to help foster a more open and accepting community for sexual assault survivors by working on the Supporting Survivors Workshop offered through the Women’s Center. I’m excited for my skills and knowledge to grow while working on issues that I am passionate about on campus! I cannot wait to work more closely with students, faculty, and staff so don’t be afraid to come say hi!


Chloe Thomas, SUCCESS Intern (she/her)

What I am doing at the SUCCESS Program:

  • I am a 4 year student (senior!) and I go to classes everyday
  • I love coming to school and seeing my friends

What I am doing at the Women’s Center:

  • Helping out the community members
  • Helping out my coworkers

And I’m NOT a stereotype! I’m not a “dumb blonde.” I’m smart and kind!

In 2007 I was on Good Morning America for Special Olympics cheerleading.

We got a call at our gym asking us to come on and they paid for our hotel and we got fancy buses to travel to New York and we got to be on TV in front of millions of people and afterwards when we w

 

ere in New York people would come up to me and ask me for my autograph.

When I played basketball, my team got 2nd and 3rd place in Special Olympics and in the awards ceremony I got the sportsmanship award for being a good captain. We got to use our high school basketball uniforms. We did really well! We played against the best teams in the championship. We kept getting 3rd not 2nd but I’m not complaining.     

I went to the Montgomery County Fair’s Got Talent and I got 5th place in it. The song I did was, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston. Everyone liked the song and I got lots of people saying good job.

 

Amelia Meman, Program Coordinator (she/her)

Hello, folks!I’ve been at the Women’s Center in some capacity since I was an intern in 2013 and now I’m here as a professional staff member–dreams do come true! I love the Women’s Center because it takes all of the cool, abstract, out there ideas in feminist theory and puts them into action, whether that’s in creating workshops for our community members or offering 1-1 support to people who need it. I graduated from UMBC in 2015 with my B.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies and a minor in Writing, and have been eager to go full throttle into social justice and feminist work ever since. I’m currently pursuing my Masters of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
On a more personal note, I am the funniest feminist killjoy you’ll ever meet! I’m really proud to identify as a queer woman of color and I am eager to continue really testing the ways we can think about activism and pedagogy through a critical social justice lens. I love art and design, music, pop culture, and comics. My love language is gift-giving, and I’m a ~pisces~. Looking forward to meeting y’all in the Women’s Center!

Melissa Smith, Coordinator (she/her)

Hey hey hey! I am a new Coordinator at the Women’s Center. I am a UMBC graduate student pursuing a masters in Instructional Systems Development. I hope to use my degree to consult with schools and provide innovative social justice and arts integration curriculum. Over the past few years, I have worked with the UMBC Women’s Center in a number of ways, facilitating Between Women discussions, working alongside other speakers for the Telling Our Stories workshops, and as a performer at B’More Proud. For me, brave spaces like the women’s center help to create opportunities where our differences can be celebrated and communicated. Working here will make me an even better educator!

When I am not studying or in the Women’s Center, I enjoy cooking, walking around Baltimore neighborhoods, traveling, and performing my music. I use my music to give visibility to stories for folks like me; queer, black, weird, and everything in between.  I am so excited to work with the awesome WC staff and to meet the students that come in to hangout.


jessJess Myers, Director (she/her)

If you’ve gotten to me on this blog post and you’ve read all the cool bios above, you must be thinking, “Jess has the coolest job ever” – and I do! I’ve been working at UMBC in the Women’s Center since January 2011 and I couldn’t be more happier to work every day in what has always, and still is, a dream job for me. I love being able to live out my personal values centered in feminism, anti-racism, and social justice through my job as director in the Women’s Center. I approach my work from my collegiate background in social work and identify as a student affairs professional, and as an introvert (INFJ!!), I thrive on building personal and authentic relationships with students and colleagues. I love being silly. I relish in the opportunity to use Leslie Knope gifs as a mode of communication. I recommit to social justice and feminist values each day and deserve medals for my fierceness in spin class (I’m also secretly, not so secretly, pretty competitive). I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Kingston, Jamaica, and Fort Collins, Colorado and Baltimore is my hometown and my forever home. I’m looking forward to another great year in the Women’s Center and can’t wait to co-create it with you!