Women’s Center Student Staff 2017-2018

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

Hannah Wilcove

Hannah Wilcovestudent staff/Honors College Intern (she/her)

Hi! My name is Hannah Wilcove and I’m currently a junior with a double major in Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology and a minor in Statistics. This is my first year working here at the Women’s Center and I’m super excited to become even more involved with all of the great work being done. 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 both TheatreCOM and 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.

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 were 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, Special Projects 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!

 

 

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What makes a Feminist Quote? Call for submissions!!!

Daniel Willey

A call for submissions by staff member Daniel Willey

 

 

One of my tasks at the Women’s Center is to make a Facebook post every Friday for Feminist Quote Friday. You’d think being surrounded by books written by feminists and activists would make it easy to come up with a quote to use each week, but I keep getting hung up on the question of what makes a feminist quote.

“Activism can be the journey rather than the arrival.” – Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Is it a quote by a feminist? Is it a statement which follows feminist principles? What if the person who said it isn’t a feminist? Should I be responsible for pulling out the receipts and making sure everyone I quote has never said or done anything problematic first? Does the quote have to be a feminist statement or can it simply be related to feminist issues?

And besides all that, there are SO MANY great feminist words to choose from!

That’s where you come in: I want to hear your favorite feminist quotes. I want to hear what words inspire you, lift you up, make you feel called to action. I want to hear what made you think, made you reevaluate, what steered you in a new direction.

Submit this google form to send me your feminist quote and tell me a little bit about why you chose it! I’ll be using submissions for Feminist Quote Fridays and you can submit anytime!

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A Time to Resist + A Time to Take Care

amelia-meman-headshotA reflection written by Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator, Amelia Meman

So here we are. Another day in this brave new world.

Are you exhausted yet? Emotionally, physically, psychologically?

If you’re not–congratulations! That’s really good and you are a sweet glowing angel.

If you are, though, you’re not alone and you are also a sweet glowing angel.

deadI’m tired, too. For all of us feminists, social justice warriors, and snowflakes, this is a tough time. The stream of executive actions and questionable cabinet appointments have rocked our communities and have malignantly affected some of the most vulnerable groups in the U.S. The fights we’ve been engaging in throughout every administration have been exacerbated and fear is alive more than ever. 

Seeing the reaction from social justice activists has been heartening for me in many ways. The women’s march was awesome and huge (though not without its fair share of criticism from Black women, the trans community, and many others). Other demonstrations against the refugee ban and the massive uptick in people contacting their elected representatives to demand accountability has shown us that massive swathes of the public have been activated to resist in a great variety of ways.

This work is both vital and neverending. Making an impact is difficult, exhausting work. It involves massive amounts of human energy. What I’m ultimately getting to is this: are you taking care of yourself right now? 
Continue reading

Women’s March on Washington: We Marched. What’s Next?

A sampling of “what’s next” from UMBC community members, curated by Jess Myers, Women’s Center Director 

Last week, I shared some of my hopes and desired outcomes from the Women’s March on Washington. While I was looking forward to marching and being in relationship with other women and people at the march, I was (and am) more invested in the what’s next. In my blog, I wrote, “I want the momentum and energy to continue after the march, especially for those who are new to the movement, new to activism, new to seeing things that are unfair and unjust. I want us to stay loud. To stay critical. To stay visible and demand what is right, what is necessary. I want you to volunteer. I want you to keep learning and growing. I want you to find your activism (if you haven’t already) and make a difference. I want all those things for myself as well. 

On Saturday night and Sunday morning, my entire Facebook timeline was filled with amazing photos of the March (and also really important critiques of the march which you should also take some time to read). What was even more exciting than the photos, was the plans people were committing to in their post-march glow. So many people are fired up!

In my last post, I also reflected on the mission of the Women’s Center and our commitment to advocating for and advancing the rights of women and marginalized people. While the Women’s Center is a space and the people who work in it are committed to putting in the work, YOU, our community, are a huge part of that mission. We need you to help us live and be our mission. So with that in mind, I put a call out to some Women’s Center friends and former staff and asked them to share what their post-plans march are so I could share them as inspiration and motivation to our larger community. What I share below isn’t necessarily the full list each person shared with me but I love the breadth of ideas and action items.

So, I’ll go first…

pawsoff

Continue reading

This Must Be The Place

Recently, I’ve been buoying myself in this onslaught of political shitstorming by listening to a self-care playlist. The playlist is chock full of all of the songs that help me get by when it’s hard to navigate the world and ones that I can sing very loudly.

One song that I gravitate towards lately is the Talking Heads’s “This Must Be The Place.”

this-must-be-the-place-blog-graphic

Click here for text version of This Must Be The Place lyrics.

This song has a lot of meaning for me. It’s the song that my dad serenaded my mother with at their wedding. “This Must Be The Place” is the crucible of my parents’ love, so it’s sort of the thing that formed me. It’s a song I sing to myself when I want to cry and when I want to smile and when I want to scream. I sang it with my dad through a vocal harmonizer as we welcomed 2017 (and threw 2016 into the fire pit). I think my mom cried a bit, but I couldn’t see because I was crying.

Coming back to work at the Women’s Center, I am, yet again, thinking about this song’s resonance and its meaning and its magic.

The Women’s Center is home for me. It is a beacon when trauma strikes and when justice is sought. The Women’s Center simultaneously grounds us and lifts us up—like any good home does. It is a place of love, warmth, truth, and hope. A place so rare and crucial right now.

It would be an understatement to say I am happy to be back at UMBC and at the Women’s Center. I am elated, I am at peace, I am confident. This space, this place—the Women’s Center—fulfills the promises of feminist, queer, radical social justice theories by providing a home for me and all the other community members who occupy its world.

As the Special Projects Coordinator (a title Jess lovingly made for me), I am diving back into the constantly evolving environment of the Women’s Center. Over the semester I will be collaborating alongside staff and interns to enhance programming, expand social media outreach efforts, and design marketing initiatives. In short, doing everything I love to do for an organization I love.

I am so thankful to be back home at the Women’s Center and at UMBC. I am beyond ecstatic to join a team that inspires me everyday, and that I care about so deeply. I am enlivened by the opportunity to continue working with a mission centered on intersectional feminism and critical social justice.

Home, is where I want to be

But I guess I’m already there

I come home, she lifted up her wings

I guess that this must be the place.

 

2016, The Tower, and Diving Head First Into The Unknown

daniel-headshot An end-of-year reflection from staff member Daniel

I am far from the first and will certainly not be the last person to say this year has been… quite a time. In the last 362 and counting days, bad things have been happening all around the world . And like, bad things have always and will always happen and sometimes we create the illusion that more bad things are happening than normal by highlighting and paying more attention to the bad things, but to be perfectly honest there is something hellishly special about the year Two Thousand And Sixteen. There’s been a lot of personal stuff too. Most of the people I know– and me– have all been going through significant change in our lives, our social circles, our beliefs, and our goals. We’ve had some pretty big losses and intense life experiences. Everything is so strange lately, like we’ve clipped into an alternate universe where everything is exactly the same except that it’s… not.

My friend recently texted our group chat with the revelation that the 16th card in the major arcana of a traditional tarot deck is The Tower. Next year, 2017, is The Star and 2018 is The Moon. If you know much about tarot I don’t really need to say anything else but I will anyway. If you don’t know much about tarot that’s awesome because at least what I’m saying will be new to someone.

Let me tell you a little about The Tower. Continue reading

A Brief Reflection on Finding My Voice

Mariana De Matos Medeiros

A blog reflection by Women’s Center intern Mariana de Matos Medeiros 

I’ve been working on a draft for this blog post for over 6 weeks. It’s been intimidating and scary to be vulnerable in such a public space.

I was hoping to describe how I self-silence and how I struggle to find words that match my thoughts and feelings. I often try to polish them, make them perfect and pristine. Drafting and editing about a million times and still feeling like what I’ve written is not quite right. Sometimes I feel that folks are all too willing to accept that femme women often struggle with expressing their unique voices.

Further, my ideas and how I express them through writing—in other words my voice—have often been devalued. Whether through my experience with academic writing or the constant rhetoric that lived experience is less valuable than ‘objective’ facts found through scientific research. Often, lived experience is closely associated with emotion and thus femininity. It feels invalidating and that my thoughts are only valuable if I can back them up with an outside source. Continue reading