Stories from Survivors – Kayla Smith

We see you. We believe you. You matter.


“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. 



Parenting Feminism


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.


As if it weren’t hard enough to finally get the hang of navigating through the world as a “failing feminist” (see previous post), I now have to figure out how to raise my two young girls as feminists.  The necessity to empower my girls to be strong minded individuals who respect themselves and their bodies has been weighing heavily on me lately.  The #metoo movement has played a significant part in bringing this awareness to the forefront of my mind. The online movement, (even though it technically began almost 10 years ago) has exploded into a worldwide hashtag, and is helping to shed an entirely new light on the importance of respect, consent, and especially accountability surrounding sexuality, and sexual misconduct. It has given a voice to women from all walks of life, who felt voiceless for a long period of time.  This break in silence, and rise of empowerment is impacting society in places where change and action are finally taking place, and people, especially women, are being heard.  The entertainment industry has been affected tremendously, (beginning with allegations against Harvey Weinstein), and has long since traveled all the way to the top of society: The White House.  In today’s day and age, it is slowly beginning to seem like there is no longer any authority or entity that is safe, or off limits to scrutiny. Unfortunately, this is rightfully so.

Primarily due to the tumultuous political climate and the heightened awareness of women’s rights, I am now thinking ahead about how I am going to “properly and effectively” start teaching my daughters the basics of feminism.  Sounds simple, right?  But what kind of feminists am I trying to raise?  Do I make that decision for them early on, or do I wait for them to come into their own, as women, and decide for themselves?  Obviously I want them to make their own decisions, but I am at a loss as where to start.


I first thought that these life lessons would be simple. After attending my first 3-year-old Peter Pan themed birthday party and overhearing my daughter being told “No, no sweetie, you want to be Tinkerbell, not Peter Pan,” I swept in quickly to rectify that situation.  (Side note: it’s a bit ironic for someone to tell my daughter this misinformation, given that Peter Pan was actually played by a woman, and multiple times at that!)  It was on the way home from this birthday party that the realization set in: I need to begin to model the ideals of feminism, which to me include gender equality (and equity), liberation from sexist role patterns, reproductive justice, and basic human rights for all.   After putting the kiddos to sleep, I began to research how to parent feminist children.  Let me tell you, the vast amount of websites, blogs, “what to do” and the “what not to do” options were overwhelming to say the least!  


After all this researching, I know that I need to avoid being “Feminist Lite,” after reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I was also gifted these eight tips on how to begin my parenting journey.

Are these suggestions really what I want to base my teachings off of?  I’m not really sure.  I mean, I am not quite sure that I am not the type of woman, let alone mother, who is going to “celebrate” my daughters’ first “menarche.”  I am also not ready to bring either of my children on a Child Protective Services visit to show them the kind of work that mommy the social worker does when she is not at home.  I am all for empowerment, self-advocacy, self-love, and promoting self-worth.  I am not sure how in the midst of these things, I am going to teach them how to properly garden or teach them about “the rhythms of the earth” as was encouraged by some of these parenting articles.

perfect parent

After bouncing around from different blog posts to articles that offer advice on how to become the “Perfect Feminist Parent,” I have ultimately decided that I am more than capable of coming up with my own list of how to raise my daughters!  With the wealth of knowledge that I literally gain each and every time I spend time in the Women’s Center, combined with the ever so valuable information that I have collected during my time here as a GWST major, I think I’ve got this.

Here’s a few things that I’ve decided will be my basic guidelines to start off this process, as well as serve as gentile reminders to myself:

  • Teach body positivity
  • Teach consent, teach consent, teach consent
  • When talking about the body actually use the anatomically correct names
  • Carefully monitor the words that I use when talking to/describing my girls.  Only use worlds that build them up, not tear them down
  • Never stick to “gender norms
  • Most importantly: Allow my girls to be who they want to be.


I realize that this is going to be an ongoing, everyday task.  I also realize that along the way, mistakes will be made- by myself and by my children.  In life, nothing is perfect. I for one most definitely have learned this throughout my existence.  However, it is what you do to re-create, or change these imperfections that shape and transform your life experiences.  I am super excited to help create a path in which my children can follow.  I am even more excited to see the paths that they create on their own.  


*****(Did you know that there is a student organization on campus called Parents Club?  If you are a student at UMBC, and a parent, the Women’s Center highly recommends you check out this exceptional resource!! AND…The Women’s Center lending library has a small (but mighty) children’s collection of books that the feminist kiddos (and their parents) might love.  Come by and check it out!!!)****

Women’s Center Knowledge Exchanges

In the last few iterations of our roundtable series, we’ve noticed that the classroom is, in many ways, replicated in the Women’s Center. Yes, we have beanbags and we gather together in a big friendly circle to discuss topics one might not cover in class, but structurally, we were learning in the same exact way. Experts are invited to talk, and we listen. Don’t get me wrong. All of our roundtables brought forth amazing conversations and beautiful insights. As much as the Women’s Center likes to be a space where classroom discussions can continue to grow, we also want to offer a new structure for having those conversations. We want to try something that incorporates social justice and brave spaces into how we learn. So this year we’re trying out knowledge exchanges.

Inspired by the tenets of radical pedagogy that are outlined by scholars such as Paulo Freire and bell hooks, we at the Women’s Center want to create space for learning that blurs the power dynamics of a typical teacher-student relationship and posits, instead, a team of “co-investigators.” For example, we envision an opportunity for professors, students, staff, community members, etc. to all come together to learn from each other and work out problems using their unique knowledge bases. This as opposed to a teacher leading a class to the solution of a problem. We hope that knowledge exchanges can be a sort of respite from the classroom for both students and teachers, as well as staff and all the other folks on our campus.

Peda v Andra

Missy introduced me to the concepts of pedagogy and andragogy, which strongly inform our Knowledge Exchanges.

In our knowledge exchanges we aim to do several things:

  • Create a network of lifelong learners and curious co-investigators among all aspects of the UMBC community.
  • Collaborate on dynamic solutions to complex, multi-faceted problems
  • Have fun! No, really. A big goal with these knowledge exchanges is to build relationships across campus and make friends with the folks that are gathered together.

Led by Brave Space guidelines, we hope to have conversations that are led by the following values:

  • We will respect each other as both learners and knowers; experts of our own lives and experiences.
  • We will challenge ourselves as active listeners, community members, and co-investigators to collaborate with those gathered.
  • We will build community by nurturing our relationships, holding each other accountable, and collaborating together in an equitable structure.

Knowledge exchanges will be a little messy at first. We’re all still sorting out what it means to work towards a learning space that’s more equitable to all involved. That’s what’s fun, though. We’re able to get messy, learn from each other, and hopefully use our combined knowledge to find the right questions and perhaps move towards some really good solutions.

Over the spring semester, we have three Knowledge Exchange events planned. Topics are broad and (hopefully) worthy of deep discussion creative problem-solving, and imagination:

  • Thursday, February 22nd 3:30 pm to 5 pm: Super Representation
    • Black Panther is out, and we want to know what you think about all of this superhero kerfuffle. We’re thinking about diversity in superhero movies, comics, toys, video games, etc. and we’re thinking about it more broadly than the tokenized sexy lady assassin or the wheelchair bound sidekick. Let’s talk about the possibilities of superhero diversity!
    • Partners: Dr. Elizabeth Patton, faculty in Media and Communication Studies
  • Wednesday, March 14th, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm: Consciousness Raising: Past, Present, and Future
    • Consciousness raising is an integral of feminist movements. Simply, consciousness raising is a gathering focused on learning more about experiences different from your own. In this Knowledge Exchange, we want to look back at the history of consciousness raising, how (and if) it happens now, and what it could look like in an ideal future.
    • Partners: Dr. Jodi Kelber-Kaye, Assistant Director of the Honors College
  • Tuesday, April 24th, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm: Mediating Media Intake
    • Do you ever read or watch or listen to the news and just want to cry? Or flip a table? Or hide? Us too. Let’s discuss strategies for keeping up to date and also keeping our mental and emotional health. In this Knowledge Exchange, we’re going to talk media literacy and conscious consumption.
    • Partners: Dr. Rebecca Adelman, faculty in Media and Communication Studies

SP18 KE Preview - RGB - Flat

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.

Image result for blackout at golden globes

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.


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!

Image result for oprah gif

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.

oprah 2

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

(No Longer) Returning Women Students: The Final Chapter – Graduation!

On the eve of UMBC’s undergraduate commencement, we are thinking of all the graduating seniors out there who finally made it the finish line. Congrats!

We’re especially proud of the graduating students we work with through the Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates Program and want to shout your success from the rooftops! Since the Women’s Center is located on the ground floor of The Commons, though, we’ll exchange the rooftop for our blog.

The Women’s Center is proud to support the Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates Program for 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 the 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. Returning women students (or you may have also heard the term “adult learner” or “non-traditional”) not receiving a scholarship are still welcomed (and highly encouraged) to participate in our events that are open to any adult learner at UMBC. Students can also participate in our program more fully as an affiliate. For more information, visit our website.

But, enough shameless plugging, onto celebrating our graduates!

We reached out to each student graduating tomorrow and asked them to write a short paragraph about what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and some sage advice for other adult learners. Here’s what they had to say!


Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates at the end of the year graduation celebration and pinning. This has become a special tradition of our program where each scholar + affiliate receives a purple paw print pin they can wear at graduation to represent their membership in the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates program.


wc17_228Meriam Bahta
Despite the fact I only had an eighth grade level of education when I moved to the U.S., with hard work I put in and ambition I carried with me, I earned my certificate in just one year while working 30 hours a week to support myself. I subsequently enrolled in Montgomery Community College for two years. In the fall 2015, I transferred to UMBC with a GPA of 3.80. I am now graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in physics. Last summer, I participated in a summer internship program at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH and I had an amazing experience. Since I extremely enjoy my lab courses, I always thought that I would be good at research and my experiences at the NIH has truly showed me that research is where I thrive, and I would love to engage in research during my gap year before I enroll in medical school by the fall of 2019. As a returning woman student, I consider my unfortunate circumstances and struggles as the driving forces behind all my achievements. If it wasn’t for all the responsibilities, which includes caring and supporting my mother and four younger siblings, I juggled while going to school full time, I would not be the strong person I am today.

My sage advice is this: The Women’s Center is a great place to connect with other returning women students and to get inspired by their stories. I highly recommend taking advantage of the different events.


Parents Club - Fall 2017Janiqua Dunn
My name is Janiqua and I transferred here to UMBC in Fall of 2015. I’m graduating with my B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. During what now seems like such a short time here, I got involved in a ton of things! My largest and most long-term commitment was co-founding and serving on the executive board of the Parents Club, which we started in Spring 2016. I started off as the Secretary and I am now the Vice President. We started the Parents Club to provide a space and support system for UMBC students who also have children, and so far it has been a success! It’s been such a great feeling to be a part of that! Outside of that, I have served as a Student Ambassador, Research Lab Assistant, Writing Fellow (for the Psych department), and I’ve taken on a number of internships, both on and off campus. This all in addition to raising my 5- and 6-year-old sons! Plans for after graduation are to land a full-time job and begin my Masters within the next year or two.

My sage advice is this: If you’re a student parent, join the Parent’s Club! You can find out more about this student organization at their myUMBC group.


emmaEmma Matthews
My name is Emma Matthews. I’m a Richard & Roselyn Neville Scholarship recipient. In the last 4 years at UMBC I have been a McNair Scholar and a member of the Honors College. I have developed and presented research in psychology regarding stress and oppression in college students with Dr. Shawn Bediako’s lab, and I interned at the Special Victim’s Unit at the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office. I have been accepted into the University of Baltimore for their Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice and Trauma Informed Certificate Programs and am awaiting news on acceptance, stipends and assistance-ships from two other graduate schools. I intend to focus on victim services and domestic violence issues.

My sage advice is this: It’s not easy being a first generation, non-traditional student, but I think that every student at UMBC faces their own unique challenges. Gratitude and humility will help you take inventory of what you have and what you need, and carry you through each new obstacle.


LTLindsey Titus
Lindsey Titus transferred from CCBC (Essex) to UMBC in the fall of 2015. I have been involved with Tau Sigma, a national honor society for transfer students, and was president of the UMBC chapter last year. I also held positions in the Sociology department, such as a peer mentor and grader. For the past two semesters, I was a part of the Accelerated Graduate Program in Applied Sociology, taking two graduate classes along with my undergrad coursework. Last spring, I was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa, one of the oldest honor societies. I am graduating summa cum laude with a double-major in Sociology and Anthropology with a minor in Management of Aging Services. I am excited to continue my journey at UMBC in the spring, working on my Master’s in Applied Sociology.

My sage advice is this: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for assistance if you need it. I have found that my professors can be understanding to plights occurring outside of their classrooms. Whether I spoke to them after class or during a visit to their offices, I usually felt better about having my feet solidly on the ground for my education. I guess that’s why I’m sticking to these professors for grad school! Also, Jess and the Women Center are the best. It was always a treat to visit the Center, even if I didn’t get to visit very often. It was the one place on campus that felt like a warm and welcome hug when you opened their door. And we can always use an extra hug sometimes!

Big congrats to Sungeun Oller and Lily Glushakow-Smith who are also members of the  Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates Program graduating this December!

So while these students will no longer to “returning” to campus as undergrad students after tomorrow, we welcome you back as alumnae! In addition to celebrating these students, we hope hearing their stories will provide encouragement to other students still working towards their degree. You can do it!


At the Returning Women Students End of Year Celebration and Graduation Pinning!

Look out for our full list of Returning Women Students events later in January. We host events each month. Additionally, Returning Women Student Scholarship applications will be available beginning in early January! 

Failing Feminism


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.  


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.


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.


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 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.


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.”