Conference empowers women

Gabby Gonzalez, Giulia Balzola, Takhmina Dzuraeva, Asami Bandai, Leslie Mayo and Teresa McClane-Jaswal on the "red carpet" at the conference.
Gabby Gonzalez, Giulia Balzola, Takhmina Dzuraeva, Asami Bandai, Leslie Mayo and Teresa McClane-Jaswal on the “red carpet” at the conference.

Earlier this month, several members of the Associated Student Government, the Women’s Center and other politically active organizations at Bellevue College attended the National Conference for Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland. It was a gathering of politically-minded female students from across the nation where the possibilities and opportunities available to women planning on pursuing leadership were discussed.

The issues and inequalities facing female leaders were also put into the spotlight, and resources were provided to help these students overcome these obstacles.

“This conference was to empower women to not just take action, but be aware of the situation and work with our skills to try to change the situation,” said Giulia Balzola, who works at the front desk in Student Programs. Many of the women that attended the conference are planning to get into the sciences and there were various workshops there to help teach them to advocate for themselves and overcome the inequalities in math, engineering and technology which are typically considered to be “male-dominated” fields despite the large numbers of women interested in pursuing these careers. Those who attended  the conference heard about other women who successfully overcame these stereotypes to become influential and respected in their own right.

“I learned that there’s a lot of woman leaders out there that are doing amazing things, and unfortunately they don’t get as much time or recognition as they should,” said Gabriela Gonzalez, director of El Centro Latino in Student Programs, a resource center for Hispanic and Latino students at BC. “We’re not the only ones trying to do hard work, there’s other women that are also doing great things all over the nation that are around our age, under the same circumstances. That gives you a little bit of encouragement to continue working hard.”

Teresa McClane-Jaswal, director of the Women’s Center, expressed pride at how much progress the students of the Center were making towards greater gender equality in science and engineering.

“We have phenomenal BC student leaders. It was just such a privilege and an honor to go with them and participate with them,” she stated. “It was really great way to see just what I can do on our campus to support our women and what more needs to be done to make this an even better campus for people.”

Before coming home from their trip, the student leaders at the conference attended as many workshops as they could so that they could return to BC better equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to create a better campus for all students.

“We have several action items that we’re going to work on in the of the sustainability department at BC, was “elated to share and display the award on campus.” Nominations were evaluated based on the “climate leadership of programs, administration, the campus community and overall achievements of the campus.” From there, the finalists were chosen and began a video voting competition in which BC sustainability received 1044 votes.

The award was given to institutions that emphasized on one or more of four categories: greenhouse gas reduction, curriculum, green building and renewable energy. Though there were some colleges that put greater emphasis on one of the categories, Gruen said “there was a comprehensive nature of the operation. Work was done on all fronts which included building a community with more awareness for sustainable living, as well as projects that were a part of greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy.”

“I feel that we deserve it and we are on our way to becoming leaders in sustainability in higher education,” said Communications Coordinator Alex Clark.  Clark said that the student involvement in the sustainability department sets BC apart from other schools. “We only have two sustainability staffers and the rest are students. It’s really empowering. There are a lot of institutional changes happening and a lot is happening cultural, and it’s all happening on a student level.”

In terms of who gets to keep the award, Gruen said “it might just be kept in the principal’s office for people to see on their way in.”