Saint Joseph's University

Women’s Leadership Initiative: Discussing Real Issues and Making Real Changes

Women’s Leadership Initiative, a student-led campus organization, helps female students develop professionally while also combating social gender issues within our campus and the surrounding communities. Upon graduation, WLI hopes that women in the organization will be equipped to utilize the skills they learn to, as St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Go forth and set the world on fire!”

The mission of WLI is to encourage and empower students who identify as women to be leaders wherever they may find themselves. We promote a safe, gender-inclusive environment that fosters conversations about feminist issues. The initiative identifies and mentors female students who want to take an active leadership role. WLI members have the opportunity to plan events, coordinate guest speaker engagements, and attend conferences and workshops that focus on the importance of women in leadership positions.

Students in the organization practice leadership skills, with an academic focus; network with peer and professional leaders on and off campus; learn about the importance of women in both the public and private sectors; analyze the theoretical, empirical, and practical implications of women’s leadership; prepare other female students to lead; promote gender parity; and develop a working knowledge of feminist identities.

WLI is guided by four Faculty Advisors, but the Executive Board is entirely composed of students who serve as Co-Presidents, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Communications and Campus Relations Teams. The women in all of these key roles also work closely with their protégés within the group. As the face of our organization, the Co-Presidents are responsible for ensuring that all meetings and events related to WLI run smoothly. The primary focus of the Vice President is to run all planning and preparation for WLI’s Annual Professional Development Day. The Treasurer creates and presents a detailed budget to secure funding for the organization. WLI’s Secretary is in charge of reserving rooms and sends out emails to promote upcoming events and co-sponsorships. The Communications Team manages our social media platforms, produces blog posts, and directs marketing materials. Recently, the Communications Team has created Snapchat and LinkedIn profiles while redesigning WLI’s online presence as a whole. Our Director of Campus Relations oversees the expansion of our relationships with other campus organizations, particularly those within the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity. Moving forward, the Campus Relations Team is striving to welcome more female students from all backgrounds to participate and engage within WLI.

In the words of some of our members:

Gina Maria Vreeland ‘20, Director of Communications,

Political Science Major (Minors in Latin American and Latinx Studies & Justice and Ethics in the Law):

I joined WLI as a Freshman after I met the Executive Board at the Fall 2016 Activities Fair. As a General Member I always looked forward to attending monthly meetings and other events sponsored by the organization. WLI provided an environment where I could discuss important issues with individuals who came from different backgrounds and experiences than I. Whether or not we agreed didn’t matter because the conversations always allowed me to gain new insights into the intersectionality of feminism.

In November of 2017 I became the protégé to Caroline Kelm, who was the Director of Newsletters at the time. At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester I assumed the new role of Director of the newly established Communications Team. As the Director of Communications, I lead a team of three protégés who comprise the Communications Team. My team is responsible for the entirety of WLI’s online presence, which includes our website, blog, and social media accounts. I plan and organize a detailed schedule of content relating to WLI’s meetings, events, and other activities. An important aspect of my role entails delegating responsibilities to my three protégés, who I mentor, to ensure that content is managed effectively across all of our platforms.

My favorite part about WLI is my ability to organize and mobilize fellow feminists to identify and address gender issues on campus. For example, when we noticed the lack of trash receptacles for the disposal of feminine hygiene products in individual restroom stalls on campus, we formed a Women’s Health Subcommittee to rectify this issue. As the Chair of the Women’s Health Subcommittee, I was responsible for recruiting, training, and leading members of the Subcommittee with the goal of ensuring the installation of these trash receptacles. Our endeavors were ultimately successful as the installation of individual receptacles has already begun. To learn more about the Women’s Health Subcommittee and this project, please read my “More Than Just A Meeting” post on the WLI blog.”

 

Liz Sweeney ‘21, Protégé to Director of Communications,

Psychology Major (Minor in Political Science):

“I heard about WLI through Dr. Baglione, Professor of Political Science, who recommended the organization to me. I joined because I wanted to further develop my academic and professional skills outside of the classroom as well as meet other women on campus who shared the same values and goals. So far, I am most proud of the Women’s Health Subcommittee we created that successfully addressed the issue of the lack of trash receptacles throughout campus. It was really empowering to see how we can actually use our voices and skills to make real change. My favorite event is our Annual March Distributing Dignity Drive which is a fundraiser where we collect donations of feminine products and new bras to give to women in need. Additionally, I am eager about consistently working to include more diverse perspectives in our organization.”

For more information about Women’s Leadership Initiative please visit our website and be sure to stay updated with our blog for summaries of our meetings, events, and other adventures.

Timeline of WLI’s Events and Achievements of 2018-19:

Gina Maria Vreeland, ’20 & Liz Sweeney, ’21