Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist
When her roommate left after two weeks because of feelings of isolation and discomfort as a Muslim, Giddings sophomore Diana Lee O’Quinn said she “felt an urge to create a safe space for like-minded people on campus.” From this aspiration, O’Quinn started the American Association of University Women (AAUW) chapter at Baylor.
“AAUW is all about women’s empowerment. It’s all about healing the gender wage gap and bringing awareness to women’s rights issues in the U.S. and empowering women through research and education,” O’Quinn said.
Entering Baylor as a transfer student in fall 2017, O’Quinn said she searched on OrgSync for an organization to join, and could not find any cross-discipline women’s groups.
She said she wanted to create a broader women’s group to “have a stimulating dialogue about women’s issues globally.” O’Quinn approached Waco senior Katie Stewart about starting an organization.
“I think it’s cool, especially having Diana Lee come as a transfer student … and come to Baylor and be like, ‘We’re going to make some changes,’” Stewart said. “I thought AAUW would be a small fraction contributing to the acknowledgment that something’s wrong and we want to fix it.”
Dr. Lisa Shaver, women’s and gender studies director, said that women’s and gender issues were issues O’Quinn and Stewart were very interested in, and starting a student organization was perfect for extending those discussions and explorations outside of the classroom. Shaver said she advised O’Quinn and Stewart to align with a national organization, rather than creating a general club.
AAUW is nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission to advance “equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.” An established organization since 1881, AAUW now has over 170,000 members and 800 university partners across the United States, according to their website.
Before the chapter started, AAUW partnered with Baylor to host Start Smart Salary Negotiation Workshops, designed to teach college students skills for negotiating their salary and improving their earning potential. While undergoing the process of getting AAUW chartered, Stewart said she hopes AAUW’s pre existing presence on Baylor’s campus through the workshops will help.
“AAUW’s headquarters in Washington D.C. have been extraordinarily helpful and they do have excellent resources like how to start a student organization and fundraising,” Shaver said.
In order to become a recognized student organization certified by Baylor Student Activities, groups must meet with Student Activities, enlist an advisor, complete forms to be reviewed by Student Activities and approved by the Spiritual Life Advisory Committee, the University Chaplain and the President of the Chaplain.
While waiting to be chartered, AAUW has had two interest meetings to further develop ideas about the organization objectives and recruit more members.
After the first AAUW interest meeting on Feb. 21 with eight attendees and O’Quinn said “there was so much optimism.” Members discussed their vision for the organization. Stewart said their primary mission is to create a place to have conversations about the gender-related issues students face. O’Quinn said AAUW would like to achieve meaningful discussions through invited guest speakers, organized panels, and co-hosting cultural events with other specialized groups on campus.
“We don’t want to create this club off on its own. For us, that defeats the purpose. There should be a sense of community and mutual respect,” Stewart said. “The value would be that cross-connection … We’re all a unit, and if we can’t understand the unit, we can’t function correctly.”
O’Quinn said she hopes AAUW can host events that respectfully represent women of all cultures for special occasions such as Black History Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The goal, according to O’Quinn, is that these events would allow women of minority groups to share their side of the story with a broader audience.
“Just to be blunt, myself and [AAUW Treasurer] Adrienne Kruse are Caucasian, and we don’t have that kind of cultural experience that others do. If I’m going to preach awareness, I can’t be a hypocrite, so I really do want to work with other people,” O’Quinn said.
Stewart said she was learning about how certain nationalities were presented in the media in Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez’ Gender, Race & Media class when O’Quinn approached her about the idea of AAUW.
“With Diana Lee’s vision, it was like ‘aha!’ This is a way to be diverse, this is a way to be inclusive, and this is a way to directly contribute to positive change on campus,” Stewart said. “If I had not been in Dr. Moody Ramirez’ class, I would have thought it was a good idea, but I may have not had been so enthusiastic about it.”
On Wednesday, AAUW held their second meeting to discuss the organization’s social media presence and recruitment.
“The hope for me personally is that I hope it isn’t all just the same kind of people who want to come to AAUW,” Stewart said. “I think anybody who’s a part of society should be interested, because it isn’t just about women, it’s about equal rights.”