10 Campus Women to Watch Out For

October 14, 2014

The National Student Advisory Council (SAC) is composed of 10 college women who demonstrate exceptional leadership. The program provides an opportunity for students to actively participate in women’s advocacy, sharpen their leadership skills, and take action for women’s equality on their campuses. This year’s SAC members will play key roles as peer leaders at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) and launch projects at their schools related to equal pay and other feminist issues.

This year’s SAC members are world travelers, LGBT advocates, writers, artists, and — most important — trailblazers. We are thrilled to introduce you to the 2014–15 members of the SAC.

1. Maryann Akinboyewa

Maryann Akinboyewa

At Syracuse University, Maryann Akinboyewa runs an after-school art program called smART, where students from Syracuse work with middle school kids. She worked on Medusa, the first feminist magazine on campus, and last summer she traveled to Uganda to help impoverished women start their own businesses. Akinboyewa looks forward to continuing her support of women in business and leadership during her time with the council, and she hopes to write a book someday.

Maryann is generously sponsored by Eileen Shelley Menton.

2. Cindy Chen

Cindy Chen

Cindy Chen became interested in fighting for gender equity when a friend “came out” as a feminist (the friend didn’t feel safe telling others in the environment where they lived). Music also plays a large role in Chen’s life. She feels most strongly connected to other human beings when she is performing. At the University of Utah, Chen is a leader on campus, serving on student government and as a resident assistant.

3. Shannon Cholakian

Shannon Cholakian

Shannon Cholakian is an unstoppable advocate from Santa Clarita Valley, California. During her time at California State University, Long Beach, Cholakian has used the intersection of her identities to help her community. Cholakian started her university’s first Queer Identity Advocacy Scholarship for students who identify within the LGBT spectrum and serves on her school’s President’s Commission on the Status of Women. When she’s not working for women’s equality or acting as the LGBTQIA affairs secretary for student government, Cholakian may be found knitting or enjoying the outdoors.

4. Laura Hernandez

Laura Hernandez

Born in Colombia and raised in Miami, Laura Hernandez embraces her experience as a first-generation college student. At Florida International University, Hernandez organizes an annual SlutWalk to educate and raise awareness of rape culture and is the founding president of Her Campus FIU. She has interned with the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade and serves additional leadership roles on campus. Hernandez enjoys reading, being active on Tumblr, and looking for delicious vegan recipes.

5. Rickelle Mason

Rickelle Mason

Rickelle Mason is a compassionate and ambitious activitst — and one of eight siblings — from Philadelphia. Mason is a proud volunteer and mentor coordinator at EmpowHERment, where she assists with intergenerational relationship building between young women and women professionals in the Charlotte, North Carolina, community. Mason has put her double major in psychology and women’s and gender studies to work through her roles as the inauguaral Charlotte Research Scholar and with women’s health clinical research. When away from her school, the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Mason enjoys traveling and being outdoors.

Rickelle is generously sponsored by Loryann Eis.

6. Helen “Nellie” Moran

Nellie Moran

Nellie Moran, an undergraduate student Pacific Lutheran University, was born in Montana but spent some of her childhood living in Belgium. Her affinity for travel continues; she studied abroad four separate times in college. Moran’s first experience in leadership came during her junior year of high school through participation in the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program. She went on to intern at the Democratic National Committee, serve in her student government’s senate, and help plan Elect Her–Campus Women Win at PLU. She enjoys the great outdoors by hiking, backpacking, and running.

7. Lisa Joy Ohnstad

Lisa Joy Ohnstead

Lisa Joy Ohnstad is a mother and veteran from Wyoming who hopes to challenge the public’s perception of what a veteran looks like. Ohnstad is the first person to pursue a dual doctorate in pharmacy and master’s in business administration at the University of Wyoming. After attending NCCWSL in 2013, Ohnstad brought her experience back to campus by serving on the university’s women’s leadership conference planning committee. With the Wyoming Veterans Center and the university’s women center, Ohnstad helped launch a program supporting women veterans’ academic success.

Lisa Joy is generously sponsored by Loryann Eis.

8. Jessica Ou

Jessica Ou

Jessica Ou joins the SAC immediately following a trip to Moscow for the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum in August. No stranger to foreign relations, Ou serves as an executive council member of the International Youth Council, which was founded at the U.N. Youth Assembly. Her work can also be found in the Huffington Post or in USA Today. A University of California, Berkeley, student, Ou served as a peer educator for her school’s Gender Equity and Resource Center and is a campus safety coordinator on the student government’s sexual assault task force.

9. Dana Smith

Dana Smith

Dana Smith is a creative activist from Livonia, Michigan, who recently founded an AAUW student organization at Purdue University. A past participant of Elect Her–Campus Women Win, Smith would like to address the representation and participation of women at all levels of politics, from student government to national elections. In her spare time, Smith likes to sew. As a resident assistant, Smith made Wonder Women the theme of her floor to highlight women activists and their accomplishments in a weekly hall newsletter.

10. Kate Thomas

Kate Thoma

Kate Thomas studies speech communication at Metropolitan State University, Denver. Thomas believes it’s important to teach women that their contributions and ideas are valuable and that they shouldn’t apologize for academic excellence. Thomas began serving others and developing leadership experience early. In high school, she co-founded the Gay-Straight Alliance and has volunteered with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. Thomas is also a supplemental instructor for an Introduction to Women’s Studies class at MSU Denver.


Congratulations to our 2014–15 National Student Advisory Council! Stay tuned to hear more about the exciting things these fearless campus women are up to.

AAUW Campus Leadership Programs Intern Laura Bruns contributed to this post.


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By:   |   October 14, 2014


  1. […] On and off campus, I’m involved with a number of women’s groups and organizations. For example, this year, I’m on the American Association of University Women’s Student Advisory Council (SAC). […]

  2. […] I sponsored Maureen Evans Arthurs. In 2013-2014, I sponsored Eva Shang. This year, I am sponsoring Maryann Akinboyewa. Contact the Development Office if you are interested in sponsoring a SAC […]

  3. Donna Mertens says:

    I just heard Shannon Cholakian speak at an AAUW Funds event and she is such a dynamic speaker. I can see why she was chosen for the SAC. When I left the event yesterday, I was energized and ready to tell the world about the importance of AAUW to our young people. Thank you Shannon.

  4. Donna Lilly says:

    Fabulous choices of 10 connected activists to serve AAUW on the national Student Advisory Council for the following 12 months.

    Donna Lilly
    AAUW College/University Committee
    AAUW 2015 National Convention

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