Meet 10 Up-and-Coming Feminist Change Makers

October 17, 2016


Every year AAUW chooses 10 college student leaders committed to gender equity to serve on the National Student Advisory Council (SAC). Selected from a competitive applicant pool, SAC members advise AAUW on the needs of college students, organize campus activism projects, and assist with AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL).

Who are these remarkable feminist student leaders? They are politicians, scientists, writers, educators, engineers, nonprofit founders, and AAUW student organization leaders eager to use their passions to inspire social change.

Meet the 2016–17 SAC!

1. The Bold Blogger: Aku Acquaye


Aku Acquaye is a junior at Barnard College of Columbia University studying economics and political science. As president of the class of 2018, Acquaye spearheads on-campus events centered around food insecurity and body positivity. She serves her campus and community as a Barnard student admissions representative and as a mentor for young women of color in the Bronx through the WomanHOOD Project. An up-and-coming blogger, she is eager to launch the online Gender Equality Project, which focuses on documenting gender inequality in the workplace. In her spare time, she loves reading about entrepreneurship, discovering new restaurants in New York City, and catching up on How to Get Away with Murder.

2. The Optimistic Advocate: Julia Alford


Julia Alford, recipient of the 2016 University at Albany, SUNY, President’s Award for Women’s Outstanding Leadership, is a junior studying political science, informatics, and philosophy at the University at Albany, SUNY. After attending Elect Her as a freshman, Alford was inspired to advocate for women on her campus and run for student office. Successfully elected three times, she is the most senior-ranking woman senator on her campus. This past summer she interned in Washington, D.C., with the National Council of Jewish Women, where she worked on reproductive justice, domestic violence, voting rights, and sex trafficking initiatives. She is excited to “turn can’ts into cans and dreams into plans” — her favorite motto — while serving on the SAC.

3. The Aspiring Politician: Sapphire Andersen


Sapphire Andersen is a senior at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, majoring in English and political science and minoring in women’s and gender studies. She is a women’s leadership advocate on campus and seeks to promote equality by serving as student director of the women’s resource center and as a member of campus groups like Active Minds, Sustained Dialogue, the university’s Student Inclusion Council, Alpha Xi Delta sorority, and Global Diplomats. She is inspired by women who push against barriers and bias, and she hopes to do the same in the future when she runs for national office.

4. The Eloquent Educator: Saleha Azmi


Saleha Azmi is a proud Bowling Green State University Falcon finishing her master’s degree in business administration. She advocates for women’s rights and children’s education and has written a novel inspired by her passion for tolerance and the diversity of ideas and cultures. She believes John Lennon’s “Imagine” is the greatest hymn to human transcendence, painting a beautiful picture of an ideal world. Azmi has put her dreams into action by serving as president of the AAUW student organization at BGSU and founding the Zaheer Alam Foundation Academy, a school in a remote village in northern India.

5. The Luminary Leader: Dania Baraka


Currently a senior chemistry major at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, Dania Baraka aspires to attend medical school to become a pediatrician. She intends to act as a role model by breaking barriers for women of color in STEM and wants to encourage others on her campus and beyond to do the same. Baraka is a NCCWSL alumna with a passion for giving back to underserved populations. When she isn’t volunteering with numerous Detroit-based organizations or studying organic chemistry, she enjoys hanging out with family and friends, ice skating, reading, and taking open online courses.

6. The Dedicated Crusader: Sarah Best


During her undergraduate tenure as an economics and gender studies double major at the University of Pittsburgh, Sarah Best founded the university’s AAUW student organization and served on the AAUW of Pennsylvania student advisory council. Best believes that women deserve equal access in every sphere, including health care, politics, and education. A committed advocate in the reproductive rights community, she worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights during the monumental Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and is currently leading initiatives to make reproductive health care safe and accessible in Pennsylvania. After a long day of advocating for social justice issues, Best likes to relax with an extra cheesy bowl of macaroni and cheese and catch up on podcasts.

7. The Adventurous Ph.D.: Linh Anh Cat


Linh Anh Cat’s fieldwork takes her from Alaska to Mexico as she earns her doctorate in microbial ecology at the University of California, Irvine. Her passion for gender equity and science outreach has led her to serve as a peer leader with AAUW Tech Trek and organize hands-on workshops that she brings to classrooms and science centers all over Southern California. She aspires to be a role model to all young girls who are strong, outdoorsy, and inquisitive. In her free time, she enjoys exploring nature by diving at the beach, hiking mountains, and climbing in the desert.

8. The Empowered Visionary: Sanah Jivani


Sanah Jivani is a sophomore honors college student at the University of Texas, San Antonio, double-majoring in sociology and communications. After being diagnosed with alopecia and losing all her hair in seventh grade, she was motivated to empower people who struggle with society’s beauty standards. Jivani started the Love Your Natural Self Foundation, an organization that teaches a self-love-based curriculum to more than 10,000 students, and has spoken at schools across the nation. She is passionate about making change both on and off campus and hopes to continue using her voice to make a difference in her new position as SAC member.

9. The Ambitious Elected Official: Brooke Lopez

Brooke Lopez, 2016-2017 Student Advisory Council Member

At age 18, Brooke Lopez ran for appointed city council office in her hometown of Wylie, Texas. Though she wasn’t elected to office, the Wylie city council awarded her an appointed position for a great campaign. Now a student at the University of Texas, Dallas, Lopez is majoring in public affairs and geography. She is actively involved both on and off campus in many organizations, including the Delta Zeta sorority, the John Marshall Pre-Law Society, the public affairs student committee, and the University of Texas, Dallas, Diversity Committee. She is also well-known on campus for co-hosting the Red Dirt Radio Show, the only college-based radio program to feature Texas red dirt country music, a unique, genre-defying style of country music featuring aspects of rock, blues, and folk.

10. The Artistic Engineer: Sabrina Ridenour


Sabrina Ridenour is a senior mechanical engineering major and vocal performance minor at West Virginia University (WVU). During Ridenour’s first year, WVU selected her for a scholarship to attend NCCWSL, where she discovered her passion for women’s issues and leadership. She then became the founder and first president of the AAUW student organization at WVU. For three years she has led the WVU AAUW student organization in advocating for AAUW issues like promoting women in STEM and raising awareness about pay equity, Title IX, and violence against women. This past summer Ridenour interned for General Motors in Texas. On campus she keeps busy with the WVU Chamber Choir, the Society of Women Engineers, and the EcoCAR3 design competition.

This blog was written by Campus Leadership Programs Intern Jennifer Osolinski.


Related Resources

2016 Women of Distinction awardees and SAC members

National Student Advisory Council

From October through June, AAUW’s SAC is a dynamic team of feminists that helps AAUW grow and connect with our student community.

Women students attend NCCWSL and SAC members introduce the Women of Distinction.
Become an AAUW Campus Ambassador

AAUW campus ambassadors spread the word about NCCWSL in their communities and on social media, and play a vital role in shaping each year’s conference.

Elect Her alumna Allyson Carpenter tweets about her friend Amanda Bonam, who filled her Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner seat.

AAUW Campus Leadership Programs

Each year AAUW’s campus leadership programs help thousands of college women prepare to become the next generation of leaders. Check out AAUW’s campus leadership opportunities.

By:   |   October 17, 2016


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