9 Fearless Feminists on Campus

October 24, 2013

The National Student Advisory Council (SAC) is an exclusive group of college students who not only advise AAUW on student issues but also help plan the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. Former SAC members have gone on to achieve amazing accomplishments: from working on Capitol Hill to creating their own nonprofits.

We are excited to introduce you the members of the 2013–14 SAC, and only one word can summarize them all: fearless. These college women have faced adversity, traveled the world to volunteer, provided their voices to the United Nations, witnessed history, empowered immigrant women, questioned their universities’ sexual violence policies, and shattered stereotypes about women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Meet the fearless members of the SAC, who are empowering women on their campuses.

1. Sarah Crawford

Sarah Crawford

Crawford’s defining trait is her love of travelling and volunteering. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity International in Central America and in Kenya with Vihiga Children’s Home, where she learned firsthand of the gender inequality facing women around the world. Now a senior at the University of New Mexico, she is convinced the fight for gender equality is one that we can and will win — but only with the help of multiple generations.


2. Marian Firke

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As a biology major, when Firke sees a problem in need of solving, she jumps in, takes the lead, and — well — solves it. When she learned about the statistic that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college and about the victim-blaming culture that exists on many campuses, she decided that she needed to fix this problem. Firke became the co-coordinator for Swarthmore College’s Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention Program. Since then, she has updated Swarthmore’s sexual misconduct policy and developed and implemented new workshop structures and activities to educate incoming students about consent and their Title IX rights.

Marian is generously sponsored by Loryann Eis.


3. Elba Moise

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As a bilingual and biracial Latina, Moise has faced many obstacles, all of which have made her a fighter. When she began graduate school at Oregon State University, she realized that her responsibility was to give a voice to anyone and everyone who has been silenced. With this passion, Moise strives to become an influential force in helping make decisions that promote the advancement of women of all identities.

Moise is generously sponsored by Alice Bartelt.


4. Donya Nasser

Donya Nasser

Before Nasser was born, her mother decided that Nasser was going to become a world leader. Nasser’s name was even chosen because it means “world” in Farsi. Growing up as a young Middle Eastern girl, Nasser was told that she couldn’t speak up and express her opinions, but her mother told her she could. Today, Nasser is a force to be reckoned with on her campus (St. John’s University in New York City), in her community, and in her role as an AAUW youth representative for the United Nations.


5. Maria-Luiza Popescu

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As a precocious 3-year-old, Popescu vividly remembers standing in line with her grandfather in Romania, holding his arm as he prepared to vote for the first full-term, democratically elected president. When it was her grandfather’s turn, he handed over the ballot to Popescu, who dropped it in the box. Now a grad student at the University of Texas, Dallas, she often reflects back on this historical moment to energize herself as she works toward the political empowerment of women through grassroots organizing.

Maria-Luiza is generously sponsored by AAUW of Texas.

6. Charisma Ricksy 

Charisma Ricksy

Ricksy grew up fearing that her peers would see her as a “know it all.” Still, she was great at making suggestions and encouraging others on her athletic teams. By junior year of high school, her coaches took notice and slowly gave Ricksy additional responsibilities so that she would realize she was a leader. By senior year, she developed confidence and realized that her voice mattered. Now she serves as the vice president of the Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team at Pennsylvania State University. In this role, she hopes to empower others to find their voices.


7. Kelsey Saragnese 

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In fifth grade, Saragnese (pictured above, right, with a fellow AAUW student organization member) was asked to recommend a book to add to the school library. She recommended Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a young-adult novel about a high school freshman who is raped and struggles to become a survivor. Her teacher reprimanded her for recommending and reading an inappropriate book. Saragnese felt angry and frustrated for being silenced. That interaction lit a fire that has never gone out, and she now gives a voice to survivors of sexual assault on her campus, the University of Missouri.

Saragnese is generously sponsored by Susan Barley.


8. Lauren Shackleford 

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One of the lines in sorority Alpha Sigma Tau’s creed is this: “I believe in the fulfillment of self and will strive to contribute my share to the progress of mankind.” For the longest time, Shackleford (pictured above, middle, with two of her sorority sisters), who is an Alpha, believed the quote was simply referencing the sorority’s service and philanthropy — until she heard her mentor Jess Klein speak at the Greek Awards. Shackleford, a grad student at Eastern Michigan University, realized that being a sorority woman meant that she was a leader on her campus. She feels it is crucial for her to shape and develop young leaders — but even more important, to empower the young women of tomorrow.

Lauren is generously sponsored by Barbara M. Wyne.


9. Eva Shang

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In middle school, Shang struggled through the teen angst of feeling like an outsider. She felt ostracized and voiceless and realized that if all the outsiders and underdogs united to create a countercultural movement to the popularity hierarchy, they could all stop feeling like rejects of the system. Unfortunately she did not succeed in creating this movement, but with her newfound voice she became a Huffington Post writer, a teen adviser to the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, and an activist at the SPARK Summit. Now she’s a freshman at Harvard University. Everywhere she goes, she strives to give a voice to those who feel that they are outsiders.

Shang is generously sponsored by Eileen Shelley Menton.

This is the fearless National Student Advisory Council of 2013–14. This year, these college women will not only tackle the pay gap but also work on an additional AAUW issue that they are passionate about. Stay tuned to hear about more amazing accomplishments from the SAC.

By:   |   October 24, 2013