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Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

Image courtesy of Kristina HalonaKristina Halona was one of those kids who were obsessed with anything that flew. She remembers the exact moment when she looked up at a low-flying jet traveling over the isolated Navajo reservation in Arizona where she grew up. The awesome power of the machine, the stark contrast between its technology and her life without running water or electricity, changed her. From that moment, Halona was always outspoken about her love of engineering. In high school, a combination of talent and supportive teachers helped Halona find opportunities and mentors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

A school counselor told Halona about an intensive multi-year STEM summer camp at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Teachers and counselors also encouraged her to join an after-school STEM club and travel to local universities to meet professors and students. Through these experiences she was able to develop her skills, talk with engineering professionals, and begin to see herself as an aerospace engineer. Even though there are few women — especially Native American women — in the STEM fields, Halona never doubted her path. When Halona first attended the Phillips Academy camp as part of the Massachusetts Science for Minority Students program, she had to work hard to catch up to the students who came from privileged backgrounds. That summer marked her first trip outside of Arizona and her first time on an airplane, but despite being out of her element, Halona held her own and successfully completed all three summers of rigorous courses

With all her hard work and success, Halona is still very aware of what her life could have been like — Native American teen dropout rates are double the national average. Even more seriously, she notes that youth suicide rates on tribal reservations are up to 10 times higher than among the national population.

Halona in action

Halona in action

While at Arizona State University, Halona was elected to be the student representative to the board of directors of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), of which she had been a member and chapter president for years. Through that position she met her mentor John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut to fly in space, who was also on the AISES board. Meeting Herrington and learning from his mentorship was a meaningful opportunity to Halona since there are not many Native Americans in STEM fields. In 2002, Halona was invited to join Herrington’s family to watch his shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Today Halona is a flight test engineer at Raytheon Company in New Mexico.

Halona received her AAUW Selected Professions Fellowship in 2008 while getting her master’s degree in engineering at George Washington University. When she attended AAUW events, she felt in awe of all the members and her fellow grantees. But Halona says that being among them opened her eyes and inspired her to keep going.

A spark ignited in Halona the day she saw that jet flying over her, and it never went out. Halona has lived by her own advice: “No matter your background or where you come from, never give up.”

Halona’s Selected Professions Fellowship was sponsored by the Leona Buckley Miller American Fellowship, established in 1999, and the Flora Rawls American Fellowship, established in 1981.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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“In Tucson, we like our glass ceilings broken.”
— Tucson, Arizona, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, as quoted in the Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona made history last Friday. For the first time since it was established 127 years ago, the university inaugurated a woman president, Ann Weaver Hart. This isn’t the first time that Hart has made history. In 2006, she became the first woman president at Temple University and was one of the first women presidents at the University of New Hampshire before that. It’s no secret that women have been traditionally underrepresented in senior administrator roles in higher education. However, women like Hart are certainly breaking barriers for future women leaders.

Ann Weaver Hart

Ann Weaver Hart (photo: Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

In one of her first actions at Temple, Hart initiated a fund through the Office of International Programs to help students pay for the cost of their first passports. For students who find that studying abroad is too expensive, the Ann and Randy Hart Passport Scholarship helps alleviate their financial worries, at least a little. Hart’s unique vision continued to raise the profile of Temple University during her tenure as she led the way for campus renovations, infrastructure expansions, and a new Office of Sustainability. Her legacy at Temple University seems to be a lasting one, and she has already begun to lay out her vision for U of A.

I am thrilled to see that Hart, an AAUW member, is leading one of our AAUW college/university partner member campuses, and I can’t wait to see her vision in action.

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this fall’s trainings.

Networking, Planning, Preparing to Run!Louisiana State University

Since many of LSU’s student government officers were in the room during the What’s Your Issue? exercise (where students choose their platforms), the officers were able to start a dialogue about some of the campus issues the attendees brought up and make plans to follow up on the concerns.

Working toward Political Parity, One Student Government Seat at a TimeUniversity of Louisville

Those who attended the Elect Her training clearly embodied the spirit of the program: women who are tuned into critical issues on campus and in their communities stepping up to work for a positive impact.

Elect Her—Howard Women Win attendees strategize how to get the most votes for the campaign simulation exercise.

Elect Her—Howard Women Win attendees strategize how to get the most votes in a campaign simulation exercise.

Working Together to Support Women CandidatesHoward University

Every speaker at this Elect Her training had a unique story, but one point rang true for all three: You need to show up, and often! All three speakers stressed that showing their faces at events and talking to people (especially on election day) was a defining factor in their victories.

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In July 2009, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, a higher education plan that focuses on community colleges. With an increase in federal support, including a recent $500 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, community colleges are playing a key role in higher education dialogue, and enrollment has risen in the last decade. Community colleges provide affordable education that can help students earn an associate degree, transfer to a four-year institution, or gain valuable job skills. But behind this work are leaders —community college presidents.

Merrimack College in North Andover, MA on September 23, 2010.The American Association of Community Colleges recently released a report that found that in 2012, female leaders of community colleges had a higher median base salary than male leaders had. However, when benefits were taken into account, male presidents made slightly more than women. The report also found that about 75 percent of surveyed community college CEOs plan to retire in the next 10 years. With an increase in the number of women community college presidents since 1991, this may be a prime opportunity for women to fill vacancies at the CEO level.

While academia has been the traditional pipeline to college presidency, this burgeoning era of new community college leadership calls for transformational leaders who have a mix of skills, behaviors, and experiences. AAUW has empowered women to lead for more than 130 years. For academic leaders, this advancement has come from opportunities like our fellowships and grants and networking with other AAUW members and supporters. It’s important for women leaders to mentor and champion the next generation of college women administrators. In fact, research shows that it’s critical for women to identify and build relationships with mentors in order for them to become university presidents.

Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring college administrators?

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

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My friends and I have a lot in common, but there is one word that often leads to abrupt disagreements: the f-word. No matter when I say it or to whom, the frequent response is a shudder of the shoulders. Like the other f-word, the sound of the word “feminist” sends chills down others’ spines.

Bethany Imondi spoke about student loans and the pay gap at an AAUW panel in November.

Negative stereotypes of feminists — like bra burning, unshaven underarms, and man hating — perpetuate false assumptions and distract from the true goals of the feminist movement. At its core, feminism simply strives to establish equal opportunities for women, and yet many women today hesitate and feel embarrassed to classify themselves as feminists.

Despite women’s significant gains over the years, including the recent news that a record number of women will serve in the next Congress, other glaring issues of inequity remain. Women may outnumber men in higher education and earn more degrees than ever, but women still earn less than their male peers earn — a significant pay gap exists for women just a year after college graduation. Climbing the corporate ladder remains difficult for women, and positions of leadership continue to be dominated by men.

These dismal facts should be enough to motivate all women to embrace the progressive ideals of feminism. Any person who believes that women deserve equal opportunities is a feminist. Bra burning is not a prerequisite; voting for pro-women’s rights candidates, volunteering at a local women’s shelter, or working to protect women from sexual assault are just a few examples of advocacy on behalf of women’s equality.

Many women my age seem ashamed or embarrassed to identify as feminists when they should be embracing their beliefs. The challenge today lies in convincing women, particularly young women, that there is more to feminism than the backlash of stereotypes that emerged after the activism of the 1960s. In 2012, gender discrimination still exists. It is imperative that today’s generation of women continue the fight their mothers and grandmothers initiated to shatter the glass ceiling. It might not be the sexiest term, but the f-word is one all women should proudly claim, not only to transform the stereotypes but also to promote a more promising future for women of all ages.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Bethany Imondi.

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In August, AAUW signed on to an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to uphold affirmative action in college admissions. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, will be argued before the court on Wednesday.

One of AAUW’s key issues is increased access to higher education, and in accordance with our member-adopted Public Policy Program, we support affirmative action programs that establish equal opportunity for women and minorities and that improve gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in educational institutions.

via Flickr user Kaplan International CollegesIn 2008, Abigail Fisher applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas, Austin. UT’s undergraduate admissions policy automatically admits Texas high school seniors who graduate in the top 10 percent without any consideration of race or other factors. For applicants who are not in the top 10 percent, UT looks at several factors to make admissions decisions, including race, “personal achievement,” and “special circumstances.” Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was not admitted to UT. She went on to attend and graduate from another school.

However, Fisher filed a lawsuit against UT, arguing that since the university had already implemented a race-neutral policy to increase minority admissions, it should not have an additional race-conscious policy and that the policy should be abolished. No court has sided with Fisher’s argument, but in a break from its usual practice, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The court’s decision to hear the case raises concerns that the court is looking to overturn the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, which allowed public colleges and universities to consider race in admissions decisions. The Supreme Court ruled that while these schools could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment, they could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. AAUW signed on to an amicus brief in Grutter that supported affirmative action in higher education.

Many legal experts believe the court’s current composition could lead it to reverse Grutter and rule against UT’s race-conscious admissions policy. AAUW would be disappointed with that decision, which is why we signed on to an amicus brief in support of UT’s position. We were not alone — 73 amicusbriefs have been filed in support of UT’s policy.

AAUW believes that efforts to constrain or end affirmative action programs threaten the gains of women and minorities. We will continue to monitor the Supreme Court’s arguments and decision and to work to promote education for all.

Read more about AAUW’s position on affirmative action.

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A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that many states have enacted deep, dramatic cuts to their K–12 and higher education budgets and that nearly all states are spending less money on education than they did in 2008 (after inflation). This is despite the fact that the demand for education is growing — the Department of Education predicts that in the next school year there will be about 260,000 more K–12 students and 1.5 million more public college and university students than there were in the 2007–08 school year. AAUW strongly believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and that education should be adequately and equitably funded. Yet, according to the report, our nation’s schools aren’t, and they are shortchanging our students and future.

At least 23 states have made significant cuts to K–12 education funding, preventing children’s access to critical learning opportunities and making class sizes even larger. As the CBPP put it, “In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts so that the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources.” The cuts to K–12 education are shortsighted and ultimately harmful to both children and the states’ own finances. Providing a foundation of strong early-childhood education will help improve and sustain achievement in later years and save precious taxpayer dollars down the road by setting children on the path to success.

The report also found that at least 25 states have made large cuts to funding for state colleges and universities, increasing tuition and the burden placed on students. This will pose a particular challenge to the growing number of nontraditional students — those who are part time, working, older, or parenting — as they struggle to pay for their education and will very likely cause student debt levels to increase even further. Since 1998, the average debt level for graduating seniors has nearly doubled, with the average student owing approximately $23,200. Because women are more likely to borrow money for college than men and will earn less on average after graduation, women graduates are more likely to struggle with their loan debt.

At the current rate, the United States will add over 16 million jobs  by 2018 that require at least some postsecondary education and 2.5 million jobs that require a graduate degree. As the knowledge requirements of jobs continue to increase, so too should students’ access to quality education. Even in these difficult economic times, AAUW believes it is critical that we invest in higher education, which is hands down the most direct route to innovation, job creation, and long-term economic self-sufficiency.

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