What do two feminism-inspired t-shirts and a pop-up book about women’s history have in common?
These are the items that Micaela Ensminger placed in a box to teach her seventh grade Language Arts class a lesson about memoirs.
This TCNJ senior is spending the semester student-teaching and wanted to show her students that “a memoir is something that’s important to you that has shaped your life.”
As one of Women In Learning and Leadership’s Co-Executive Chairs, Ensminger is a proud feminist who spends her time involved in activism activities.
When asked to define feminism, she said, “It’s a kind of social analysis and social activism that is centered primarily on gender.”
According to her, it has multiple parts: An academic component, an analytical component, and an activism aspect.
Ensminger comes from a family of strong-willed women, who have helped her become the confident chick she is today.
“My mom is a very strong and positive woman,” Ensminger says. Her two younger sisters, Carina and Gianna, have strong senses of self as well.
She described her parents as loving and respectful. “I grew up having that modeled for me—how men and women should treat each other and be on the same level,” she explained.
Her fellow W.I.L.L. members are like sisters too; she defines this group as “the most empowering kind of sisterhood."
“Every single woman in W.I.L.L. I am so impressed with,” Ensminger says.
Ironically enough, Ensminger ended up in WILL by accident, thinking it was a club for female education majors. When she learned it was for feminists, she was a bit surprised but realized it’s similar to an extra curricular she was involved with in middle school called Girls Matter.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve been involved with a feminist organization since I was 12-years-old,” she said. “I loved that group and it taught me to be yourself and be proud of that self and don’t jeopardize or demean that for anybody.”
Ensminger's involvement with W.I.L.L took her to Nicaragua last June with 12 other women from the program and its director Mary Lynn Hopps for the Nicaragua Solidarity Project, which she describes as a “cultural immersion project.”
“For me, it really ran it home in my head that that’s what I want to do with my life,” she said of the social justice projects she witnessed while in Central America.
This wasn’t Ensminger’s first international excursion. She spent a summer abroad in England and has gone on family trips to Spain, Mexico and Canada.
Though Ensminger is familiar with foreign lands, she’s also knowledgeable about campus geography.
She’s a TCNJ Ambassador and loves sharing her passion about the school with others, classifying the job as “a great channel for me to funnel all of that crazy school spirit and energy.”
Ensminger's involvement doesn't stop there. She is President of the Canterbury House, a group for progressive Christians started by Lisa Caton, a reverend of the Episcopal church. This group began Ensminger’s freshman year and she attended a meeting because it seemed better than studying.
“It was the best random thing I ever found,” she recalls, “because Lisa is very much my mom away from my actual mom at home. She is just the most accepting and wise person I have ever met.”
Through Canterbury House, Ensminger became interested in homelessness after attending a poverty simulation in Princeton. Along with two other students and Caton’s assistance, she formed the Coalition For Change.
Carolina Chica and Rana Shariatdoust are her co-chairs. This trio organizes on-campus events, such as last year’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
“The main part of that week was to put these issues in people’s faces because Trenton’s right down the street but it’s really easy to forget the things that are going on there and other parts of the world when you’re right here,” she says.
Ensminger is unsure where she sees herself after graduation. Though she’s student-teaching now, her heart may be set on nonprofit work focusing on poverty or women’s issues.
Wherever she winds up, she aims to make a difference in the world.
“I wouldn’t be satisfied if I wasn’t helping people,” she said. “Whatever I do with my life I want it to have a strong social justice component to it. If I were to become a teacher…it would really be for that purpose—to be able to instill in my students both a love of learning…but also to have them think critically about everything."
Ensminger's seemingly endless list of extra curriculars is driven by her passion. Her involvement in these activities puts her closer toward achieving her goal of impacting the world for the better, offers a fulfilling happiness, and surrounds her with people she loves and admires.