A Night of Inspiration: 2017 Her Campus Women of the Year

On Friday, April 21st, 2017, Her Campus celebrated our third annual Women of the Year event: a night dedicated to honoring fantastic women in the American University community who embody, through their ambition and dedication, what it means to push boundaries and be a role model for not only women, but for everyone working to achieve their goals and pursue their passions.

The event was spearheaded by Her Campus’ own girl boss and Editor-in-Chief, Shannon Exley, who worked tirelessly to out on a phenomenal celebration, as well as Her Campus’ President, Arielle Witter.

The night was a bounty of congratulations and Georgetown cupcakes. Selected by Her Campus and the AU community, this year Lauren Beeslee, Chyanna Antonio, Ammarah Rehman, Lindsey Smith, and Erin McGoff were honored with the title of Woman of the Year. These five women shared at the event what it means to set their own path, find inspiration, and be proud to be a little bit bossy.

Lauren Beeslee, School of Public Affairs Woman of the Year, spoke of the power of education and how important it is for women to empower one another. In her acceptance speech, Beeslee reflected on how her own experience in education was something she originally took for granted but, as president of She’s The First, she now realizes how lucky she was to have educational opportunities and a community that supports her. Women, Beeslee noted, are often undervalued because of their gender and must be supported at home as well as abroad. We live in a society where women often feel hesitant to take on leadership positions; however, Beeslee states “by empowering women, we can overcome this hesitation and propel women into leadership roles.”

With a humble opening, the School of Communications Woman of the Year, Erin McGoff, addressed the audience by saying “it feels a little weird accepting this award because I think every woman at American University is Woman of the Year.” This message of uniting and strengthening women was interwoven throughout her speech where she spoke of the courage to find your voice and not be afraid to enter into areas typically run by men. She notes in order for women to take on leadership positions in industries like film, where women comprise only 7% of directors, women must feel brave enough to inject themselves into these spaces. “I think the best way for the next generation of girls to grow up feeling fearless and unapologetically ambitious,” McGoff said, “is for us to be those role models for them, like so many were to us.”

Chyanna Antonio, Kogod’s Woman of the Year, spoke on the need for intersectional feminism and finding the motivation to work hard towards what you believe. “As a woman of color and a black woman,” Antonio said, “I have to work twice as hard to earn half as much.” Antonio highlighted how this award serves as a reminder that although working hard is exhausting, you have to work toward what you believe. She notes that everyone woman - of every race, color, class, and makeup – are all in this together. She ends her speech by stating “We need to be intersectional feminists.”

Lindsey Smith, College of Arts and Sciences Woman of the Year, shared a simple yet powerful message. “We often undervalue humanity and kindness to others – and that should never be undervalued,” she expressed. “That is all.”

Ammarah Rehman, School of International Service’s Woman of the Year, addressed how her own personal experiences shaped how she identifies with herself today. Rehman started an awareness campaign to combat Islamophobia. Speaking on how she decided to start the campaign, Rehman stated, “I was tired of people being in fear of who I am. Tired of people feeling threatened by me when I walk into an airport.” Rehman now has the opportunity to meet women who are redefining their faith and has amazing support from these women and others who combat hatred and oppression. 

Rehman also spoke of the support she has from her family. She described her mother as a role model. Rehman shared a memory of her mother defending Rehman when she was younger and received a B in participation for being “a little bossy.” Rehman recounted how her mother responded to the teacher that it would not have been a problem if it was her son and not her daughter who was acting a little bossy, and then proceeded to walk out. Rehman now notes that she embodies being bossy and declares that being bossy “establish[es] who I am.” Rehman stated that we should not be in fear of hiding who we are and should not be afraid to be “a little bossy.”

 

American University’s Women of the Year - Lauren Beeslee, Chyanna Antonio, Ammarah Rehman, Lindsey Smith, and Erin McGoff – are all representations of the exceptional work women in the AU community are doing. These women are breaking down walls, asserting themselves, and projecting their voice into the world in a way that cannot be ignored.

While Her Campus sets aside one special night to honor these women, it is their constant dedication that made them recipients of this honor and they - among countless other inspirational women -  truly showcase the power that women have.

All photos taken by Emma Shetter.