HC at FU: How It Came to Be

What started out as an internship search quickly became much more when Mackenzie Smith (Furman ‘20) stumbled across Her Campus Media. Compelled by their mission and message, she decided to bring the online magazine to Furman's campus. Smith saw the need for a space where women’s voices were being heard, supported, and amplified. A platform where college-age women could write about issues that directly impact them without the fear of being censored or silenced by university administration. Smith brought Her Campus to Furman, and changed the game for so many girls, like myself, who now have a place to express themselves. That is why I wanted to (virtually) sit down with Mackenzie and find out more about her unique journey with Her Campus and what our community means to her. 

Gabrielle Morello (GM): How did you find out about Her Campus national?

Mackenzie Smith (MS): The summer before my junior year I was researching internships relating to my Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality minor. That’s when I came across the gem that is Her Campus. I was immediately drawn to their mission statement, which is to be an online magazine that is dedicated to, written by, and focused on empowering, college women.

GM: What made you want to bring Her Campus to Furman?

MS: I felt that there was a lack of space for women to truly express themselves without facing judgement at Furman and I wanted to change that. I applied to start a chapter of Her Campus at Furman in hopes to give women a platform where they could be unapologetically themselves and a space where they felt safe to speak their truths.

GM: What was it like bringing a completely new organization to campus? 

MS:  I genuinely didn’t expect to hear back when I applied because HC is so well known, and Furman is, well, the opposite. So when HC National contacted me I was ecstatic! I had to complete an edit test of several articles and then provide a sample article. After that, I was invited to interview with HCHQ and then the journey truly began! Before I was allowed to start, I had to collect signatures to prove that there was enough interest. I was then looking into making HC at Furman a student organization, but I was hesitant and didn’t want our voices to be silenced by university administration... so I went rogue instead! 

GM: How does HC at Furman compare to other organizations on campus?

MS: Her Campus is not like any other organization on campus. We aren’t a registered student organization which gives us the ability to write and publish articles about whatever the hell we want to without restriction. When thinking of other organizations to compare this to, I can’t help but to think of Greek Life and my experiences within it.

Once upon a time, I was a member of a sorority. After two long years as a member, I realized that I was the last person who needed to be confined to a set of rules and a group of girls who tried to make me change who I was. At the same time that I was submitting my application and interviewing with Her Campus execs, I dropped my sorority. I focused my time and energy into Her Campus and found an amazing group of women who loved and supported me. It was more than I could have ever imagined.

GM: What does HC mean to you?

MS: When I think of Her Campus I think of badass women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. I think of women who support each other and don’t tear others down. I think of a group of intelligent women who are going to make a major impact on our world one day. I am so lucky to have been a part of something so important and to have crossed paths with so many strong and amazing people.

GM: What was it like seeing HC at Furman grow on campus?

MS: It’s crazy to think of how far HC at Furman has come since we started in the fall of 2018. Before we even launched our first set of articles, I had students come up to me and tell me how awesome it was that I started this organization, and how Furman could really benefit from our content. I even had some professors approach me and ask me to speak to their class, which was really exciting!

As we became more well known on campus, I began to see more and more women becoming interested in what we wrote about. I would receive DMs from students telling me how much they liked a certain article which always put a smile on my face. It felt like I was doing something right, and confirmed the importance of an organization like us on campus. 

GM: What lessons did running an HC chapter teach you?

MS: It was hard to manage a team at first. I had no experience, so I just ran with it. I wanted everything to be perfect, so I definitely micromanaged at the start and thankfully overcame by the time I graduated. Starting Her Campus at Furman really shaped me into the individual that I am today and contributed to the skills that will take me places after college. 

GM: How did HC impact your college experience?

MS: I can honestly say that I don’t know where I would be without Her Campus. This organization gave me a group of women who pushed me to be my best self during the time in my college experience when I needed it the most. They gave me the tools to explore my passions and skills and to truly grow as an individual. I’ll never forget my last two years at Furman and that's thanks to all the HC ladies who stuck by me!

GM: How has HC influenced your past work, future career goals, or post-grad plans?

MS: Before starting HC, I was already interested in women’s health and women’s issues. As time went on, being a part of HC just confirmed that even more for me. I loved having a platform to educate women at Furman on things like birth control and how to get tested for STIs. The number of students who were unaware of their access to certain health services was surprising and opened my eyes to the health communication field. I started looking for opportunities in this field and ended up finding two amazing organizations to work at. 

Throughout my college career, I interned with The Homeless Period Project, as well as Girlology, an organization that provides medically accurate health information to girls and moms. I absolutely loved both experiences and they inspired me to further my education. I’m currently waiting to hear back from several public health graduate programs, and I truly don’t think I would be as interested if Her Campus didn’t open the doors for me to explore what I was passionate about. 

GM: Do you have any favorite memories or highlights with the HC team?

MS: It’s so hard to pick one defining moment. Every single meeting we had was definitely a highlight. Being surrounded by a group of women and being able to talk freely about whatever was going on in our lives was so refreshing. I definitely looked forward to those to start my week off right. We also had giveaways and would table outside of the library, which was so fun! We would blast music and hand out samples of whatever beauty products HCHQ sent us. However, if I had to pick a single moment it’d have to be our Valentine’s Day party my junior year. We sipped on rosé and had a white elephant gift exchange. When I received a vibrator as my gift, I knew I found my people!

GM: Why should people join HC at Furman?

MS: If you love to write, then Her Campus at Furman is for you! I received my B.A. in Public Health, so I stuck to curating articles revolving around women’s health because that’s what interested me. Members can write about literally anything imaginable, and the women of Her Campus at Furman love to get creative with it! However, my favorite part about Her Campus was being a part of a group of genuine women who were there for me no matter what. The free therapy at meetings didn’t hurt either — I really took advantage of that! If this is something that interests you, then I encourage you to fill out an application… you won’t regret it!