LMU Wildflowers: Inspiring Women on Campus

Growing up, I was surrounded by strong, independent, outspoken, fun-loving, and uncommon women. I learned how to love myself in ways that many of my peers didn’t because they didn't have these role models. With a mother that had a higher educational degree than her male counterpart, a grandmother that ran a company alongside her husband, another grandmother that dedicated all of her time to her community, a sister that fought against adversity and came out above, a cousin who after raising her children got her bachelors, masters, and a motorcycle to match, and a godmother that traveled the world and absorbed all the knowledge it has had to give to her, I was lucky to say the least. And still, with all of these positive FEMALE role models, I’ve had doubts, and have been scared, and have had moments of low self-esteem. The society we live in has many negative ideas about women so deeply rooted, that they seeps through and hurts us.

While participating in Her Campus, whether it was reading/writing articles or going to events, I realized that we are all working to better women’s lives. The website provide us college women with an outlet to learn, stay informed, relax, get tips, and relate to other women. During a Her Campus chapter meeting we talked about an event occurring April 8th on campus called Wildflowers. The creators were inspired by a study done in Boston College that concluded that women that graduated college from BC would tend to leave with lower self-esteem.  They wondered if this was a new phenomena and decided that no matter what, they had to do something about it. Wildflowers is an event that is meant to promote female self-love and empowerment. Through all of this, I thought that a really cool segment of the event could be to have stories from inspiring women on campus to help strengthen the LMU female community. During the past couple of weeks, I have had the honor to sit down and talk to some of the fiercest women on the Loyola Marymount University campus.

I have been interviewing students, faculty, and staff from all ages and races. It was interesting to see that when I would ask them for an interview, many would say something along the lines of, “I don’t think I am qualified for what you are looking for.” It broke my heart to hear that these women, that were nominated by their peers, couldn’t see what other people could! When I got those responses I felt the need to get them to say yes to an interview. I wanted to help them see that they were superstars. This is one thing we don't give ourselves enough of, especially as women: the right to be proud of our accomplishments! I was ready with my list of questions and my lists of nominees, I set out to connect with strong, inspiring women.

First, I met with Dr. Elaine Walker, Assistant Dean of the College of Fine Arts. As per usual, she spoke with a fire ignited that could light up the world. She spoke about her experience working in the higher education world and how she has seen and experienced problems because of her gender. “So many opportunities for advancement that go unrealized because the assumptions is that your male counterpart should have it… There are systems in place where men will be considered first even when you come in more qualified.” She talked about how we as a generation need to fight for “equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity [overall] genderless bias.” Sitting and chatting with Dr. Walker, made me feel energized and inspired. I listened to her words and resonated with every thing she said. She used this idea of lighting a candle, to explain what we could do to better the female community. She said that all you had to do was light your candle. A candle light can be seen from far away and can inspire others to light matches. She also talked about helping others light their candles, because to light up the world we need multiple candles burning. It was beautiful to hear her say this.

The questions asked during the interviews varied from “What is a struggle you have encountered as a woman” to “What is something this generation should fight for” to “What do you do as self-care.” Many wonderful answers were given, but one that was definitely repetitive was the answer to “Who is a female role model to you?” Most, if not all, said their mothers. Some would giggle and say, “I know that’s generic.” Quite contrary in my opinion. I found it so beautiful to see that our mothers’ generation was cultivating these strong, outspoken, fun-loving, uncommon women that were fighting for a better future for females.

Melissa Cedillo, a college student that is an active member of the Belles Service Organization, spoke about feminism and how we have to make sure that we fight for women of all colors.  I was proud to see a fellow latina, speak up for the woman of color that are not normally accounted for in the more generic version of feminism known as white feminism. “I think we need to say, that when we are saying ‘me too’ it’s not just for celebrities who have an incredible platform and jobs to fall back on when they come out about these things, but when we fight for women, we fight for the undocumented women who have domestic jobs who can’t say me too because that’s their only job [and] livelihood. Or that when we say we are marching for ALL women that’s also all black women who have the highest infant mortality rate… And not just saying that in a cute, fun shirt, but actually meaning it” and striving for change.

“Put women in power,” Brenda Quintanilla would say as she answered my question. Recently elected ASLMU Vice President, was the right person to be saying this. She has fought to get to where she is today and has truly earned her spot as VP. She was another latina that was speaking up for the rights of women of color. I found it interesting how she, unlike in other women I interviewed, would correct herself and would say “people who identify as women.” Although she did not elaborate on the subject, she was actively inclusive in her interview, which was inspiring.

The last interview I had was with Dr. Laura Massa, a professor and the Director of Assessment at LMU. She was a sweet, compassionate woman with many motivating and inspiring things to say. At this point, I was noticing, that we are all on tha same page about what we need to change in this society. Asking what is one thing women in this generation would fight for, would usually make the women pause and think. “The fight isn’t over and it needs to continue. Part of that is understanding it and not putting feminism down as a dirty word but recognizing it as the ability to be seen as equals... That’s the thing [the fight] does get hard [and] that’s where you pull other women in and you lean on each other and you work with your strengths... Let’s not put it all on one person’s shoulders or think that any one of us have to have all of the answers and bring each other along. Support each other!”

So far this experience has connected me to new female friends, taught me what it means to be empowered, and inspired me to keep on fighting the fight. If you’re interested on learning what else will come out of these interviews come check out the Wildflower event!