Feb 192006
Authors: Natasha Grunden

Saturday marked the second annual Women's Conference at CSU with the theme "Empowering Women: Coming Together to Move Forward." The event drew almost 200 participants, doubling last year's numbers.

Following a brief welcome by Dr. Linda Kuk, vice president for Student Affairs conference-goers had two hours of "breakout sessions" to choose from on various women's issues. One of the first sessions focused on women in leadership.

The group discussed important traits of female leaders then compared how these characteristics are similar to or different from men. Impediments against women were also discussed and questioned whether or not they would be blocks for males.

"I discovered how society plays off stereotypes," said Daniela Cigularova, second year masters student in the student affairs and higher education and presenter for a later session. "When you take out the stereotypes (of leaders,) you have a completely different picture."

Another session "Redefining Female Relationships: From Mean Girls to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" focused on the significance of female versus male friends and the value of personal female friendships.

"It's important to reflect upon friendship and see how it's changed over time," said Val Ford, a psychology graduate student.

The sessions were selected through "a call for programs" e-mail sent to departments and organizations throughout campus. So many programs were submitted this year that some were turned away through a selection process.

"The diversity of programs this year was strong," said Alexis Kanda-Olmstead, assistant director for Leadership Education at Student Leadership Civic Engagement .

A lunch discussion followed the morning sessions. Each table had a topic or theme card such as activism, education, allies in feminism and art. A group of seven attendees and one facilitator talked about their specific topics' impact on women.

"This is awesome," said Peggy Walsh, senior health and exercise science major . "This emphasizes being proud of who you are and promotes self-discovery."

After the small table discussions, Chris Linder, director of the Office Women's Programs and Studies (OWPS) defined activism as a commitment or dedication to a cause about which one has passion. Then a panel of five students took the stage to discuss how they became activists and reiterate that anyone can spur change. The entire panel agreed that setting an example and living consistently are important in showing one's passion and dedication to a cause.

Two more 50-minute sessions followed lunch including one by the Men's Project, a group that helps educate male students about masculinities and gender socialization. This session focused on how the Men's Project works with the OWPS to change habits and make men more aware about their impact on women in their community.

"These aren't topics brought up outside this type of venue," said recent CSU graduate Jarod Hobbs. "Women's topics are not covered in the mass media."

The closing ceremony had each participant create a puzzle piece to join together to form a larger puzzle, continuing the theme of coming together for empowerment, as well as a raffle.

Linder said she was pleased with the positive energy and the doubled amount of attendees this year.

"The message this year was that we all have the potential the make a difference," she said

Natasha Grunden can be reached at campus@collegian.com

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