By Courtney Westlake
If there is any doubt about the vitality and success of the Women's Issues Caucus on campus, you just need to look at the wall in the Women's Center, which is lined with recognition.
Most recently, the UIS Student Government Association has awarded the club the President's Award for Best Student Event for the Rising Up of the Springdale Ladies Aides Society performance, as well as two other President's Awards for the production of the Vagina Monologues. The SGA also gave WIC the recognition of Outstanding Student Organization on campus.
The active Women's Issues Caucus at UIS seeks to raise awareness, encourage leadership and be a voice for women on campus. In the past couple of years, the group has brought nationally-known presenters to speak to the campus community, held a Day of Action for a Student Senate Bill and become involved in the annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet, with this year's theme being "Poverty Has a Woman's Face."
"One thing I was most proud of was our pay equity bake sale, where we pointed out the wage disparities for men and women," said Amanda Looney, who is also the graduate assistant for the Women's Center, which allows her to serve as a liaison between the Women's Center and WIC. "We then donated the money we raised to a local women's shelter, which was wonderful."
The Women's Issues Caucus also recognizes the student leaders within the group with a Student Activism award, said Ashley Rook, the current chair of WIC.
"It gives really amazing female leaders a chance to have a forum, to be involved and to be recognized," Rook said. "I think it really helps them to develop their leadership skills."
Hanna Collier, who is the chair of finance, is finishing up her first semester in WIC. She said she wanted to get involved in a group where she felt the issues were meaningful and important, and the experience has motivated her to want to get involved in a non-profit sector that deals with women's issues upon graduation in May.
"We try to counter images about what feminism is and how it's perceived on this campus," Collier said. "It's important to have this group to show that gender issues and women's issues are really important and shouldn't be as controversial as it is. We do need to deal with things like sexual assault, women in the media and pay equity."
Collier, Rook and Looney agreed that being members of the Women's Issues Caucus has not only strengthened their leadership skills but also helped them to make new friends.
"I really like being able to help the women on campus through advocacy, and I also like the social aspect of being in WIC," Looney said. "It's really helped me to meet other women with similar interests to me, and also to help women on campus with issues and educate women and everyone about what is a women's issue and what we can do about that."
WIC is an extremely collaborative effort between its executive board and general members, Rook said, with time split between coordinating events, addressing needs of women on campus and much more.
"There are so many issues that pop up between all of our programming, and it's really great to be organized and have a forum to speak out," Rook said. "Lynn (Otterson, Women's Center director) likes to compare our organization to a car with the key in the ignition; it's not on, but we're ready at any time."