The American Association of University Women (AAUW) organizes an annual conference called the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). Every year for the past 34 years, at the University of Maryland-College Park, hundreds of college women join AAUW for three days of leadership education and training designed to propel their future careers and drive change on their campuses and in their communities.
Held May 29-June 1 this year, the attendance at NCCWSL was almost 1,000 students, which included 4 students from Garrett College and Frostburg State University. The local students were supported by AAUW-Garrett Branch, AAUW-Garrett College Student Chapter, and AAUW-Frostburg State Student Chapter. Haley Lowdermilk and Samantha Michaels, who graduated in May from Garrett College, and Bethany Beeghly, who graduated in May from Frostburg State University, are residents of Garrett County. In addition, Kiara Oliva, Calvert County, MD, attended NCCWSL and is a rising Senior at Frostburg State University. Judy A. Carbone, President of AAUW-Garrett Branch and the 2019 AAUW-Maryland Woman of Distinction, was also in attendance for part of the conference.
This year’s NCCWSL featured a showing and discussion of the documentary “RBG”, an Academy-Award-nominated documentary that follows the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; multiple workshops and panels on leadership development, professional development, women’s issues, and identity and diversity; keynote addresses by Roxanne Gay, author of “Bad Feminist Hunger”, and Dr. Terarai Trent, an internationally recognized voice for global education and women’s empowerment; and the Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony. National AAUW Women of Distinction included Jane Marie Chen, co-founder of Embrace Innovations; Sandra Kim, founder of the popular websites Everyday Feminism and Re-Becoming Human Together; Lauren Simmons, the youngest Equity Trader on the New York Stock Exchange; and Ashley Neil Tipton, the only plus-sized designer ever to win Project Runway.
Also recognized at the Women of Distinction Ceremony was Judy Carbone, the 2019 Maryland Woman of Distinction. Her message to the student audience was to “use your voice and demand to be heard,” encouraging them to take risks and speak their truth, even when it was not a popular opinion. She spoke about her experience as a local political candidate last year and all she gained from the experience even though she was not elected.
This is the second consecutive year that Mountain Maryland has been represented at NCCWSL. The young women who attended echo the description of last year’s local attendees, describing it as an empowering event. Says Haley Lowdermilk of her experience, “it was incredibly inspiring. I learned a lot about my self-confidence not only as a woman but also as a person who knows what they deserve in their career. I will take all the tips given on self-care and ways to jump start my career while still in college forward with me.”
Sammy Michaels states, “getting the chance to attend NCCWSL was an inspirational and empowering opportunity. Listening to each individual’s personal story fueled my motivation to create the future I want for myself. For me, NCCWSL was full of career advice, but most importantly life experience. There was something for every woman to take away from the event, and I believe it is an important step in understanding how we can be the change we wish to see in the future.” Both Sammy and Haley plan to be active in the AAUW-Frostburg State Student Chapter, of which Kiara Oliva will be President, when they start classes in the fall.
Bethany Beeghly, who was a founding member and the President of the AAUW-Frostburg State Student Chapter before her graduation with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, says, “attending NCCWSL was an emboldening experience! Spending almost 4 days with such passionate and fierce individuals was rewarding as well as inspiring. Being there gave me hope that we can make a change today for a better tomorrow! I am thankful for the opportunity have been a part of the national conference hosted by AAUW!”
AAUW-Garrett Branch hopes to be a part of sending even more local women to NCCWSL in the future and will begin to fund raise for it this summer. Judy Carbone stresses that “supporting our local women become strong leaders will benefit all of us and help us reduce gender inequities in pay, positions, and political representation that women experience now in Garrett County as well as nationally. We at the Branch are so proud of the young women who attended NCCWSL this year from our local colleges and hope even more can attend next year.”
NCCWSL was born in 1983, when representatives from national gender equity organizations saw the need for a leadership space dedicated to empowering collegiate women. Since then, AAUW has taken the helm of the conference and NCCWSL has transformed into an essential experience for any woman serious about creating meaningful impact on her campus, mobilizing her community, and preparing for personal and professional success after graduation.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since its founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic and political. The Garrett Branch of AAUW has been working since its creation in 1946 to bring strong women together for activities related to women’s empowerment in our community.
Today, the AAUW-Garrett Branch is active in a number of priority projects including post-secondary education scholarships for women, mentoring for middle school girls and leadership development for women. If you are interested in learning more about AAUW-Garrett Branch, please visit their Facebook page or call Judy Carbone, Branch President, at 301-616-5036.