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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Women’s Leadership Initiative addresses concerns about campus climate

At GROW Giesen Plant Shop, female staff and faculty of Wichita State University chatted, ordered drinks and got a chance to build their own terrariums while fostering an interest in women’s leadership. 

The event was held by the Women’s Leadership Initiative, a project aimed at furthering female leadership at Wichita State through educational opportunities and community. 

Teri Hall, WSU’s vice president for student affairs, helped create the initiative in response to a campus climate survey, which indicated that some female faculty and staff didn’t feel very welcome on campus. 

“(We) started it about a year and a half ago as a way of bringing together women from all different stations on campus to talk about, ‘How do we make sure that we have a warm and welcoming environment.’”

Hall said working in higher education can feel isolating for women, so she hopes the initiative helps faculty and staff feel that they’re not alone. 

Wichita State has almost 900 faculty members and over 2,500 staff, according to UnivStats, a website that compiles data about universities. With such large numbers, faculty and staff may not get the opportunity to build relationships outside their department. 

That’s one obstacle the initiative tackles, Tate Penner, the university library’s marketing coordinator, said. Penner organized the GROW event.

Jacqueline Dang and Brittany Ly at GROW Giesen Plant Shop, a plant bar in Wichita. The Women’s Leadership Initiative held a networking event at GROW on June 12. (Garima Thapa)

“I think sometimes people get caught up in the everyday activities and don’t branch out enough,” she said. “You know, you go to your desk, you do the same task, but this is just kind of an opportunity to get out of your bubble, and to meet new people.” 

Along with networking events like this one, the initiative offers professional development opportunities as well as mentorship. 

Moriah Beck, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is part of the mentorship committee. 

“I think that it’s a way that you can make a really direct impact on other people really quickly,” she said. 

Beck echoed what Hall said about feeling isolated, adding that female STEM faculty often face discrimination; for example, always being asked to take notes at meetings made up of mostly men, or having people assume opportunities are the result of preference toward women rather than hard work and expertise. 

“This sort of initiative is a sign that there’s progress, that women feel empowered to come to something like this,” Beck said. 

Hall said she’s excited interest in the initiative has grown, and that younger staff and faculty are getting involved. 

“To create those kinds of relationships off campus for women that are going to be here a while, that can kind of grow up together on campus, I think is going to make our campus even more powerful,” she said. 

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a reporter for The Sunflower. She is a junior pursuing a bachelors in journalism and media production.
Garima Thapa
Garima Thapa, Photographer
Garima Thapa is a third-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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    Angela PaulJun 25, 2024 at 11:07 am

    Tate Penner is marketing coordinator for University Libraries, not all of WSU. Trish Gandu at Strat Comm does that.