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Dakota State students to start AAUW student chapter

October 24, 2017

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

For Kennedi Ford, this expression was brought to life after attending a summer women’s leadership conference in Maryland. She was so impressed by the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL, pronounced nick-whistle) that she had the statement tattooed on her bicep.

“It was meaningful for the time and the place,” said the Redfield, S.D. native.

For Nelofar Sultan, her takeaway from NCCWSL was the word “empowering.”

“After attending the conference, I now feel like there’s literally nothing I can’t do.”

Because both Dakota State University students were so inspired, “we have decided to create a student AAUW group on campus at DSU,” said Sultan.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a national grassroots organization working to improve the lives of millions of women and their families since 1881. The local Madison chapter paid for Ford and Sultan, both English for new media majors, to attend the conference. The students shared about their NCCWSL experience at the local group’s September meeting.

NCCWSL, sponsored by the national AAUW, has provided a transformative experience for the next generation of leaders since 1983. The three-day conference hosts 900 college and university women at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The conference featured more than 50 leadership skill-building sessions on topics such as professional development, women’s issues and leadership development, Sultan said. A graduate school fair and career fair featured more than 100 graduate programs and employers.

The conference also featured presentations by inspiring role models, including the annual Women of Distinction award winners. This year’s honorees were: Danielle Feinberg, director of photography for lighting at Pixar; Amanda Nguyen, president and founder of Rise (a civil rights nonprofit); Rosie Rios, 43rd treasurer of the United States; and author and poet Crystal Valentine.

“I don’t feel as undervalued as a woman anymore because I saw so many empowered and inspiring women there,” said Sultan. “It makes me feel so much better about myself being a woman.”

Ford said, “the conference really made me open my eyes. There are so many different aspects of life that I haven’t seen, but that are every day circumstances for some people.” She would like to create an even playing field for everybody, and “look for ways to make it so everyone can excel.”

Because many other NCCWSL attendees were members of campus AAUW chapters, the two decided they could help women excel by starting a student AAUW chapter at DSU. Sultan said this semester are working to find members, and next semester, the chapter will begin meeting.

Anyone with questions about the DSU student AAUW chapter may contact chapter advisor Deana Hueners-Nelson.