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WSC MiniAwards: What would you do with $250?

In the spirit of microgrants and successful grassroots organizing, the USF Women’s Status Committee sponsored MiniAwards to recognize and support women and USF organizations that work for women’s issues.

Asking “What would you do with $250?” we called for applications across a variety of media outlets including USF Health, Inside USF, and notices to college deans. The application form was available on the WSC website through the month of March.The WSC received 68 applications from across the university from students, faculty, and USF student organizations.

The WSC funded eight projects—each with tremendous potential for benefitting all women in our community on issues regarding safety, health, and education. As it turns out, all our funds went to USF student organizations,USF students, and to faculty applying on behalf of students and their work. Indeed, we’re all winners here.

The WSC money is divided into two pots: $1,550 E&G and $1,220 Concessions. Here are the project descriptions from this year’s eight funded projects: five concessions projects and three E&G projects.

Rachel Silverman, PhD Candidate in Communication and Faculty Sponsor of Necessary Improvements to The Environment, wrote: NITE is a student organization dedicated to campus safety and gender equality at USF. By educating students about resources and campaigning for community improvement, NITE has grown to be one of the most recognized organizations on campus.

USF Students listen to speakers at Take Back the Night, April 13, 2010.

As part of the mission, NITE is dedicated to making USF a safe space for women. Each year, NITE hosts four events: two Campus NITE Walks, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (WMHS), and Take Back the Night (TBTN). The NITE Walks gather students, faculty, and staff to survey campus at dark to note unsafe spaces. When lights are restored or call boxes fixed, students have the invaluable experience of seeing their actions make a difference. WMHS supports women by raising awareness about gender violence. As men march through campus in women’s shoes, they embody a female experience andpledge to prevent rape and sexual assault.

TBTN is a free forum speak-out for survivors of sexual violence. Women and men share their stories and voices of hope fill the air. TBNT is an empowering event that changes the lives of those who attend it.

The WSC funded NITE’s April 13, 2010 Take-Back-the-Night event with purchase of food and drink, advertising, flashlights with NITE’s logo to be used in lieu of candles at the candlelight vigil, and T-Shirts for members of NITE to wear at the event.

Melissa Molinari Shelton, Ph.D Student in Nursing, USF School of Nursing, described her research: As a nurse, I provided care for women with high risk pregnancies and for women and babies following delivery. As a doctoral student at the University of South Florida, I have paired my experience in maternal and child healthcare with my knowledge of research and practice. I am currently working toward completing my dissertation which focuses on the relationship of mid- pregnancy plasma cytokine levels, stress, and the incidence of preterm birth.

It is estimated that approximately 12% of all live births in the United States occur before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Despite advances in medicine, preterm birth continues to remain a problem worldwide, contributing to maternal and infant mortality rates. Prematurity is the leading cause of death in the first month of life, as well as, a major contributor to illness and lifetime disability among preterm infants. Research focused on identifying causes, biological markers, and interventions for preventing preterm birth is ongoing. Should a biological marker be identified, healthcare professionals may be able to design interventions for the prevention or treatment of preterm birth thus saving thousands of lives and preventing future disability in children.

If awarded a Women’s Status Committee Mini-Award, the money would be applied to purchasing laboratory supplies necessary for my dissertation research.

The WSC funded laboratory supplies for the analysis of 16 participant samples.

Professor Eva R. Kimonis, Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, explained the need for computer software:The Psycholegal field has historically been dominated by male scholars and researchers with little gender and ethnic/racial diversity. I am directly involved in increasing diversity in the field with my mentorship of six female undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students, half of which come from ethnic minority backgrounds. Each of these students has expressed interest in pursuing graduate education. As the only female, ethnic minority,junior-level, tenure-track professor inmy department, I understand the unique challenges that these young and diverse women face as they try to navigate academia. To better prepare them for this career path, I involve them in several ongoing projects to provide them with exposure to research, a critical component of a competitive graduate school application. Three of these students completed their own research projects under my mentorship and each successfully submitted and presented their research papers at prestigious national and internal conferences.

Professor Eva Kimonis

The competitiveness and success of these young women’s' graduate school applications can also be enhanced though training in advanced statistical techniques. My students are involved in weekly research meetings, a component of which involves training in advanced statistics. Mastery of these techniques has allowed students to conduct their own statistical analyses in preparing their research findings for presentation. Funds are requested to offset the cost of purchasing MPlus statistical software for student use. This will allow me to train students in cutting-edge analytical techniques. Any additional funds would support the purchase of related data analytic books and professional/career development books for student use.

The WSC funded the purchase of the MPlus statistical software for student use.

Faculty and students of USF’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department.

Patricia Johnson and Ciara Young, Graduate Students, Women’s Studies Department, provided this description of their project:
The Capstone class for Women's Studies majors gives students the opportunity to reflect on what we have learned in our studies and to interrogate the feminist theory in our daily lives involving our family, community and school. We review the culmination of race, class, and gender in their direct relation to sexual orientation, ethnicity, and age and how each of these are reflected upon in our culture. Our motivation is to assure that all women and oppressed people are treated equally in our society.

At the end of April our Capstone class will host a graduation celebration to honor the WST Department's 2009-2010 achievements, including: undergraduate and graduate graduations, new Triota (WST honor'ssociety) members, and an overall celebration of us as a vital USF and Women's Studies community. The event will be open to all WST majors, minors, ISS cognates, faculty, staff, affiliate faculty and anyone interested in the Women's Studies department.

The WSC funded the food for the April 27, 2010 Capstone celebration, attended by more than 75 people.

Valerie Worrell Connors, Student at USF-Sarasota-Manatee, wrote of her project: Our USF Girls Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Summit was created and developed as a response to the severe underrepresentation of women in the STEM fields.

The free program provides up to 200 girls, ages 11-14 the opportunity to spend a day listening to a panel of prominent women in the community working in the STEM fields, to participate in a wide array of workshops and hands-on activities, and to speak with women at a STEM career fair to increase their knowledge base of the opportunities available to them.

The girls will have the opportunity to learn about which courses are needed in high school to pursue a degree in science or math by speaking with high school guidance counselors. And, parents are invited to attend the career fair and a parent workshop which will provide them with resources to help support and encourage their girls in STEM.

Our goals for the USF Girls STEM Summit are to build the girls' confidence and provide them with the resources they need to achieve academic and economic success. Encouraging girls to pursue careers in the STEM fields, which are higher paying, will also address the issue of pay equity, closing the wage gap between men and women.

WSC funded the food for the May 22, 2010 Girls STEM Summit.

Tresa Lombardi, Co-Director of BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic, described the work of BRIDGE: BRIDGE Clinic is a student-run free clinic, providing primary and women's healthcare to residents of the University Area Community, located just adjacent to USF campus.

Our clinic was founded in 2007 with the goal of providing comprehensive and compassionate care to persons without health insurance. Our current staff is composed of medical students/attendings, social workers, physical therapy students, and pharmacy PhDs.

As far as our commitment to enhancing women's health, we hold a GYN night every two months. During these clinics, we are able to provide low-income patients routine women's healthcare, including Pap smears, STI testing, and mammograms. Providing these services is important for our patients as it gives them the opportunity to receive necessary women's healthcare, at no cost, that they would otherwise go without. Ultimately, BRIDGE not only benefits women in our community but also brings awareness to future physicians by allowing them to play an active role in providing necessary healthcare to these patients.

As an entirely student-run free clinic, one can imagine the costs and supplies required to keep our clinic running. The award money would be put towards purchasing the GYN supplies we need to hold our clinics, or for patient education material. BRIDGE Clinic would not be possible without the support and generosity of individuals at USF and within our community.

WSC funded GYN supplies for the Bridge Clinic’s treatment of women in the USF community.

Ellen Mueller, MFA Candidate in the School of Art & Art History, wrote of her project: I will work to support women’s issues through an upcoming performance art project entitled “The Fitcilitator.” This project focuses on a female super hero that is being collectively created via a Facebook fan page discussion board. I have provided the public with some basic facts about this woman, such as her attire, and her goal (to help people pass the Presidential Fitness Challenge), but beyond that, her persona and backstory will be built upon the ideas generated by participants.

Eileen Mueller, kneeling, works with participants in her Fitcilitator Art Project.

I see this project bringing the USF community together around a strong female figure in the spirit of play, storytelling, and common memories of enduring the Presidential Fitness Challenge as elementary school students.

WSC funded tee-shirts for the Fitcilitator Performance Art Project.

Megan Weber, Erin Trauth, Jessica McKee, and Kendra Bryant of the English Graduate Student Association described the conference they organized: All too often, hegemony silences marginalized groups, thus taking away their agency. However, pockets of conflict always seem to surface, voicing resistance and creating an alternate viewpoint.

The "Anything but Silent" conference seeks to examine these voices of resistance, traversing all disciplines and topics. There are panels focusing solely upon women’s position in cultures that frequently seek to silence their voices. By giving voice to women’s issues, the conference provides a platform for issues that still affect women, both in society at large and their experiences at USF.

The WSC funded the food and drink at a reception for the conference held on March 25, 2010.

Finalists

We also designated six finalists that we weren't able to fund, mostly because our money has very strict guidelines about how it can be spent. These six finalists wrote terrific applications (all asking for around $250-500), and the benefits of funding them are immeasurable.

These projects involved research on domestic violence and pregnancy, necessity bags for women at the Spring women's shelter provided by the USF student organization "Women in Need," promotional materials for an OB/Gyn student interest group, an enzyme kit needed for bench science research, registration for a lactation conference, and travel for a student presenting on cervical cancer at the American Association for Cancer Research.

The WSC has reached out to Women in Leadership and Philanthropy—whose monies are not strictly limited—to ask for funding for these projects. We’ve not yet heard back on that possibility, but we have our fingers crossed.