May 11, 2020

BLOG: Takeaways from the HoyasForShe Fellowship Experience

A premature end to the  spring semester has led me to examine the work I accomplished and the opportunities I encountered more closely, and reflect on the impact this fellowship has had on my Georgetown experience.

Photo of Healy Hall taken by Hoyasforshe fellow, Lily Westover (C'22)
Photo of Healy Hall taken by Hoyasforshe fellow, Lily Westover (C'22)

One of the main goals that my co-fellow Mariah and I had this semester was to increase the presence of the Women’s and Gender Study (WGST) Program on different social media platforms. One of the program’s main endeavors this semester was its search for a Program Chair. Each week it hosted “Job Talks” for candidates, and  Mariah and I would post on Instagram and Facebook to publicize the talks. In addition, we would repost any content we felt related to the program and its goals, and would regularly update the social media accounts to grow a larger following on both platforms. 

On top of the work we did for the WGST Program, some of the most informative experiences of this semester were meetings the fellows had with Rosemary E. Kilkenny and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, who are both very influential women on Georgetown’s campus: 

Rosemary Kilkenny is Georgetown’s first Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, and in our meeting with her, I was amazed at how much work she had done to increase both the diversity and gender equity on campus since the onset of her Georgetown career in the 1980s. She provided some context to our fellowship that I did not know previously, including Georgetown’s three HeForShe commitments: to eradicate sexual assault, to support the Georgetown Women’s Alliance, and to support the work of Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security. While Rosemary’s work to promote inclusion on Georgetown’s campus alone deserves praise, what struck me the most about our meeting was how much she emphasized the work that still needs to be done on campus. She pointed out the need for more counseling and mental health services for minority students on campus–– a cause for which students have advocated themselves–– the need for more funding for women in STEM, and the need for even more programming around issues of race related to stereotyping and implicit bias. Not only did Rosemary reinforce the need for the administration to take action, but she stressed the role that all students play in enacting these changes.  

In our meeting with Ambassador Melanne Verveer–– the first UN Women’s Rights Ambassador and Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS)–– I learned about her history at Georgetown and her recent work at GIWPS. The conversation then shifted to what we as fellows hoped to see change on campus and how we planned to achieve that change. In the moment I hoped the conversation would return to Ambassador Verveer’s work, because listening to her speak about her work in person was such a unique and interesting opportunity. Looking back, however, the chance to be able to share  how we saw the campus’ climate of inclusion to someone who has played such a significant role in pushing for the inclusion of women in the public sphere, just reinforced the main takeaway from our meeting with Rosemary. As students, we have a unique platform to incite change and take action that we shouldn’t take for granted. 

Writing this blog post is bittersweet, as I can’t help but feel regret for not doing more in the time I had on campus. But what this experience has shown me is the importance of students’ voices and the platform that all students have, not just us fellows, in changing campus culture so that it is more inclusive and accepting of change. 

This post was prepared by Lily Westover (C’22) as part of the Hoyasforshe Student Fellowship.