Women and Gender Studies
As an instructor and adviser in the Women and Gender Studies department, Michelle McGibbney Vlahoulis’ commitment to serving women students and faculty is unparalleled. Michelle goes beyond the call of duty and never passes up an opportunity to volunteer her time to help those who cross her path. In addition to her normal teaching and advising duties, Michelle has accomplished a number of important endeavors to help women students, faculty and staff. Some of the many accomplishments include: organizing numerous fundraising events for Women and Gender Studies, working with the Undergraduate Committee to write a funding proposal to fully redesign the WGS introductory course, serving on the University’s Campus Environment Team, taking a leadership role in the ASU Body Pride Committee, organizing efforts which lead to the successful nomination of a Women and Gender Studies graduate student for the 2007 Young Alumni Award, and enthusiastically volunteering to organize a public lecture by Gloria Stenheim, while she will be on maternity leave. In addition to all of these accomplishments, Michelle fosters activism through her involvement with the Women and Gender Studies internship students. Each year, she leads these students in running the annual Women’s Leadership Conference. Michelle empowers the internship students to engage in the process of social change, such that one day they can in turn empower other women, at ASU and beyond. Michelle’s impact is far reaching.
Among the various student activist groups at ASU, Shelly Sass is known as the go-to person. This is because Shelly Sass is an enthusiastic and tireless feminist activist whose dedicated efforts not only promote awareness of women’s issues, but LGBTQ issues as well. Shelly’s active participation in organizations such as V-Day, HRC@ASU, Women Beyond Borders, the Women’s Coalition, and the LGBTQ Coalition, goes beyond being a general member, as Shelly takes on leadership roles in important and far reaching projects. For example, Shelly worked as the producer for the Vagina Monologues, a task which involved not only securing funding from beneficiaries, and coordinating the efforts of various women’s organizations, but also professionally dealing with protestors for the event. In addition to the Vagina Monologues, Shelly also helped organize the A-painting for National Coming Out Day and she provided the Women’s Coalition with the opportunity to take a public stance on Proposition 107 by participating in the awareness rally coordinated by the HRC. Shelley’s impact on the ASU community will no doubt be long lasting and enduring. She has a passion for diversity and through her actions demonstrates the importance of women’s advancement at ASU and in society.
Employee Assistance Office
Joan Allen ’s work as a senior counselor at the Employee Assistance Office demonstrates her compassionate and selfless devotion to employees at ASU, as she often goes beyond the call of duty. For years, Joan has presented a number of workshops on the subject of preventing and addressing stalking behavior, which primarily affects women employees. Additionally, Joan has worked closely with ASU Police and has been called on numerous occasions to provide counseling to women suffering from domestic abuse, stalking and date rape. Joan provides this vital support well into the nights and weekends, giving victims her private cell phone number, so that she can be there for them through some of the most painful and frightening times of their lives. Due to the nature of her profession, much of Joan’s impact cannot be listed, but countless individuals who have been counseled by Joan have commented on how her guidance and mentorship deeply affected their lives both professionally and personally. Joan’s energy is astounding, her dedication to making this university a better place for women is amazing, and her humor is unbeatable.
In order to understand the advocacy efforts of Women Beyond Borders, it is essential to understand that WBB was the first student group to suggest that advocacy for women in other countries was a priority. This was no easy task. As can be imagined, it was an enormous challenge to convince college women that the plight of a woman under a burqa in Afghanistan matters, that this matter is personal to us in the West, and that the actions we take in Tempe , Arizona can directly affect the plight of women in Kabul . The WBB approached this challenge by first hosting educational film screenings, which has evolved to include providing presentations on women in Afghanistan and selling crafts made by the women in Afghanistan to benefit those women. Over the past two years, these projects have gone even further to include organizing a “Sew-In” overnight fundraiser, organizing a global women’s activism book club, developing a program to sponsor teachers in Afghanistan, and organizing an art exhibit to benefit women in Juarez. In their work to support women around the world through local efforts, the activists of WBB have directly confronted the resistance, discomfort and fear that prevents so many people in our culture from acknowledging disparities. The work undertaken by these activists embodied the message that advocacy for women is should never be limited to our immediate environment, but that it should extend beyond our borders.
Systemic, social, and interpersonal oppression of women certainly limit the opportunities of women; however, the threat of violence and the cultural message that women are physically incapable of protecting themselves against violence, is ultimately the strongest and most salient oppressor of women. The Sun Devil Combat Sports Association is a student organization, composed mainly of male members that has dedicated themselves to changing the culture of violence against women.
In the fall semester of 2005, the Sun Devil Combat Sports Association collaborated with Sigma Alpha-Alpha Nu Chapter and Student Counseling Services in developing and conducting a four session Women’s Self-Defense Assault and Rape Prevention workshop series at no cost to the participants. The organization’s goal was to provide women on campus and in the community with hands-on, real life, close-quarters self-defense skills. Given that college age women are at the highest risk for acquaintance rape, the need for college age women to have skills to defend themselves in assault situations and to be empowered to use those skills is clearly evident. Since the first self-defense workshop series, the Sun Devil Combat Sports Association has taken it upon themselves to conduct the series every semester. Additionally, the group has also raised awareness of women’s safety issues by effectively promoting the workshops across the Polytechnic Campus.
The SDCSA’s efforts have had a clear and lasting impact on the status of women at ASU as evidenced by the distinct change in the Polytechnic Campus Climate, especially with regard to violence against women, and men’s responsibility for being active participants in working to end violence against women.