Students and faculty members of UTSA’s women’s studies program gathered in the John Peace Library (JPL) on Oct. 14 for the annual Women’s Studies Institute Reception.

The reception was held to celebrate students currently in a women’s studies major or minor degree program, as well as to welcome students and faculty members who recently joined the women’s studies department.

Raquel Torres, the program coordinator, commented on the importance of the event because it is a celebration that “recognizes women on campus.”

“It is difficult when women faculty do not get recognized, so we are here to support them,” she said.

Attendees were treated to a meal of sandwiches, brownies, sweet tea and other refreshments. There was also a slideshow presentation, highlighting the many events and activities organized by the Women’s Studies Institute (WSI).

“I came to the reception in solidarity with the new women faculty and students,” founding member of the student organization, Feminist@s Unite, Megan Moran said. “It is important to attend events such as this to form a community of women and to help spark or continue feminist consciousness.”

The event commenced with a moderate amount of students and faculty members in attendance. Dr. Sonia Saldivar, the director of the Women’s Studies Institute, began the event with a speech that highlighted the history and accomplishments of the WSI.

One of the remarkable accomplishments mentioned in the opening speech was the institute’s organization of at least four hundred empowering and educational events in the last ten years alone, as well as the WSI’s partnerships with the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the Martinez Street Women’s Center and the San Antonio Rape Crisis Center.

Following the introduction, Dr. Lapetra Bowman, the women’s studies undergraduate advisor and internship coordinator, took the stage to announce the awards for graduate students and faculty members.

The first recipient was Rebecca Cook, who began her studies as a nurse. After a lot of exploring and soul-searching, she began her journey in the women’s studies program. During her acceptance speech, she credited her education within the women’s studies program for her “social awakening.” She also touched on how she incorporates women’s studies into her skill in quilt-making and showed the audience a quilt she made that included themes of women and LGBT empowerment.

After more introductions and speeches by women’s studies alumni, Dr. Saldivar introduced Michael Lee Gardin to give gifts to students currently in the women’s studies program. The gifts included shirts, bags and pins.

Honorees were given an opportunity to speak on their experiences within the women’s studies program.

Megan Michelle spoke on how the women’s studies program helped her fall in love with her “culture, body, Spanglish and fellow women” and how the program additionally helped her improve her writing skills and start Feminist@s Unite, a feminist student organization on campus.

Keely Moore, another honoree, commented that the women’s studies program saved her life.

“I don’t know where I would be without the women’s studies program,” she said.

Victoria Simpson-Gerbin, an honoree as well, discussed stumbling into the women’s studies program following a 35-year sabbatical. She admitted that she was originally attracted to the degree because of the name, but that she has also had an amazing journey learning about women’s issues in society; the degree has helped her become a better individual.

All of the honorees had positive remarks about the program. Their experiences within the program were very similar, from the shared sense of belonging and community within the program to the development of a new level of social consciousness.

Following the speeches by the honorees, announcements about future events were made.

On Oct. 23, the WSI will be organizing “Take Back The Night” to bring attention to domestic violence against women and empower survivors of violence. On Oct. 30, the WSI will be hosting a screening of “Sin by Silence,” a documentary film by Olivia Klaus about survivors of domestic violence from 6 – 8 p.m..

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