Thank you to Sophia Osborne for these amazing and beautiful photos.
Women of color were born to lead, inspire, and bless this world with their excellence. Unfortunately, it takes years for us to know their names and their contributions. I’m tired of seeing the efforts of women of color erased over and over again. After watching Hidden Figures, I realize we cannot wait 30 years for the world to recognize our hard work, therefore, it is up to us to uplift one another.
At Drake University, we have women of color going above and beyond to make our campus a better place for all. They spend countless of hours in meetings, planning, and executing efforts outside our classrooms. It’s my duty to recognize them for their hard work and dedication to equity and inclusion. The following 12 women are excellent students, professors, staff, but overall my inspirational leaders.
Rai Ahmed-Green, junior majoring Law, Politics and Society with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. She has been an active member of the Coalition of Black Students. Last semester, she was one of the two Drake students who became a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. On top of her leadership in our classrooms and organizations, she works tirelessly to be one of our greatest athletes on our track team. Last week, Rai finished fourth in the 400 meters in 55.81. Her time was the fourth fastest in school history. She was named the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Track Athlete of the Week.
Thalia Anguiano, senior majoring in Law, Politics, and Society. Thalia is the first student body president of color that our campus has ever had. One of her campaign promises was to get public safety’s number on the back of our student I.D.s and she accomplished this before our academic year even started. Thalia is organizing a women’s empowerment conference for young women from the Des Moines public schools. Her leadership has and continue to lead many students to see equity and inclusion as an important aspect across our institution. I cannot wait to attend Thalia’s inauguration as president of a university someday.
Meghan Baeza, Director of Student Leadership Programs. At such a young age, she has already obtained her master degree from Iowa State. She runs all of the leadership programs available for the student body. Her door is always open and welcoming to anyone who may need guidance and advice. I consider myself lucky to have her as a mentor for she has played an instrumental role in my formation as a leader on our campus. Meghan is a mentor, friend, and a role model to many. Last year, Drake’s Fraternity and Sorority Life gave her the Outstanding Faculty/Staff Member Award.
Deshauna Carter, sophomore majoring in Psychology with a minor in African American studies. This year, she serves as the Equity and Inclusion senator on student senate. During her term, she has lead the UNITY Roundtable, a governing body made up of 15 multicultural organizations. Organized the Bystander Prevent Week in February, which was made up of a series of events that addressed how we can protect each other from harassment and hate crimes. Lastly, she played an instrumental role in the search committee for our new Associate Provost of Campus Equity and Inclusion. Deshauna is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic
Haley Davis, junior majoring in Radio and TV Production. Haley worked hard and tirelessly last semester to become a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. Two out of the three new members were Drake students and Haley was one of them. Throughout her college career, she has taken on roles were students of color lack representation such as student ambassadors and residence hall assistants. Haley has worked on the production of Drake’s radio station 94.1 The Dog. Someday, we will be obsessed with a project directed by Haley Davis.
Lourdes Gutierrez, professor of Anthropology. Professor Gutierrez structures her classes to cover topics like globalization, borders and borderlands, transnational migration, oral history and Latinos in the United States. The list of her accomplishments and contributions to the Latino community is endless, but the one closes to my heart was her initiative in the Sanctuary Campus movement at Drake. For the first time, students did not have to advocate and be at the forefront of a cause. Professor Gutierrez brought others together to get a resolution passed through faculty senate in support of undocumented students. Her efforts led us to claim sanctuary status, hence, impacting the immigrant community on our campus.
Kaylah Harrington, sophomore majoring in Sociology with a concentration in Human Resources and Women and Gender Studies. She serves as the First-Mentor and UNITY rep for the Coalition of Black Students (CBS). Kaylah has foster the relationships between the upperclassmen and the freshmen in CBS. As the CBS UNITY Rep she helped with the organization and execution of the Bystander Prevent Week. When I asked Kaylah what she wanted to be when she grows up, she said, “Satisfied.” I am sure she will accomplish that and anything else she sets her mind into.
Shontavia Johnson, Director of the Intellectual Property Law Center and Professor of Law. Shontavia has recently received the 2016 Women in STEM Award, INSIGHT Into Diversity and the National Black Lawyers Top 100 Designation. She has been part of many equity and inclusion efforts on our campus, one of the was helping create the job description for the new position of Associate Provost of Campus of Equity and Inclusion. Shontavia has become my role model for her speaking about issues that need to be addressed. Read her lasted op-ed Shootings illustrate larger social concerns.
Erin Lain, currently serving as the Assistant Dean for Academic Services and Associate Professor of Law. However, earlier this semester, Erin accepted the new position of Associate Provost of Campus Equity and Inclusion. She has an impressive list of publications that explore the experiences and leadership of Black, Latino, traditional, and non-traditional students. I can’t even begin to express how excited we are for her to be in this new role and to make our campus an inclusive place for all. Erin has received her bachelor degree, PhD, and JD from Drake University. The undergrad women of color will look up to her and inspire to work as hard as she has worked. We are certain her leadership and efforts will make us proud to call ourselves Drake Bulldogs.
Niha Majeed, senior majoring in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology with a minor in Biology. Niha serves as the president of the Muslim Student Organizations during this academic year. After the Muslim ban created by your president, Niha responded by organizing a sister event of the World Hijab Day on campus. Niha along with other Muslim students taught our campus how to properly put on a hijab and gathered messages of support to take to our local mosque. Whenever I see Niha, she is always either studying or trying to make improvements to the way we take care of ourselves. Our health will be in good better hands once this lady becomes a physician in the future.
Carmen Vargas, junior majoring in Health Science with a Business minor. Two years ago, she played an important role in making a new student organization, La Fuerza Latina, grow into what it is today. She is currently the president of such organization. During her term she helped bring 300 Latino high school students from the Des Moines public schools, organized our first Hispanic Heritage Month banquet and Day of the Dead celebration. She is also an important advocate for the undocumented community on campus. Last summer, she interned with Proteus, where she connected migrant workers with the healthcare they needed . This proud daughter of immigrants will someday run a hospital or even multiple healthcare facilities and I hope to be there to cheer her on as she breaks glass ceilings for Latinas in the healthcare field.
Maleigha Williams, sophomore majoring in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology, and Psychology with a minor in Spanish. Maleigha is currently the Chief Marketing Officer for the Coalition of Black Students. I have noticed how much Maleigha’s presence on their board has improved the organization as a whole. It is no secret Maleigha has gone above and beyond to make the organization what it is today. Their social media presence is impressive from live videos of speakers to posting a new fact everyday during Black History Month. One day we will also be calling this empowering and strong WoC, Dr. Williams.
Like these 12, there are plenty of women of color improving and changing this predominately-white institution. Their work isn’t always the easiest, but it’s definitely important to all of us and those who look up to them. Acknowledge them and recognize their hard work. Don’t let their efforts get erased, instead rewrite them and shed light on them.
Happy International Women’s Day