By Paul Elwell
The Womxn of Colour Network kicked off its spring semester event series by hosting Melissa Shivers, the UI vice president for Student Life, for a lecture in the IMU River Room.
The lecture, titled “Being a BOSS,” included discussions about various notable quotes and statistics regarding women of color. Shivers began the lecture by addressing the members of the group, saying how much she supported them and how glad she was to be able to speak to them.
“What Womxn of Colour is really about is for you all to create a space and community with each other,” she said.
The bulk of the lecture included several personal anecdotes from Shivers regarding the barriers and challenges she has faced in achieving her current station and how her race and upbringing has affected her journey.
Most of the stories she told were focused on her education, both its difficulties and importance. Difficulties included her mother working two or three jobs to make sure she and her sister could go to college and her unpreparedness for her first years at the Georgia Southern University.
The importance of her education culminated in her decision to get a doctorate, something she said she had never thought she would do, which allowed her to attain her current position at the university.
“I don’t ever want someone to think the road I took was easy.” Shivers said.
Shiver’s lecture was well-received, with several of the 30-plus audience members giving her a standing ovation at its conclusion.
UI sophomore Stacy Ramirez, a first-time attendee of a Womxn of Colour event, said she was felt empowered by Shivers’ story.
“It was very uplifting and empowering to hear a woman in her position of power tell of her triumphs and struggles, especially since we can relate,” she said.
The Womxn of Colour is an organization of students, faculty, staff, and community members who meet monthly. Events such as keynote speakers and panel discussions are planned, as well as more social events such as group Zumba.
The series started at the beginning of last semester, also hosting Shivers, who was kicking off her first semester at the UI.
The group was founded last semester by Jessica Padilla, the Iowa N.E.W. Leadership Program coordinator at the WRAC. She said she founded the group to create an environment for students to come together and talk about common experiences, share ideas, and work together.
The foundation of the group was inspired by a retreat hosted by Iowa State University, catering to female students of color at that institution. Padilla wanted to expand that idea to the UI and decided to create the Womxn of Colour.
“We should have a safe space to come together and promote sustainable success for each other,” she said. “It gives the opportunity for students to come together in a safe space and make connections.”
Padilla spoke about the importance women of color have and their need to expand their presence and empower themselves.
“We don’t just need political scientists and actors of that kind,” she said. “We need all of us sitting in all areas.”