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MSU students find community, empowerment in women's organizations on campus

April 16, 2024

The first ten female students started at Michigan State University, named the State Agricultural College at the time, in 1870. Now, women make up 51.4% of the total undergraduate enrollment. The growing number of women on MSU’s campus has led to a flourishing selection of influential women’s organizations

From MSU Women in STEM, a group for those pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to Her Campus at MSU, an online publication and community of writers, the university has organizations dedicated to a variety of interests and fields of study

These organizations specifically geared towards female students aim to provide a safe space for women to learn and grow within their communities and areas of interest. These environments can be very different from the others that students may find themselves in on campus.

“It's different than being in like an organization with men and women,” international relations and social relations and policy sophomore Lauren Pelon said. “It's just really nice and really refreshing to have compared to like a lot of my classes, in IR especially, it's very much so male-dominated, so it's really nice to go into a space filled with more women.” 

Pelon is the treasurer of Empowering Women in Law, an organization for women aspiring to go into the law field to foster networking connections and build community. The club hosts many guest speakers, such as lawyers, judges, law students and admissions officers for law schools.

Political theory and constitutional democracy and social relations and policy sophomore Evangelene Oster, who serves as EWIL’s merchandise chair, said she couldn’t ask for a better support system than the one she has found through the organization

“I feel like women, no matter what graduate or … work field you find yourself in, are kind of underestimated and don't have an innate sense of community or like place of belonging,” Oster said. “And just having those connections going forward, having kind of like a foundational, ‘Okay, yeah, these women have got my back,’ (and) the connections they make through like the professional field, I think they're really imperative.”

The longing for a sense of community also motivated social relations and policy and political theory and democracy senior Portia Chana to join the James Madison College Women of Color Coalition. She wanted a place where she could be surrounded by other women of color who share her interests, as it’s easy to feel isolated at a predominately white institution

“I always say ‘college is what you make of it,’ and I really believe that even though I identify as being a queer woman of color going to a PWI, I have truly enjoyed my experience at MSU and JMC,” Chana said. “And I like 100% believe it's because of the people that I surrounded myself with and it's because I sought out those people.”

The JMC Women of Color Coalition hosts guest speakers, holds fun bonding activities and strives to help their members develop professionally. The club’s secretary, social relations and policy sophomore Lekhana Gogineni, said helping to prepare members for their professional futures and advocacy within MSU are important aspects of their organization. 

“We've been trying to be more active in advocating for more inclusive JMC environments,” Gogineni said. “I think a big part of it as well (is) just making sure that we're not just providing that space, but we're also developing the broader community into becoming that space of more inclusiveness.”

All across MSU, women’s organizations have been working to provide spaces for women to come together to build friendships, celebrate their identities and lift each other up towards success

“It's kind of nice to take a moment every week or … once every other week to be surrounded by people who not only look like you but understand what it feels like to go and be within an MSU community and the challenges that come with it, but also like the joy that can come out of our identities,” Chana said.

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