Auburn University honors achievements, contributions of alumnae, students on International Women’s Day

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This International Women’s Day, leaders and departments throughout Auburn University are celebrating the vital role that women play in creating a thriving campus.

Auburn University’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity, or OID, spearheads the institution’s continued strategic and proactive efforts to support and uplift women on campus and help propel those who have graduated to impact the world and represent the Auburn Family.

International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated each year on March 8 to commemorate the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women. As part of Auburn’s efforts to celebrate and recognize both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Auburn is hosting a series of events that support women at Auburn and ensure they go on to have successful careers after their time at Auburn. This includes the Auburn Alumni Association’s Annual Women’s Summit on March 18 and the recent Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by OID and the Women’s Center.

“Auburn has exemplary women leaders, students, faculty, staff and alumni who have shared their inspiring journeys with others. Women across the Auburn Family continue to empower this generation of students to be even more successful than the last,” said Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost and vice president for Inclusion and Diversity. “The experiences, voices and perspectives of women are integral to the progress of our campus, state and nation. My hope is that events like these continue to uplift the voices of women.”

These two events are part of a broader effort to support all women at Auburn, including faculty, staff, alumni, students and administrative and professional personnel. The university offers programming and strategically collaborates on efforts to facilitate women’s recruitment, hiring, retention and professional development by addressing issues that affect women’s well-being and professional needs across campus.

Some of the more notable initiatives across campus include the work by the Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, Institute to increase the representation of women and girls in science, math and engineering. This year, OID sponsored eight women faculty members to participate in the Faculty Success Program hosted by the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development.

Women’s Initiatives and Gender Equity, or WIGE, a sub-unit in OID, hosts the annual Women’s Leadership Conference, focusing on educating and empowering Auburn women to create their own story. On Feb. 28, it celebrated another successful year with a powerful keynote speech from acclaimed author Blair Imani, panel sessions with current students and talks from Auburn faculty and staff who shared their journeys and offered advice to students.

“I have spent a good portion of my collegiate years spearheading various initiatives, attending protests and voicing frustration in courses centered around feminist theory,” Auburn senior Regan Moss said. “While I find so much value in these platforms, it was uniquely rewarding to learn from other women and spend time discussing our paths—our successes, our failures and our mentors along the way—over a cup of coffee or in reflection following a herstory talk. The WLC was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other women, and I hope that we can become a part of one another’s herstories.”

Alumni also are a key part of Auburn’s efforts to support and uplift women while they are on campus and after they graduate, whether that’s through leadership initiatives like the Women’s Leadership Institute in the College of Liberal Arts that supports women at Auburn during their college years and beyond, or other ways for alumni to support women on campus.

“I’m really grateful that I had my start at Auburn, and I hope that the alumni continue to support the students,” said Leila Rassekh-Milani, senior international policy advocate for Futures Without Violence and a 1989 graduate. “That’s kind of what it's about, right? We hope to lend a hand to the ones who are there now who need guidance or experience and help open doors for them.”

At the 2022 Women’s Summit on March 18, students will have the chance to hear from some of Auburn’s distinguished alumni, including keynote speaker Michelle R. McKenna, chief information officer for the NFL and 1987 graduate. The summit is designed to equip women with the skills to excel in their careers, confidence to lead and the courage to support each other. For those unable to attend this year, you can participate in the many interactive workshops, motivating speakers, informative webinars, robust panels, pertinent discussions and more, all designed to inspire, empower and lead every Auburn woman throughout the year.

“We are so proud of what our alumni are able to achieve and watching them give back and empower our students is such an exciting opportunity for us on campus,” said Gretchen VanValkenburg, vice president of engagement and executive director of the Auburn Alumni Association, a 1986 graduate. “This involvement helps foster an open and inclusive environment and more connectivity between alumni and the university, especially as students prepare for their transition to alumni.”

Alumnae are proud to support women on campus as they navigate their journeys and start their careers.

“I’m very thankful that I went to Auburn,” said Jean Hood, mayor of Cinco Bayou, Florida, and 1975 graduate. “It was a wonderful experience. I think that if we continue to produce quality leaders at Auburn, then we are certainly fulfilling our role as alumni.”

Auburn is thankful for the achievement and generosity of its women alumnae and is excited about what the members of the Auburn Family will go on to achieve.

“Whenever I go to any other school, I realize just how good I had it,” said Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, a 1994 graduate. “I don’t take my education for granted; it really made me appreciate the opportunities that I’ve been given, and that began really and truly with my education. I am thrilled to have my degree from Auburn.”

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.