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American Association of University Women opens OSU chapter

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Members of Ohio State’s chapter of AAUW march at the Washington D.C. Women’s March on Jan. 21. Credit: Courtesy of Helena Rudoff

Over the weekend, nearly 500,000 people marched at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. Some of them were members of Ohio State’s newly-established chapter of the American Association of University Women.

President Kirsten Sippola, a third-year in international studies and Spanish, was inspired to start the group by Lisa Maatz, the vice president of governmental relations for AAUW, after hearing her speak while Sippola was interning in Washington over the summer.

On Thursday, Maatz, an OSU alumna, is set to return to her alma mater to talk about grassroots legislative action the national organization is planning in light of the new presidential administration.

AAUW is a national organization that was founded in 1881 and now has about a thousand branches across the country, with about 800 at the university level. It advocates for a range of issues, including education, leadership and economic justice for women.

AAUW at OSU began meeting in the fall, but officially became registered as a student organization Spring Semester 2017. In November, it hosted Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown.

Sippola said the club wants to hold discussions on sexual violence on campus, equal pay and negotiating salaries, among other issues.

Helena Rudoff, vice president of the OSU chapter and a third-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, said one issue she’s especially concerned about is leadership roles for women, which she said was prompted in part by the recent presidential election.

“We want to make sure that women still have a place to have a voice, especially in government, that women are taken seriously for their work in government,” Rudoff said.

In addition, AAUW at OSU would like to bring in female faculty members to learn from their experiences in the workplace and partner with AAUW’s Columbus chapter to learn about lobbying the state and local government.

Sippola said one of the issues she is especially passionate about is heightening the awareness of sexual assault on college campuses and people who it disproportionately affects. She listed the transgender community and women of color as people who might feel like they can’t speak out.

“My biggest goal is creating a healthier and safer campus culture for women, and knowing that I actually did my part to try to change something here, instead of just wishing that would happen,” Sippola said.

But women aren’t the only ones who can get something out of AAUW. Dave Straka, a fifth-year in political science and member of the group, attends the meetings as well. He said he has learned a lot from AAUW meetings, which offers a different composition than the male-dominated organizations he’s been a part of.

“I would like to see women, especially in the fields of math, science, technology and entrepreneurship and engineering, joining in and taking leadership roles in these organizations related to those topics,” Straka said. “When you look around the room and it’s all men, you’re missing half the campus, you’re missing half the ideas. And nobody wins when you’re missing out on ideas.”

Rudoff said that sometimes the issues discussed in the group can be emotional and sensitive, but it is still important to have those conversations, which the organization facilitates.

“It’s hard to tell someone who doesn’t have the same experiences as you, ‘Sometimes I feel disadvantaged.’ And it might not be obvious all the time, but I know I will run into different issues because I’m a woman,” Rudoff said. “Being able to have those types of dialogues that are really difficult with different types of people with different experiences, I think is really useful on a campus this big.”

Lisa Maatz will speak in Page Hall, Room 130 from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday. The group’s first meeting will be on Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. Both are open to nonmembers.

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