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Women in Learning and Leadership strive to make a difference during pandemic

By Jax DiEugenio
Staff Writer

As the Covid-19 pandemic has shaped nearly all aspects of life at the College, organizations like Women In Learning and Leadership (WILL) are no exception. 

The organization works to educate the College community about a variety of women’s issues pertaining to sexuality, domestic violence, abuse and more. 

As described by the executive chair of WILL, Lakshmi Gurram, “We are action-oriented women that are engaged intellectually since the foundation of our organization is rooted in feminist studies.” 

Like other organizations on campus, however, WILL has met its fair share of hardships during this unprecedented time.

Reflecting on these challenges, Gurram said, “Just like any other student organization during a virtual semester, WILL has faced the challenge to keep our membership engaged when they have their own family and home responsibilities to attend to.”

Attempting to mitigate these challenges, WILL has decided to offer more flexible membership options in hopes of seeing an increase in membership.

In an effort to keep members engaged during the pandemic, WILL has implemented a tiered membership system and hosted virtual events (will.tcnj.edu).

“We decided to launch our tiered membership system this year in the middle of a pandemic when membership retention and recruitment are low,” Gurram said. “We extended an invitation to the TCNJ Campus Community to partake in our event planning and be a part of our internal committees when before this year only academic program members (who are accepted through an application process and contingent on their completion of the WILL minor) were allowed.”

Pressing forward in the midst of this challenging remote setting, WILL has continued to host a series of important events over Zoom, maintaining their precedent of spreading effective change for women within the campus and outside communities. 

Discussing the importance and history of the organization’s events, Gurram mentioned, “WILL is known for the legacy events that it holds every year. During the fall 2020 semester, we have successfully hosted Lunafest through Zoom and had a turnout of over 40 people.” 

Hosting these events is crucial to inform their audience about the struggles surrounding women’s sexuality in this modern climate, Gurram explained. “Lunafest is a showcasing of women-centric short films. This semester, our programming chairs Noelle Halikman and Diamond Urey are planning to host Take Back the Night to be on April 23 at 8 p.m. via Zoom.”  

As described by Gurram, “Take Back the Night” is a monologue-style event where sexual assault survivors and allies are given the opportunity to speak in support of the community. Within this event, members are working to support domestic violence victims and survivors in Mercer County and have already raised $80+ in their fundraising efforts. 

In addition to this important work, WILL is also holding its annual Senior Prom, set to be held in the fall semester of 2021. Described by Gurram, the prom “is our main community service event where we hold a Prom night for seniors at Chandler Hall.” 

As the organization plans to serve the community first, they have risen to combat the many difficulties that have arisen from this uncertain time. 

Reflecting on WILL’s community service initiatives, Gurram expressed, “our Community Service chairs have set working on our community relations and outreach as one of their main initiatives for their term. In order to maintain our high degree of service to the school’s community, we hosted Footwear February in the past month and raised $80 for Homefront!” 

WILL has managed to find ways to adapt to the virtual environment this semester, continuing to serve the community with events like Footwear February (will.tcnj.edu).

As the organization continues to seek new members for this semester and those upcoming, Gurram wanted to note that any students interested in joining WILL should fill out this Google Form in order to become a General Body member.

If interested in WILL’s academic program, members must complete the WILL minor (5 courses) and attend monthly Academic Program workshops; then members can graduate with the WILL certificate. 

For more information about WILL’s initiatives visit their website at will.tcnj.edu

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