SRU to showcase strength of women during March


female high school students STEM event at Slippery Rock University

Feb. 21, 2017

presidents commission on women logo

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - American author W.E.B. Du Bois once said, "There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise."

Across the country, around the world and at Slippery Rock University, women from all walks of life continue their daily fight for equality.

SRU's President's Commission on Women exists to help them.

The Commission supports all efforts to develop a University community that provides a high quality academic experience in an environment that is not only open, caring, nurturing and personal, but also fair and respectful to women.

During the month of March, the Commission will highlight its mission - to lead as well as support women's leadership and gender equity as cornerstones of the collegiate experience at SRU - through a variety of enlightening and empowering activities.

mary hennessey


Mary Hennessey, assistant to the provost and who co-chairs the Commission with Youngyol Schanz, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, said that this year's focus is career opportunities and injustices that might prevent women from reaching their full potential.

"I especially like this focus because it allows women to lean into the opportunities that are opening up to them," said Hennessey. "When you understand your capabilities as a person, that is when you feel empowered enough to move forward."

A primary area of focus for the Commission this year will be women in STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - and the career opportunities available.

The thrust of that discussion will take place at the annual "Girls Rock @ STEM" event, scheduled for March 27. The program introduces young women in the eighth, ninth and tenth grades to collegiate and career opportunities in those fields, as well as the importance of being active in math and science classes throughout high school.

"We want these girls to enjoy a firsthand look at our University and see what we have to offer," said Hennessey. "Our goal is to get them in touch - particularly with female faculty in the science and math departments - so that they understand the importance of keeping up with those classes and that they are inspired enough to pursue those fields in the future."

Event participants, which generally range between 60 and 70 persons, take part in an on-campus tour in addition to hands-on science activities and experiments.

"The young women that attend this event each year love the program and participating in this hands-on information exchange," said Hennessey. "We always get great feedback about it from them."

In addition to "Girls Rock @ STEM," the Commission will be addressing topics that have historically posed threats to women's safety and advancement.

Human trafficking will be the topic of discussion at 7 p.m., March 28, when the Commission welcomes the Butler County Alliance on Children to Room 103, Weisenfluh Dining Hall.

A sexual assault information booth will be set up from 12:30-1:30 p.m., March 30 outside Starbucks in the Smith Student Center. Quizzes on the topic of sexual assault and awareness ribbons will be available, in addition to free pizza and prizes for those taking part.

"It's a fun way to raise awareness and to get people thinking about these very prevalent issues," Hennessey said. "These activities continue to speak to our theme of empowerment, because once you feel self-confident, it allows you to make good decisions and to never allow someone else to hold you back or put you in a difficult position."

To reinforce and reward empowered women, Hennessey said the Commission would also be presenting their annual "Women of Distinction" awards this spring. Nomination forms will be released online sometime during March. Winners will be announced at the Gender Studies and Women's Commission Mentoring Dinner in October.

In addition, the annual "Journey of Women at the Rock" panel discussion will take place at 7 p.m., March 30 in the University Union. The discussion, led by an all-female panel, is filled with personal and uplifting stories from SRU faculty and staff.

"Women's rights, on a national - if not global - scale continue their rise to the forefront, so being able to showcase examples of strong and committed women at our University is so important for our female students to hear," said Hennessey.

Maggie Kerry, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Butler, agrees with Hennessey.

"It means a lot to me that the University has a commission that addresses women's issues and rights and understands the challenges that women of different backgrounds, races and ethnicities may face. I find that incredibly crucial to not only my success academically and personally, but also to all women who attend this campus."

SRU's six presidential commissions, which are comprised of volunteer student, faculty, staff and administrative members appointed by the president, provide leadership for maintaining a campus community that is open, caring, nurturing, personal, fair, engaging and respectful.

Each of the commissions - Disability; Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation; Racial and Ethic Diversity; Sustainability; Status of Women, and Wellness - selected a month during the academic year to showcase their work and engage the community.

For more information, or to participate in any of the Commission events, contact Mary Hennessey at 724.738.2171 or

MEDIA CONTACT: Maizee Zaccone | 724.738.2091 |