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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UF Women’s Student Association revitalizes approach to Women's History Month

March events covered activism, service, self-care and collaboration

In the heart of Women’s History Month, the UF Women’s Student Association unveiled a different approach to celebrating March: implementing self-care. 

Every March, Women’s History Month is meant to recognize the contributions, achievements and struggles of women. The month’s themes are selected by the National Women’s History Alliance. The 2024 theme is “Women who advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion,” according to its website. 

For WSA, March’s self-care theme covered many goals — activism, service, self-care and collaboration — through weekly events and collaboration with other UF organizations.

March 19 featured a picnic in Plaza of the Americas, and March 25 held a defense kickboxing class, focusing on self-compassion and regeneration.

Crystal Boudreau, a 20-year-old UF criminology and sociology junior and external vice president of WSA, said her job is to connect with organizations to create larger events. The 2024 WSA theme is to revitalize, she said.

“In order to be an activist for other women, you have to be an activist for yourself,” Boudreau said. 

WSA’s theme comes in the wake of many critical events around the world, from limited access to women’s hygiene products in Palestine to the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Boudreau added. 

“Every year as a woman, it’s just been harder,” she said. “We’ve been screaming till our lungs turn black… every year we’re fighting a different fight.”

Padma Adimula, a 21-year-old UF biology senior, has stayed with WSA since she started as a general body member. As the current president of WSA, her goal is to support members as much as possible, she said. 

WSA collaborated with other UF student organizations, including the Black Student Union and the Asian American Student Union, to host events such as the March 30 Cultivating Representation And Supporting Harmony extravaganza. CRASH aimed to “foster inclusivity… diversity… and empower our community on campus,” according to the WSA Instagram page. 

Inclusivity is a top priority within WSA, and it frequently collaborates with UF Pride Student Union to foster inclusive meetings for transgender and nonbinary students, Adimula said.

“Anyone of any gender expression is welcome at our meetings,” she said. 

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Savannah Schwantes, a 20-year-old UF nursing sophomore, joined WSA in July 2023. As the current treasurer, she submits budget requests, creates fundraising opportunities and provides continued support for WSA events. The biggest change she’s witnessed in her time in WSA has been organizational, she said. 

“We’ve changed around our standards for accountability within our exec board and tried to really focus on putting that in action during women’s history month,” she said. 

A focus on accountability was especially important since the pandemic, where WSA was one of many affected student organizations, Schwantes added. 

“Those two years were really crazy, and [WSA] didn’t have a lot of funding,” she said. “People were used to the online format where it was a little bit easier to avoid responsibility.”

As a member of leadership, her favorite part was creating events with purpose and creating engaging meeting topics, she said. 

“The issues we try to focus on are intersectional… there are enriching experiences for everyone and valuable information to be learned,” she said. 

Continuing to be a visible organization despite the elimination of UF DEI positions was important to Schwantes, she said. 

“We’re trying to prove that we’re still a strong organization, and we’re not going anywhere.” 

WSA hasn't seen any direct consequences of DEI, and Schwantes hopes WSA’s history as a UF Big Nine organization will protect it. But, there is some uncertainty, she said. 

“I [worry] sometimes, but we’re taking it one step at a time,” she said. “More than anything, I think it affects morale.”

Looking ahead, WSA’s future goals amidst DEI funding changes focus more on visibility rather than perception — and having WSA maintain its position at UF. 

“Becoming a more culturally competent person, whether it's through women's history month or engaging in diverse experiences… can really just help everyone be a better advocate for the people in their community,” she said. 

Contact Sara-James Ranta at Follow her on X @sarajamesranta.

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Sara-James Ranta

Sara-James Ranta is a third-year journalism major, minoring in sociology of social justice and policy. Previously, she served as a general assignment reporter for The Alligator's university desk.

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