I grew up in the Deep South, the daughter of a minister. I was taught the value of self-reliance, and that all people deserve respect and basic rights. I grew up under the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I firmly believed during those young years of my life that if I kept my head down and acted with integrity, others would treat me the same way. That philosophy seemed like the answer to the world’s troubles. If others would follow the same rule, then their lives would begin to change for the better. If I had never left my home town, I would probably still fit neatly into the mould that my upbringing created. I am sure that I push the minister’s boundaries now with my views of who deserves which rights.
Coming from these very conservative beginnings, it might seem that I am treading water in unfriendly seas. I believe I felt that way at first. However, the more I come to know people, the more their voices break into my sphere of understanding, the more I feel that we’re all bound together with an obligation to hold one another up.
In college, I met a young woman from Kenya who opened my eyes to the conflict in Sudan and the atrocities there. I saw what I had been sheltered from or oblivious to in my youth, the indiscriminate persecution of innocents. The more I became aware, the more I saw people pressed down, rights stripped, lives taken. At first I tried to reconcile this reality with the theories I had been taught growing up. Why couldn’t they just do the right thing and begin to see their lives turn right? I began to see that kind of black and white, cause and effect mentality was impossible. I realized that there are many people in the world who need someone to speak for and empower them, to give them hope and strength. I wanted to do something to make a difference.
Another theme that emerged in my life during college was feminism. Of course, this was not in its purest form, but I have always had a firm belief in self-reliance and the strength and power of women and this made an impression on people. I spent time encouraging the freshmen women on my floor during my senior year to pursue their passions and seek their self-worth in other places than the traditional gender roles lend themselves.
My life since college has been a slow emergence from the cocoon of sheltered self-centeredness. One step at a time, usually through the means I have available at the time, I have been coming out into the world with a desire to affect those around me. If at all possible, every day I reach out a hand to encourage or lift up the person next to me, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
Last year, as a part of my job here at UC Davis, I was asked to write an article on women and wine for the university alumni magazine. I welcomed the opportunity to learn about the amazing women who are shining in this male-dominated field. As a result of that assignment, I realized that I have always had a passion for empowering women and a desire to celebrate our achievements. My goal in pursuing this certificate is to gain a solid base of theory to go with the rumblings and beliefs that stir in my spirit. I would like to write more about the power and presence of women in the world, and I feel that having a solid background in theory will help me gain perspective and credibility should my words come into question. I am hopeful that this certificate could offer me the beginning of that solid background.