Happy International Women’s Month!

March is International Women’s Month and this year, I, on behalf of AC Observer, decided to ask women at Austin College what it means to them to be a woman in this day and age as well as their respective fields to gain insight into the ever-changing lifestyles of women.
Dr. Ashley Tharayil – Assistant Professor of Economics/Business Administration

Dr. Ashley Tharyil is an Economics/Business professor who graduated from Austin College and explored different fields before she came across a microeconomics class taught by Dr. Kevin Simmons. Dr. Simmons really encouraged her to look at potential job opportunities in economics since she was naturally good at mathematics. Later, she decided to get her doctorate at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in economics and decided to come back to teach for the last 5 years. She mentioned to me that she never thought she would come back primarily because the “professors of economics were well established for many years that she never envisioned anything opening up.” Economics, in general, is a very male-dominated field, so there are a lot of issues with women being under-represented with “only about a third of undergraduate women pursuing economics.” Research has suggested that this may be due to women not being confident in handling finances. As a woman in economics, she is proud to serve as a role model as she continues teaching classes aimed at cultivating students to think about gender issues in economics. Overall though, there are more females than ever before pursuing economics careers as women across the globe are taking on CEO, proprietary, entrepreneurial, and chairwoman roles.
Dr. Fenia Chang – Assistant Professor of Music and Pianist

Dr. Fenia Chang is a pianist and professor of music who was inspired by her mother and her music teachers in the school to pursue her dreams in music. She’s especially proud of her Taiwanese heritage because her mother raised her to be the best in piano as she won piano competitions from a young age. Her passion propelled her to come overseas to join the Juilliard School of Music and major in bachelors in arts. Subsequently, she obtained a doctorate in music arts at the University of Maryland. However, she explains, it’s difficult as an Asian woman to “stand out, put in more effort, connect with others through networking, blend in, and competing with other nationalities.” All over the world, she has established her name as a Steinway Artist since 2007. This has gone a long way because Dr. Chang is passionate about teaching piano to her students. Although many students don’t pursue music as a career, many of the aspiring musicians are predominantly female today. Nevertheless, Dr. Chang is motivated to share her music knowledge with her students and enchant audiences from all over the world.
Kelle Kennemer – Police Chief Campus Police and Director of Public Safety

Kelle Kennemer is the Chief Campus Police at AC who ensures the safety and well-being of students on-campus. Of course, this is a male-dominated field, but that never stopped her from becoming an officer. She rode with police officers, including her husband who’s a Lieutenant for Sherman Police, which inspired her to get a Master’s License in policing. She even marched the streets with her grandmother protesting for women’s right to vote. She’s been an officer for 20+ years and says it’s challenging at times, but it’s very welcoming at AC. “Thank goodness for women who have come before me,” she says as she takes a positive outlook on males versus females in the field. Her main advice to students is to channel the “vision or drive to go for it and do it for yourself.”
Anntonia McCalister – AC Aramark Food Services Supervisor

Antonnia McCalister is the Supervisor at the Austin College cafeteria who ensures food set up is done on time for students and takes care of food catering on campus. Because she is a mother, wife, and supervisor, she explains that “it’s hard to be strong and independent” while also serving as a role model to her children and students at Austin College. Also a proud black woman, she believes black women are misunderstood and not heard, which makes the racial inequality harder to cope with than ever before. However, women as a whole, she believes are supporting each other nationally as women are becoming more educated. She says “women need the support the most.”
Grace Prda – Student (Senior)

Grace Prda is a senior at Austin College, majoring in Psychology, and is double minoring in Chemistry and Communications. After AC, she would like to pursue a career in counseling and therapy while also using her “strengths to better the world.” She explains that yes, it is better to achieve for yourself, but you don’t take that away with you when you die. Ultimately, what matters is the impact you had on others’ lives in your lifetime. Furthermore, her advice to incoming students is “don’t settle for something you are good at or earns you money.” Instead, she suggests exploring classes and organizations that you are passionate about because that’s when you realize your true potential.
A huge shoutout to all the confident, talented, supportive, caring, and strong women out there who are working tirelessly to accomplish big things in their careers and/or personal lives. The one lesson to always remember is to be yourself and stay strong no matter what. Happy International Women’s month!
#empowered #strong #beautiful

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