A new semester brings new energy and determination for the Women’s Influence Club

Hayley Canal, Staffer

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Last fall, freshman Emma Frye texted her Spanish class group chat looking for people interested in joining a women’s leadership club. It was the beginning of a difficult club creation process. 

After months of planning, an under-attended Winter Club Expo and a semester of low meeting turnout, she returned this semester with strong support, ready to grow the Women’s Influence Club with those she met along the way. 

Frye, now a sophomore psychology major, came up with the idea of the Women’s Influence Club the summer before she started at App State. She said she hoped to create a community space where women and others who feel discriminated against in the workplace  could grow and celebrate their leadership positions openly. 

Now that it’s up and running, the club provides opportunities for leadership education, service learning and community building. 

At the club’s first fall meeting on Aug. 26, Vice President McKenna Feid, junior political science major and Treasurer Paloma Mejia-Vasquez, sophomore political science major, emphasized that the club is an inclusive and intersectional space.

“The name of our club is Women’s Influence Club, and ‘woman’ has a lot of specific gender implications with it,” Feid said. “We wanted to broaden that because women aren’t the only ones who face gender discrimination in the workplace.” 

At meetings, the club addresses various levels of inequity people face. For those feeling the effects directly, they intend to provide information, support and helpful resources. 

“There is something very encouraging about a collective body that inspires other women or students that may not be aware of what resources they may have available,” said Maria Ortiz, club advisor and department assistant chair of the languages, literatures and cultures department. 

Frye said she didn’t create the club to merely identify injustice in the workplace, but to help people thrive in leadership roles, even when they recognize the odds are systematically stacked against them. 

Feid and Frye, drawing on their experiences as camp counselors, hope to get the club involved with local school systems to help younger students find leadership opportunities in the community. 

“Kids having strong role models who aren’t their parents, having adult role models who don’t have authority over them is so important,” Frye said. 

Frye is a track coach at Hardin Park Elementary School and intends to connect the team and the club. 

At the first meeting, students offered their own unique connections, skills and ideas for the fall semester. The executive board reiterated that each individual’s expectations will help navigate the club’s collective future. People shouted out what they hoped to do, everything from “campfires” to “running a 5k” to “feminist literature nights.” 

The Women’s Influence Club had nearly 40 people at the first meeting and an additional 86 who demonstrated interest at Club Expo. 

“These venues, groups and collective work help our agency as women; it happened with the women’s movement,” Ortiz said. “It was never the work of one person alone; it was a collective effort, and it’s just a beautiful thing.”