Do you know a woman making a positive impact in the University of Oregon community? Chances are, you probably do — and chances are, she probably doesn’t get enough recognition.
The Emerald asked the UO community to nominate outstanding women as part of Women’s History Month in March. Our newsroom chose one woman from a pool of nominees who are making a difference at UO with their integrity, courage, innovation, creativity, spirit, smarts, leadership, hard work and ambition.
Graduate student Ali Lau was nominated four separate times. But the other nominees also had their own interesting stories. Read about their individual impact on the community and find Lau’s story on the Emerald’s homepage.
Ellen Gillooly-Kress wears many different hats. She received her masters in cognitive linguistics from the UO, and is now continuing at UO with the intention of earning a Ph.D in theatre arts. She is heavily involved with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation Union and is an inspiration to many.
Her impact is widespread and powerful. “Ellen is a leader,” Alisha Rogers, a theatre arts undergraduate who nominated Gillooly-Kress for the honor, said. “She is a strong woman who embraces being a woman in power and [she] helps to empower others.”
Gillooly-Kress said she desires to create a safe space within the theatre department that is less hierarchical and more horizontal. She is currently obtaining the rights to a 1928 play titled “Machinal,” and plans to portray each character using an all femme-identified cast. She doesn’t want to cast exclusive to body parts, but rather allow freedom and expression to bring the production from 1928 into 2018.
Gillooly-Kress recognizes that theatre has been overwhelmingly binary in the past. “I think it’s time to start discussing how we can expand that,” she said. To that end, she advocates against linguistic criticism; women are too often judged by the way in which they speak, she said. Instead, the focus should be on the content they are trying to communicate. “I would hope to have any kind of linguistic discrimination eradicated,” Gillooly-Kress said. “There is a power in young women speakers. They lead. They are the vanguard of linguistic change.”
At the heart of Gillooly-Kress’s drive lies her passion for teaching and mentoring. “My goal is to be the supportive person for these people to find their self-confidence,” she said.
Though Gillooly-Kress loves and supports movements such as the Women’s March, which allows women across the country to gather and walk in solidarity with others, she said she feels that the emphasis needs to be placed on bold action.
“Maybe we should start working and maybe we should start striking to get people to realize the value of all women do in society,” she said.
Fatima Roohi Pervaiz
As the Director of the Women’s Center at UO, Fatima Roohi Pervaiz interacts daily with dozens of students. “I am mentoring and educating the feminist hive all day. That’s what I do,” she said. Pervaiz doesn’t see her position as a job, but instead, a lifestyle. With 20 student staff, the Women’s Center is a hub for acceptance and a catalyst for change.
Pervaiz was ignited at a young age by the injustice of patriarchal religion in her home. She says she knows trauma and oppression and claims that she will fight to the death in defense of her students’ happiness, health and success. “I want to make sure that others don’t experience the darkness that I’ve known,” she said.
After working with at-risk youth in Northwest Ohio, Pervaiz went on to be an educator in schools, churches and eventually at a juvenile detention center. “It was some of the most incredible fulfilling work with kids, who literally were kids,” she said. Pervaiz described them as fundamentally good and sweet, yet acknowledged that somewhere along the way, they were failed by someone in their life.
Now, at the UO, Pervaiz is working hard to make activism accessible, rather than elitist. She exudes passion and embodies love: her students know that she is their biggest fan. “I want to make her proud,” Vanessa Linne Sanchez wrote. Pervaiz encourages her students to treat everyone with dignity and respect and to remember that everyone is a human with their own agency and autonomy.
Pervaiz operates with intentionality behind everything she does. She runs the Women’s Center firmly, with a trauma informed, student and survivor centered intersectional feminist lens.
“She can be fierce when she needs to be, but she is protective and gentle as well,” Sanchez said.
Harley Emery co-founded the No Lost Generation club at UO. “Ever since I started school here, I wanted to be a part of some kind of refugee advocacy group,” she said.
Emery won Miss Oregon in June 2017 and competed in the Miss America Pageant this past September. She initially became involved in order to receive scholarships and improve her public speaking and interview skills, but met amazing people and had incredible experiences along the way. Emery is recognized by those around her as selfless and dedicated. Former undergraduate Shivali Kadam describes her as self-motivated. “Instead of waiting for opportunities, she creates them,” said Kadam.
Emery approaches her activism on a personal level. “If you can help one individual, that is completely changing one person’s world,” she said. No Lost Generation engages in a Skype video call once a week with students in the Gaza Strip. Together, they discuss cultural issues and work on English proficiency. For Emery, these Skype calls have had a powerful impact and been very moving.
Emery, as well as No Lost Generation as a whole, intends to expand their work beyond UO to the Eugene community. She says many people live under oppression, and she sees it a human responsibility to help, “…Having the general mindset that it could be any of us born into that situation.”