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Saint Mary’s students attend leadership conference

MJ Johnson | Thursday, October 31, 2013

As many students packed their bags for a long week of relaxation, home-cooked dinners and Netflix, some spent the hours before fall break preparing for a weekend focused on social change and leadership.

 The Saint Mary’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) sponsored the sixth annual Cincinnati Catalyst Trip, bringing together 14 women on an inspiring intercultural experience, while exploring women’s leadership, race, power and privilege, Mana Derakhshani, CWIL associate director, said.

CWIL’s main mission is to “empower women to realize their call to leadership and to develop their intercultural knowledge and competence, critical in today’s increasingly interdependent world,” Derakhshani said.  

Being immersed in the diversity and history of the Catalyst Trip is an influential experience for women, both students and community leaders alike, Derakhshani said.  

The trip entailed a three-day retreat and a weekend trip to Cincinnati through which seven Saint Mary’s students and seven women from the community came together to discover how they could impact the world around them, Derakhshani said.

On the weekend trip, the women visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati where the group visited the homes of John Rankin and John Parker, significant figures involved in the Underground Railroad, Derakhshani said. There, the Saint Mary’s women learned about the harrowing effects of slavery in our nation and the role women played in bringing about freedom and equality in our country, she said.

Junior Loretto Evans, who attended the trip, said she reacted emotionally to visiting these sites.

“The most memorable moment was walking in the woods in Ripley, Ohio where so many slaves escaped freedom,” Evans said. “It gave me chills to be walking through a place where so many risked their lives in the dark night.”

After the visit, the women shared their insights, experiences and views about their role as leaders in our society, Derakhshani said.

“Learning about the history of slavery, the Underground Railroad and the role of women in the struggle of freedom and equality is essential in understanding today’s intersection of race, gender and class,” Derakhshani said.  “This, in turn, is a stepping stone to discerning how one’s leadership can bring about positive social change.”

Evans said the trip empowered her to advocate for social change.

“I decided to be involved in the Catalyst Trip because I wanted to be more knowledgeable of other people’s backgrounds and stories from a first hand experience,” she said.  “… I realized that each and every one of us has the potential to make a change in this country, and you cannot let the fear of standing up ever defeat you and leave you sitting down.”