May 2015 AAUW President’s Letter by Beth Nienow

Six Rochester branch members attended the 2015 AAUW Minnesota State Convention April 10 and 11 at the Hormel Historic Home in Austin.  Friday afternoon began with optional tours of the IJ Holton Intermediate School with its unique STEAM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics which inspired the convention’s theme Full “STEAM” Ahead!) and/or the Austin Artworks Center downtown.  After the tours, the silent auction began during the social hour followed by dinner and featured speaker, Kate Farrar, vice president of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs, a young and energetic woman who spoke about women’s leadership.  Significantly, Kate credited attending the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders as a turning point in her life as a leader, making me feel proud that our branch has sponsored several young women to attend this conference in the past few years and will sponsor another UMR student again this year.  After dinner, we were entertained by the very lively Spamettes who has us all on our feet by the end of the evening.

Friday morning, Mark Hopkins, Chief Strategy Officer of AAUW, presented the keynote speech “Our AAUW”.  Hopkins compared AAUW to large corporations like Proctor & Gamble or Hormel that have several different areas of focus but are still one entity.  Afterwards, the business meeting and election of officers was held.  A resolution to have branches focus on the topic of affordable housing was voted down because many members did not feel it aligned closely enough with national public policy, but this issue may be revisited in the future.

During lunch, we heard the LAF speaker, Kathy Bull, a graduate of Winona State University and former head coach for the women’s tennis team at Ball State University in Indiana.  She claimed she had been fired in retaliation for speaking out in favor of gender equity in the school’s athletic department and filed suit under Title IX.  With case support from AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund, she eventually settled her lawsuit and was awarded more than $700,000.  I felt that the LAF speaker was the most inspiring of the convention.

After lunch I attended a breakout session on working with the next generation of AAUW members, and the AAUW Town Hall forum with the national AAUW officers who spoke about AAUW policy issues and news and answered member’s questions.

With the new shortened format, the convention concluded in mid-afternoon Saturday after the breakout sessions and closing of the silent auction.  The 2016 convention will be April 29-May 1 at the Holiday Inn in Duluth.  I hope many of us will be able to attend.

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