Widener Women Leaving their Mark

Hilary Bentman, Associate Director of Communications
Seven female students sitting in chairs and on a sofa in the University Center Atrium

This year’s Student Government Association (SGA) executive board is all female.

By all accounts, it was not intentional; the students didn’t run together as a slate of candidates. 

But it wasn’t coincidental either. 

The board (elected to serve as the voice of Widener students with university administration) represents a growing trend in recent years – the emergence of women in leadership roles across campus, especially women of diverse backgrounds.

It’s not just about being part of the conversation, but part of the solution. Women are stepping up to the challenge.” — Camille West ’23, a social work major, SGA’s vice president of the Senate, and president of the Tau Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Today, female students head numerous clubs and organizations — including academic, diversity, and social ones — and are leading voices on campus. 

Nursing major Maritza Garcia ’25 is working to spread a sense of community and belonging at Widener, including for her fellow Latino students. This year, she helped restart, and is leading, Latinos Unidos, which runs events and programs to educate the campus and to celebrate Latin culture.

Students Maritza Garcia and Ariana Hurtado-Day stand in front of a screen advertising a Blue Table Talk
Maritza Garcia '25 (left) and Ariana Hurtado-Day '23 (right)

“I love making sure people feel like they belong here,” said Garcia, a Pride mentor, resident assistant (RA), and orientation leader.

Likewise, psychology major Ariana Hurtado Day ’23 has emerged as a leader in various aspects of campus life, including through the Center for Civic and Global Engagement Scholars Program, where she honed her leadership skills while pursuing her passion for helping others. Today, she serves as the program’s president.

“In high school, I was never a president of any clubs. I didn’t see that as me because of my view on leadership. I thought it was just telling people what to do. It was really out of my comfort zone, but with the encouragement I received, I realized that I could determine what type of leader I want to be. I don’t have to be like everyone else,” said Hurtado-Day, who made history in 2022 by becoming Widener’s first mixed Latina and Black homecoming queen.

The achievements of these students, and others, is sending a powerful message: representation matters.

Today’s female leaders say they were inspired to pursue their roles by those who came before them and are proud to be inspiring the next generation. 

It’s about advocating for themselves and their fellow students, having their voices heard, and striving to make the changes they wish to see now and in the future.

“There were a lot of female role models for me, even as early as freshman year,” said Donya Moore ’24, who was inspired by the leadership of student trustee Ijjae Hill ’23 ‘25. “I saw everything she was doing. To have a Black woman on campus doing that… people don’t even realize they’re mentoring us.”

As president of Widener’s chapter of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Moore helped bring the organization back from near-collapse. A sport and event management major, Moore also serves on the School of Business Administration Dean’s Advisory Board, is an Admission Ambassador, an RA, and works in the President’s Office.

Student Donya Moore talks to other people at an outdoor School of Business conference
Donya Moore '24

Moore and others praise the work of Chief Diversity Officer Micki Davis, and of Kortne Smith, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs, for helping to build a community where women — and particularly women of diverse backgrounds — feel comfortable and confident to put themselves out there. 

“It’s about the support we have here, at Widener. It is a community and our home. As a woman who is a part of the African American community on campus, we are more interested in being leaders because we know we have the backup from various people and many look like us,” said Ja’Lisa Williams ’25, a marketing major who serves as SGA’s recording secretary, an orientation leader and ambassador, and is a member of the all-female Residence Hall Association executive board.

SGA President Megan Sharp, who was preceded by a female president and will be succeeded by a woman next year when Arielle McRae takes the reins, said many female students are also inspired by President Stacey Robertson, only the second female leader in the school’s 200-year-history. 

Students are impressed by Robertson’s attentiveness, eagerness to listen, and ubiquitous presence on campus. The SGA executive board recently met with Robertson and her President’s Leadership Team for the first time, and plan to meet with these top administrators regularly to voice student concerns and bring forth ideas.

This campus has been so welcoming in supporting women in these positions, no matter their background or identity. The diversity in our leadership is what makes it so strong.” — Megan Sharp, SGA president 

Student leadership positions are sure to benefit these women long after they graduate, as they are gaining confidence as well as the interpersonal and organizational skills essential to their careers and lives.

As a first-generation college student, Jordyn Murphy ’25 was intent on “getting every experience out of college that I could. This was all very new to me.”

Murphy is succeeding. She will graduate from Widener with not only a nursing degree, but with the ability to speak in public, a direct result of serving as SGA director of communications. 

Sarah Hurley ’24, a secondary education major, said her position as SGA vice president of public relations and special events, has “helped me find my voice, which I will need as a teacher to keep students on track.” 

Likewise, SGA vice president of finance, Kennedy Shaw ’24, a psychology major on a pre-medical track, says her role has helped her break out of her shell.

I’m more assertive and confident in myself, which I will need as a doctor and in treating patients. Any leadership position you take on campus benefits you, broadens your horizons, and helps you meet new people and make connections.” — Kennedy Shaw '24

Biomedical engineering major Shaylyn Westmoreland ’23, president of the Black Student Union, advises fellow and future Widener students to take on leadership roles, even if it’s scary or uncomfortable at first.
“What I love about this school is you can,” she said.
Westmoreland encourages student leaders to go a step further by using their platform to promote a positive experience, to vocalize students’ concerns, and to question the status quo when it’s not serving everyone.

"Advocating is extremely important. Questioning things leads to the most growth,” she said.

You May Also Like