Women’s College Coalition Hosts Town Hall With U.S. Rep. Karen Bass

Posted By Eva Diaz - 07/30/2020

July 29, Los Angeles | The Women’s College Coalition (WCC) hosted five-term U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, for a webinar with over 400 students, faculty and staff from US women’s colleges and universities on July 28. Representative Bass took questions for an hour from six college student leaders and two university presidents covering women’s education, women in politics, criminal justice reform, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2013, Bass has served as the U.S. Representative from California’s 37th Congressional District, which includes the main campus of Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU), a member of the WCC. MSMU was represented on the call by University President Ann McElaney-Johnson and rising senior Angelica Crispin.

“Congressmember Bass is a role model for all young people, because of her lifetime commitment to effect social change here and abroad,” said Dr. McElaney-Johnson, who also serves as WCC Board Chair. “For those of us who work in women’s colleges, we are inspired every day by this next generation of young leaders and we are fully confident that they will go forward and create social justice for all peoples.”

The event spotlighted six students from women’s colleges and universities across the country, along with Bennett College President, Suzanne Walsh, co-hosting. Bennett College represents one of two Historically Black women’s colleges in the WCC, and has been a longtime member of the Coalition.

“I don’t believe there is anything that I could do that is more important than to do everything I can to inspire the next generation of leaders,” said Bass. “If you think about it, most great change that has taken place in our country, and probably the world, happens because it’s led by young people.” She went on to say, “I had the baton passed to me yesterday, looking at Mr. Lewis lying in state, and so I want to make sure you’re prepared to take that baton. Do what you can to build on that and develop your leadership, because pretty soon, you’ll be in charge of the world.”

Ghana native Magdalene Asare, a rising junior at Cottey College (Missouri), and Crispin kicked off the conversation by posing questions to the Congressmember about the importance of women’s education and the role of women’s colleges in society.

 “Let me just tell you a secret about being a woman. When you deal with gender, you’re always underestimated. And as a young woman, that tends to make you mad. But when you get older, you learn how to use that underestimation. I don’t mind being underestimated at all, because then when I do something, people don’t expect it. I find it as a way of having power. But I think when you go to an institution that is single gender, you have the opportunity to focus on yourself, your education, building you confidence, and those are skills that you need being able, then, to face anything and anybody.”

Taylor Dews, a rising junior at Spelman College (Georgia), sparked a spirited discussion on criminal reform and criminal justice reform – a topic Bass is passionate about.

“What I believe is that there’s just no reason to have such a significant percentage of the world’s prisoners [in the United States]. What we have done in our country over time, is we have criminalized health problems, social problems, economic problems,” said Bass, who is set to introduce legislation soon that comprehensively addresses women at every stage of the justice system, an area that has been neglected in recent discussions of criminal justice system reform.

Rounding out the student leaders were rising seniors Samantha Runyon from Sweet Briar College (Virginia), Uzochi Onwukwe from Texas Woman’s University, and Taylor Adkins from Bennett College (North Carolina).

This event comes amid an international social media movement "Women Supporting Women" to promote positivity and female empowerment.

"Nothing could be more empowering than the next generation of leaders from women’s colleges being in conversation with a public service beacon like Rep. Karen Bass about key issues during this pivotal time in our nation’s history," said Bennett College President Suzanne Walsh. 

“This was one of the highlights of my time at Sweet Briar College,” said Runyon, the college’s Class of 2021 president. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I know all the student leaders realize just how special this moment was.”