By Hannah Hagan
I write this end-of-semester post with a heavy heart. This not only marks the end of time at the UMKC Women’s Center, but at UMKC all together: I’m graduating in less than a week, and while I’m excited, it’s hard to let go of the people and places that made life so wonderful the past several years. UMKC is a friendly, beautiful, relentlessly unique place – it’s challenged nearly everything I thought I knew about the world and made me a better person for it. And though I feel like I’ve dipped my toe into nearly every club, organization, department or job I could find here, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this university has to offer.
Still, I managed to glean an incredible amount of school and work experience at UMKC, ones that have provided clarity and purpose for my present and future. Of these experiences, my time at the Women’s Center has perhaps been most essential. Through my two-semester internship, I was able to apply the theories and knowledge I gained from my women’s and gender studies minor to enact real, observable change. From creating anti-violence programs to leading group discussions to the minute details of everyday office work, this internship sharpened my work ethic and convinced me that I am, in fact, on the right track.
Although I’m graduating with an English degree – a degree I love, cherish, and will never regret earning – I plan to continue my education by studying social work at the Master’s level come fall 2019. This decision was unquestionably influenced by my time at the Women’s Center; it is the place where I first learned the satisfaction of working with communities to address conflict and to heal. Before then, though, I will be travelling to Senegal in January as my final hoorah with the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department. There, I will learn from and work with local female entrepreneurs who are creating and directing programs to address social and health inequity in their country. Senegal is on the precipice of a gender revolution not unlike ours of the mid-20th century, and I’m rendered speechless each time I remember my opportunity to contribute to that transformation, however minimally. To meet the incredible people at the forefront of the Senegalese women’s movement will be an unrivaled professional and personal experience – I just keep waiting for someone to pinch me. If it weren’t for my involvement in the Women’s Center, I doubt I would have even heard of this opportunity. My work here has opened doors I never knew existed.
Gender, violence prevention, reading, writing – these are the subjects to which I’ve been devoted for the past 3.5 years. For a bookworm and self-described gender nerd, it’s been nothing short of a dream. As I continue my educational journey, I’m anxious to know where these passions will land me. In the distant future, I see myself working as a licensed social worker, hopefully consulting young women and queer people on healthy relationships, friendships, and sexual behaviors. In the meantime, who knows? I’m trying to keep my mind open the same way I did when I accepted this internship a year ago. My greatest wish is to never stop working for and with women, LGBT folk, and allies. If I can at least do that much, then I’ll be content.