A new multi-campus initiative is working to connect and empower active feminist leaders from Duke and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Funded by a $5,000 grant from the Kenan-Biddle Partnership—which focuses on uniting students from Duke and UNC—the new Feminist Activist Initiative aims to facilitate equality on both campuses by promoting feminist leadership and activism. Twenty-two total applicants were accepted to the program last week—11 from each school. The initiative received over 80 applications from Duke alone.
“The initiative bridges class year and unites students with all different backgrounds from all different walks of life across two campuses in a network of feminist leaders,” said senior Lillie Reed, the initiative’s founder and chief administrator. “We want to build a community.”
Unlike many of the other campaigns on campus, Reed said the Feminist Activist Initiative will have a strong focus on following through with action.
“Something that I find rather agitating about a lot of campaigns at Duke and at UNC, is that there’s a lot of awareness and leadership development, but not a lot of action,” Reed said. “As members of the initiative, the people participating will create an activist campaign of their own design.”
Senior Cara Peterson, a member of the new initiative and co-founder of Duke Culture Initiative, hopes the campaign will emphasize mentorship.
“There’s a lot of experience that can be shared, and I want the campaign we design to focus on a shift of knowledge about the way gender impacts men and women on a day-to-day basis, from one year to the next,” Peterson said. “But I’m really excited to focus on whatever ideas the whole group come up with.”
The participants will also meet for a retreat in late February and occasional dinners to discuss gender issues and solutions with feminist faculty and other leaders.
“I’m excited about the conversations I get to have with other women and men who are dedicated to the same issues I am,” Peterson said. “I also am really excited to see the exchange between Duke and UNC students and to work with a world outside of the Duke bubble.”
Both schools have seen recent progress in their feminist campaigns, Reed noted.
“It’s very important to realize that we have a lot of students who are passionate about the same things as UNC students,” Reed said.
Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs and co-chair of the Kenan-Biddle Partnership, said uniting the two campuses is important given their complementary strengths.
“Expanded collaboration contributes to further scholarship, experiential opportunities for students and the benefits that come with [multiple] perspectives—public versus private institutions, intellectual and practical engagement and even competition,” Moneta said.