Send College Women to NCCWSL

October 28, 2013

For the last few years, AAUW of Connecticut has made a special effort to send more local women to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders — with great success. I spoke to Lin Rising, AAUW of Connecticut College/University Relations officer, about her branch’s NCCWSL scholarship initiative. Rising shared some of her takeaways with me, including how other branches can implement similar grant programs for students in their area.

Students of the Trinity College Women & Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC) at NCCWSL 2013.

Students of the Trinity College Women & Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC) at NCCWSL 2013.

Q: Who started the NCCWSL scholarship initiative? Why?

A: Originally, the AAUW of Connecticut board established a NCCWSL branch grant at a time when we had only 10 C/U partner members. It was an effort to engage branches in the program at a time when the college/university partnership was emerging as the focus of AAUW of Connecticut’s mission. After Carol Virostek recruited me to work with her on C/U recruitment and retention, we increased our membership from 10 to 29 C/U partners. NCCWSL was a recruitment tool, in some cases, to bring the school that received the grant on board with AAUW.

Q: How does AAUW of Connecticut’s NCCWSL support initiative work?

A: The initiative is a collaboration between AAUW C/U partners, AAUW of Connecticut members, and other Connecticut branches to optimize participation in NCCWSL among female college leaders. As AAUW of Connecticut C/U Relations co-chair, I am responsible for keeping track of our higher education activities and interaction. AAUW of Connecticut puts aside $3500 annually for NCCWSL grants and scholarships.

As a state, AAUW of Connecticut also awards three additional NCCWSL scholarships: the Carol R. Virostek Scholarship; a scholarship for one student from the university that hosted the previous year’s AAUW of Connecticut C/U partner member conference; and a $395 NCCWSL scholarship for the college or university with the largest increase in number of e-student affiliates that year.

Q: How does the AAUW branch pay for these grants?

A: Each participating branch may apply to submit a $250 grant to be matched by AAUW of Connecticut. The state/branch collaborative combines to $500 ($250 from the state, $250 from the branch), which pays for the $395 NCCWSL early bird registration and leaves $105 towards travel expenses. Occasionally, a college will subsidize the travel and handle those expenses and arrangements.

See AAUW of Connecticut’s sample grant application, and use it as a template for your own!

Q: What kind of resources does a branch or state need to do this successfully?

A: First, branch and state officials need to make a commitment to building AAUW’s community with our college/university partners and students.

It is a good idea to have a realistic goal to determine how many students the state or branch can afford to send to NCCWSL. The AAUW of Connecticut model recommends that branches put aside $250 in the budget. Then, they apply for the state-matching grant. States need to allocate funding for grants, but amounts may vary according to means and need. Some branches even choose to send two students.

Q: How do branches choose which student to sponsor?

A: Often a branch has a rapport with a nearby school and will opt to send a student from that institution. The branch then works with the AAUW C/U representative on that campus as well as other college personnel to determine the scholarship recipient. Occasionally, a branch will request that AAUW of Connecticut make a match for them, especially if there is no school in their region.

It is our goal to rotate the scholarships among institutions in order to share the scholarship dollars as far as possible. Since we have 29 C/U partners in Connecticut, we try to spread the wealth, so to speak, and include some different colleges each year.

Q: Tell us about your success in working with branches and C/U partner members.

A: Success breeds success. We ask students to summarize their NCCWSL experiences for their college. They submit the report to their AAUW C/U representative for their campus, and this information is shared with other colleges and branches who love to hear about the students’ accomplishments and experiences. These reports are usually presented at branch meetings and at the fall AAUW of Connecticut College/University Conference. Meeting the students and hearing their enthusiasm and excitement is very affective. They make the sale!

NCCWSLQ: Is there a particular student or story that sticks out as a success?

A: Martha Danes, a 2013 Trinity College graduate, singlehandedly recruited enough e-student affiliates for Trinity to receive the state-sponsored NCCWSL scholarship. Danes attended NCCWSL, was selected for Connecticut’s State Student Advisory Council, and was then chosen to be an intern in the secretary of state’s office.

Q: Tell us about how NCCWSL has helped you attract non-C/U partner members to join AAUW.

A: Occasionally we will offer to send a student to NCCWSL from a non-C/U partner institution as an incentive for the college to partner with AAUW. The student returns with so much enthusiasm that the program is validated, and the enthusiasm is contagious. This has been a good investment in most cases toward getting the C/U to join AAUW as an institution.

Q: What would you say to an AAUW state thinking about following your lead?

A: For us, the initiative has been very rewarding, and it’s exciting to see the program grow. It has built alliances between state, colleges, and branches that promise lasting results.

Establishing a steering committee to work with the C/U partnership has helped us build capacity and promote NCCWSL. A steering committee ensures that others will also be knowledgeable about the program, the process, the challenges, and the successes. It is also wise to find a leader with higher education connections; someone who is familiar with college calendars and protocol.

The greater the ownership and engagement, the greater the results will be!

See AAUW of Connecticut’s sample grant application, and use it as a template for your own!