Selected to serve

NMU student named to national advisory council

Madeline Wiles, left, a student at Northern Michigan University, visits Washington, D.C., as a member of the 2017-18 American Association of University Women's National Student Advisory Council. With her is fellow member Chioma Egekeze of Rutgers University. (Photo courtesy of Madeline Wiles)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University student Madeline Wiles has a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

Wiles, an NMU junior who hails from Gladstone, was one of 10 individuals selected to serve on the 2017-18 American Association of University Women National Student Advisory Council.

SAC members develop leadership skills and gain valuable career-building experiences through campus activism projects, community outreach to AAUW student organizations and monthly conference calls.

Wiles said she has a “huge” opportunity to represent a national organization.

“Our job is kind of to promote advocacy, and advance equity for women and girls, to advocacy, education and research,” Wiles said.

Those, she said, are AAUW’s main goals.

Wiles and the other council members were flown to AAUW headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier this month for a leadership retreat.

She called it an “amazing” experience.

“We did a lot of team building and we got to meet with their staff and we got to know our roles and responsibilities of what our SAC membership entails,” Wiles said.

Rachel Harris, director of NMU’s Center for Student Enrichment and Gender Working Group member, nominated Wiles for the council.

“Many students nationwide apply, and the selection committee was highly impressed by your leadership experiences and contributions to your community,” wrote Abigail Lewis, vice president of campus leadership programs at AAUW, in an acceptance email to Wiles. “AAUW believes you offer a unique perspective on student life that is a great asset to our organization. In return, we hope to provide you with leadership opportunities and tools to help you create effective change on your camps and in your community.”

Wiles, a communication studies major with a double minor in Spanish and gender and sexuality studies, already is active on campus. She is a student employee in NMU’s Multicultural Education and Resource Center.

“We strive for diversity, inclusion, and we make sure that everybody’s included and there’s great equity between everybody,” Wiles said.

In fact, she said one of her main missions is to spread diversity and awareness in many aspects.

She also works as a teaching assistant with the Academic and Career Advisement Center and has coordinated many events, including RAD: LGBT + Defense Training, the university’s first Gender Fair and presentations on transgender patients in the healthcare system. She also is a member of the Gender Working Group, Diversity Student Alliance and the Student Finance Committee.

There’s more activity on the way. In the spring, Wiles and the rest of the council are to serve as peer leaders at AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland in the spring.

“It’s all about women leadership,” Wiles said. “We will be helping conduct that and making sure that anything the AAUW needs, we’re there for them.”

As a SAC member, she will put on a campus activity at NMU to promote diversity and equity as well as an Equal Pay Day event in April, which can be whatever she wants.

Then there’s simply Being able to represent AAUW as a national organization, Wiles said.

What’s particularly important to her, though, is “equity before equality.”

Is there a difference between the two terms?

“Equality means everybody’s on an equal playing ground from the start,” Wiles said.

She noted not everybody is on that equal ground.

“Not everybody is on the same step of the stepping stool, if you can kind of say so,” Wiles said. “Equity is giving more chances to people who are below the ladder in order to create equality, because we’re not all born equal, so there has to be some sort of equity and opportunities given to create equality.”

Wiles is an “open” transgender woman, so as part of her LGBT + activities at NMU, she makes sure gender is one of the most prominent issues to which she brings awareness.

For her, bringing gender awareness goes beyond talking about the topic to fellow students.

Wiles created NMU’s first Gender Fair last semester, bringing community and student organizations together to promote gender awareness and inclusion.

As a transgender woman, she acknowledged having faced difficulties.

“It has limitations to how people view you and how you’re treated,” Wiles said.

However, working in the Multicultural Education and Resource Center and surrounding herself with “well-minded people” helps.

“I can achieve, and being able to promote myself and bring greater awareness is what I strive to do,” Wiles said.

Even in a small community.

Unfortunately, she said she will always face struggles.

Her recourse?

“Surrounding myself with well-minded people, being able to go back to that, and rewinding everything and being able to feel at home and at ease, even when those things arise, because they happen a lot,” Wiles said.

She will serve on the SAC for a full calendar year, after which members become alumni and, it is hoped, create some kind of mentorship.

Like many college students, Wiles is undecided about her career goals.

“I am a communications major, so I’m very open to the possibility of making sure to not only promote my voice, but make sure that the voices that aren’t heard — bring a platform for them,” Wiles said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.