Photo of three women leaders of CU Denver student organizations

Women in Leadership: Student Organizations

March 14, 2022

This story was written by University Communications’ student content writer, Diddiery Santana

International Women’s Day was celebrated worldwide on March 8. The global holiday allows us to commemorate women’s achievements on all levels. To showcase some of CU Denver’s student female leaders, we sat down with the presidents of the Native American Student Organization, Black Girl Alliance, and Society of Women Engineers to hear more about their positions, their role models, and their organization’s importance on campus. 

Section President Society of Women Engineers: Wendy Schadler, master’s student studying bioengineering and biomedical sciences

Head shot of student Wendy Schadler
Wendy Schadler

What female leaders do you admire? 

One woman I admire is a close friend of mine, Paige Garbett, also the section president from two years ago. She was the person who introduced me to this organization. Lauren Desjardins is also a close friend of mine. Both women are very powerful and impactful leaders who have inspired me to go into leadership. 

What does leadership mean to you? 

Leadership to me means a multitude of things. It is about impacting and encouraging others to participate and work in a team. It is about having a resilient personality. Leadership is about empowering others to lead. 

How did you rise to this position? 

I was sitting in my programming class when Paige came in and mentioned the student organization. She mentioned that it was a great networking opportunity to grow and develop professionally. At the first meeting, I opted to get involved, became an officer, and continued evolving.

What does your organization offer CU Denver and its students? 

Our organization gives you the ability to be impacted and impact others. Students can learn, grow, and tackle opportunities with open arms. We invite people to more openly embrace and overcome their challenges. Our organization allows students to develop their soft skills and broaden their perspective. I like to think that our members eventually become mentors for one another. 

Black Girl Alliance President: Ashari Gordon, first-year student studying political science 

Ashari Gordon on campus
Ashari Gordon

What female leaders do you admire? 

I really admire Black women who are unafraid to be unapologetically themselves. Narrowing it down, I would have to say Kimberle Crenshaw, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Beyonce. Kimberle, and Chimamanda have shaped the way I approach things as an activist and ally. Their books, lectures, and articles on womanism, feminism, and intersectionality have had quite an influence. All of them serve as positive role models to Black women and girls everywhere. 

What does leadership mean to you? 

Leadership to me means being able to lead and empower others to help them grow and find their own passions. I’d like to think that I have natural leadership qualities. I’m still learning what it means to be a good leader and being the president of BGA has taught me a lot so far.

How did you rise to this position? 

It all started when I first got to campus. I would walk up to Black women I’d come across and ask if they would like to be a part of a group chat. We would then hang out, do homework, and other things. My roommate then had the idea of making the group chat into a student organization. My work with the Student Government Association and assistance from the Student Life office facilitated the process. My role was determined by the members, because of the role I had in founding the student organization overall.

What does your organization offer CU Denver and its students? 

The most important part of my student organization is that it’s designed to be a space for Black women and non-binary people to be unapologetically who they are. Black Girl Alliance strives to bring people closer. Although our focus is to provide a voice for Black women and Black non-binary people, we are also an alliance.

Native American Student Organization: Ashley Miles, third-year student studying business management and biology

Student Ashley MIles walking on campus
Ashley Miles

What female leaders do you admire?

I admire my mother, Cathleen Booth, who retired from the military with honors. My mother was in the army branch. At that time, the military did not have Native American Heritage Month. In 1994, my mother established Native American and Asian Island Pacific Heritage Month first with the army then the following year through all branches in the military services by recruiting members of other services to collaborate.  

I also admire my aunties, specifically Jennifer Williams. She is a mother, leader, and health care worker. I also admire my culturally inducted aunties and mentors Dre Abetia and Gracie Redshirt Tyon, our previous director of American Indian Student Services.

What does leadership mean to you? 

Leadership means being an example of a change that you want to see in other people, as well as being able to display your abilities and wisdom that set you apart from others. It means being able to make decisions and take criticism. It means being a teacher and a student.

How did you end up at CU? 

I initially attended Johnson & Wales University to get a culinary degree. During this time, I took two science classes, which I fell in love with. After completing my degree and researching schools, I found that CU Denver had a notable science program. 

Why is it important to have women in leadership? 

I believe it is important to emphasize gender in leadership. For me, it’s about reminding myself and others to not be reserved and to take up space. We should always advocate for other females. Although I am a woman in a leadership role, I don’t necessarily consider myself as a leader. My passion and beliefs push me to do my best, especially since it is for people who feel the same. In our culture, we highly respect the women. We call our mothers by their respective names. We pay special attention to our elders as they have this insightful knowledge of our culture. Women are the leaders of our culture. Our marches and advocate are led by Indigenous women.