Trailblazer women carve unique path at DSU

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Dixie State University trailblazers from different areas of campus demonstrate the importance of leadership as a woman.

Women’s History Month, which ends March 31, is that time of the year where people celebrate the vital role of women in American history. 

Sarah Ramaker, a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan, said when she hears Women’s History Month, a woman who isn’t afraid to be who she is and knows what she needs to do for those around her comes to mind. 

In a sense, this is exactly what Ramaker has demonstrated throughout her time as student body president for the 2016-2017 school year. Ramaker said she was inspired to campaign for the position because it was an opportunity to not only work hard, but be able to say she left DSU knowing she gave it her all. 

“I fell to the floor, cried tears of joy, looked up and said ‘wait I really won?'” Ramaker said. “Everyone in the class circled around me and celebrated with me, and it is one of the most vivid memories of my life.”

Throughout this school year, Ramaker has worked closely with administration and the other student government members to bring change to DSU, she said.

Ramaker said,”Together we have made movement in getting open educational resources available to students, started a Hope Squad to prevent suicide, participated in contributing more service hours to the community than ever before, among many other things.”

Ramaker said her main focus was mental health, which led her to create the Hope Squad to combat suicide on campus.

Hannah Milne, a sophomore health communication major from Salt Lake City, also is president of a new club she started at DSU just last year. While working with Planned Parenthood, Milne said an ambassador encouraged her to get the Students for Choice Club started on campus because DSU was the only university in Utah that didn’t have a sex education club available for students. 

“Just seeing in my human sexuality class the amount of people that had misinformation concerning sex was super alarming,” Milne said. “[Because of this], I thought we needed a club that was more informative and talked about comprehensive sex education.”

Aside from accurately informing students about sexual health, the club’s goal is to also promote how important it is to fight for reproductive justice, Milne said.

“We are still fighting every single year for the rights to our own bodies, like right now especially it is political war zone concerning bodily autonomy,” Milne said. “[You should] be able to decide when you want to have kids, if you ever want to have kids, and be able to raise them in a safe environment [because] that is your right.”

Starting this year, the club will continue to work with “The Vagina Project,” which is in its fourth year running at DSU. Within the span of two nights, this forum sought to raise awareness of both women and men’s issues. 

Dakota Witzel, a senior psychology major from Las Vegas, hosted this year’s “The Vagina Project.”

Witzel said “The Vagina Project” was created by psychology professor Danelle Larsen-Rife after she was asked on multiple occasions about sexuality, gender and women’s issues during her lifespan development class.

“She was intrigued by the fact that there was little to no sexual education here in the state of Utah,” Witzel said. “She decided what better way than an event that brings multiple disciplines together to talk about these issues that no one really talks about.”

Witzel said this forum has benefited DSU because it gives students the chance to discuss issues in a calm, respectful way. 

“We are not here to be derogatory or just say vagina and penis,” Witzel said. “We are here to discuss things like what are good ways to go about talking to your family about being gay or talk to your friends about  the sexual practices that you have.” 

With an event like this, Witzel said she really wants people to realize they are not alone, and it isn’t tailored to only women. 

“One of my favorite things that I have been told is ‘The Vagina Project’ isn’t just for women, it is for anyone who has interacted with a vagina,’ so that means anyone who has been born essentially,” Witzel said. “In order to get past [thinking this is just for women], we have added talks about precarious masculinity, which includes things like men who feel more feminine and how do they deal with that.”

Witzel said more male presenters have also been integrated into “The Vagina Project” as well. 

Going beyond “The Vagina Project,” Witzel said the U.S. doesn’t offer nearly as many programs that are dedicated to comprehensive sex education, which needs to be addressed. 

“A lot of states don’t offer [comprehensive sex education]; they just offer abstinence-only or abstinence-plus, which are abstinence-based programs that teach a little bit here and there but it isn’t enough,” Witzel said. “A lot of people believe that having comprehensive sex education means people are going to be more promiscuous or have sex earlier in life, but research is finding that isn’t the case.”

Acting as leaders at DSU, these three women have started different initiatives to promote student involvement on campus, from combating suicide to educating those who would like to learn more about sexual health.