The Eugene-Lane branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is 44 members strong, includes members from Cottage Grove, Eugene, Florence, and Springfield, and 5 of those members are students at the University of Oregon; they REALLY embody the “University Women” part of our organization’s name, and we’re thrilled to have them. We also have a member who serves as our liaison with Lane Community College, an equally vital source for higher education in our community. 

Most of our members have been participants for many years and are the ones who contributed to all the activities and progress we have made over the years. A smaller number of us are newer to the organization. We are not a large group, but we are very active. 

We hold monthly program meetings, September through June, that are typically open to the public and currently available via Zoom. Topics are either directly related to our mission or of current interest, especially if it involves women in academic and/or leadership roles. Recent programs included STAR (Score Then Automatic Runoff) Voting, an Oregon-initiated voting method; Arctic Governance in a Changing World, presented by one of the authors who just happens to live here in Eugene; SPICE (Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence) at UO; and Decision Research, also located right here in Eugene. April’s program will be presented by Mitra Gruwell of Discard Upcycling, an initiative to make recycled materials into something better, greener, and cleaner. 

Ramerman

Each month, members receive an events calendar and newsletter via email that keep them up to date on what’s happening in AAUW’s local, state and national initiatives.

There are a variety of interest groups, although those that can’t be replicated easily on Zoom have been temporarily suspended – the Out to Lunch Bunch, Dining Out Group, and Bridge Club are examples. Our monthly book club is going strong via Zoom, though; you just can’t keep a good reader down. We also have a branch book exchange fundraiser – donate a book, purchase a book ($1/paperback, $2/hardback), then donate it back for another member to enjoy.

We contribute financially to local groups, like sponsoring a middle school girls basketball team (in non-Covid times) and providing scholarship funding to the SPICE program that creates an environment where girls and non-binary students can share the joys of science. Members support LCC’s AAUW Kappy Eaton Scholarship, which we use to support member activities. This year, we’re funding the UO student members’ attendance at AAUW’s virtual National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). The program gives attendees a chance to attend workshops that include Leadership Development, Professional Development, Activism, Women’s Issues, Identity and Diversity.

Our CHiPS (Civics, History, and Political Science) program was started in 2016 by branch members who saw the need to support better civics education in high schools. The past several years, we made funds available to sponsor the Willamette High School Mock Trial team. We’re also sponsoring a Civics Trek contest in conjunction with Girls’ Voices Matter, where high school age girls can increase their knowledge of civics and citizenry while learning to create a video presentation. We’re excited about this chance to support girls in learning about and using technology in addition to civics, and we hope to make it an annual contest. We’ll present the winning videos at our June branch meeting. 

Looking forward, we plan to continue all of these efforts. We’d like to grow our membership to include a more diverse cross-section of our community. We’d like to strengthen our contacts with both UO and LCC, and perhaps sponsor AAUW clubs on both campuses to increase the visibility of AAUW and all it has to offer. We’re always looking for ways to reach out and become a more visible presence in additional Lane County communities (like Creswell!), through articles like this one and through sponsoring additional community programs. Finally, we are always on the lookout for new ways to support women and girls in achieving gender equity through research, education, and advocacy. We hope you’ll join us at eugenelane-or.aauw.net. Email us at [email protected] if you want additional details about our program calendar.

Sheila Ramerman is AAUW Eugene-Lane Branch president.