Firsthand stories of true impact in honor of Women’s History Month
In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate the women in our lives. Those who — through their words, their actions and their experience — have positively impacted our educational or career journeys. To the educators, rebels, activists, artists, dreamers, doers, motivators, cheerleaders, advisors, experts, confidantes, believers, coaches and advocates we call sister, grandma, mother, wife and friend, we say thank you.
With that in mind, we share a special blog that weaves together stories shared by our staff about women in their lives who have empowered and inspired them throughout their lives, helping to make them the individuals they are today. We see this piece as an opportunity to learn from the experiences of women, and as a guide to uplift women in our workplace, community and beyond. Here are a few of those stories.
“She wanted women to be able to receive healthcare from another woman”
My mom, Miriam Rogin, was a small-town family doctor in the South. Regularly in my childhood, people would approach me and let me know the impact my mom had on them. Whether it was literally saving their life or just listening to them when no one else would or teaching them about a medicine or visiting them when they were sick, I grew up hearing that my mom made a difference. As an adult, I can see the way this influenced every bit of who I became, this idea that an individual could reach out in so many positive ways in their community. My mom became a doctor in the 1970s when female doctors were still fairly rare, and she did it largely because she wanted for women to be able to receive healthcare from another woman. I appreciate having an opportunity to celebrate her influence, not just on me, but on the lives of countless other people, especially women in an Appalachian community where she taught them that their health mattered.
— Leah Rogin, Coach
“Stretching for excellence”
The experience of high school English with teacher Lalani Pitts forever impacted my educational journey. Her classroom was a space where we could consider our potential, the power of education, the feeling of stretching for excellence. I celebrate Ms. Pitts because of how this space has created meaningful change in the lives of her students, their families, their communities. Her impact is beyond measure.
— Emily Farrow, Lead Student Success Specialist and Coach
“Her determination and tenacity inspire me”
When my mother, Gwenyth Morris Nichols, graduated from Albion College in 1956, she and her younger sister loaded up a makeshift camper on the back of the family pick-up truck and drove from Indiana to New Mexico to an archeological site where they spent the summer working on the dig. At the end of the summer, my mother decided it was time to further her studies in archeology with a graduate degree in anthropology at Arizona State University. Family lore says she walked into the Anthropology Department office on the first day of classes, handed them her transcript and they accepted her on the spot. Her determination and tenacity inspired me throughout my own educational journey and now I often quote her when coaching educational leaders across the country. Some of my favorite quotes of hers include, "kicking yourself is not good exercise" and "you pray to catch the bus and then you run like #@!!"
— Arwen Foster, Lead Student Success Specialist and Coach
“A true believer in the power of education as opportunity”
My grandmother, Lavonne Hampton, graduated from college with degrees in psychology and political science when she was 55 years old, after raising six kids in Memphis, Tennessee. She was a fierce advocate for equal rights and political action (she was even known to have given her grandchildren voter registration cards as their 18th birthday gift) and a true believer in the power of education as opportunity. She passed just two weeks before my own college graduation, and I always felt that the two events were inextricably linked. On the day of my graduation, I wore a locket she passed on to me – with a four-leaf clover inside – and it encouraged me to feel immensely lucky to have such an inspirational role model in my life, someone who always spread her warmth and true belief in the importance of equitable education.
— Erin Hampton, Strategic Content Marketing Manager
“Her going to college inspired me”
My mom inspired me by enrolling in college after she raised four kids, going on to earn both her bachelor's degree AND master's degree. I was technically the first in my family to graduate college, but she graduated shortly after I did and has one degree more than me so she wins :)
— Jon Oswald, Video and Multimedia Director
“She could see me for the person I was”
When I returned to college as a non-traditional student, I met with an advisor to explore possible majors. The advisor in the Liberal Studies department could see me both for the person who was coming to face the challenge of college and for the person I was on paper. She found ways to accept credit when some of the classes on my transcripts didn't fit into any other box the college provided. That saved me an entire semester. She normalized my experience with a quote that I remember to this day: “Even NASA has trouble with reentry."
— Kristin Olson-Huddle, Coach and Marketing Coordinator
“I started to view myself in a different way”
Susan Collin Marks, a mediator and conflict resolution specialist from South Africa, taught a weekend workshop I attended. She was so present and grounded, and influenced me to explore conflict transformation. This led me to a summer program at a university in rural Austria where I obtained a graduate certificate in peace studies and conflict transformation. I lived and studied with peers from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, made lifelong friends, and started to view myself and what I could accomplish in a different way.
— Jodi Rafkin, Lead Student Success Specialist and Coach
“She taught me that a real leader amplifies the voices of others”
My first real job was as a student tour leader at my university. I loved being able to introduce prospective learners to a place where I had found deep friendships and life-changing educational experiences. The new director of the Visitors Center, Danica, took her responsibility as our boss and mentor very seriously. She took me to cross-departmental meetings with her, exposing me to how higher education actually operated, and encouraged me as a learner to use my expertise to improve the student experience for others. These early professional experiences not only shaped my career path, but also served as the bedrock of our 20+ year friendship. However, equally important, she taught me that a real leader uses their agency and their opportunities to amplify the voices and experiences of others. I strive every day to lead like Danica.
— Bobbie Godbey, Director of Program Solutions
“She inspires me to do what is right”
I am celebrating my wife, Camille Waksman, for her integrity, unparalleled commitment to her learners, and the lasting impact she has had on her community as an 8th grade English teacher. Thousands of students have learned life lessons, been encouraged to explore social justice, and developed empathy thanks to Mrs. Waksman. Throughout my career journey, she has inspired me to go the extra mile with my learners and do what is right, not just what is easy.
— Elliott Waksman, Student Success Specialist and Coach
“Life can be full of reinvention and growth at any age”
In 1975 at the age of 33, my first-gen college grad Mom, Ellen Marder, decided to go to medical school while balancing two young girls. She became a neurologist who loved her work and moved into a number of challenging roles across different practices and different states during her almost 40-year career. I admire the way she approaches everything with good natured curiosity and diligence, regardless of the obstacles. In retirement, she has trained to be a Master Gardener where she displays the exact same inquisitiveness and care. She taught me that we are never beholden to our previous iterations, and that life can be full of exciting changes, reinvention and growth at any age.
— Dinah Zeiss, Associate Partner Director
“She speaks out for women in education and in athletics”
My sister, Laci, has always been my hero. Some of my first memories include playing "school" for most of the afternoon/evening, with Laci teaching me all the things she learned at school that day. As a college track and field athlete, she helped me solidify my choice to chase after my dream of being an athletic trainer. Now, as the Director for Athletic Development at Northern State University, Laci continues to be a role model for me (and many others) as she uses her role to speak out for women in education and in athletics.
— Stacy Counterman, Coach
“Incredible mentorship and guidance”
I would love to share how Ann Snuttjer has made an incredible impact in both my educational and career journey. Ann was my Resident Director during my undergraduate experience and guided my work as a RA and Dorm President through incredible mentorship and guidance. Fast forward close to 20 years, Ann and I were able to reconnect and she once again encouraged me in my career progression which led me to apply for a position here at InsideTrack. The only thing that has changed in this connection with Ann is the time that has passed. Ann always brings her kindness, wisdom, encouragement and support to the table and I am very grateful!
— Mary Henson, Lead Trainer