March is Women’s History Month and, in celebration, The Review is spotlighting various women who have demonstrated leadership within the school and throughout the community.
Dinah Kibwe is in her junior year studying mechatronics engineering technology. She is currently the president of the Black Student Union at Utah Valley University.
“I have had a good experience,” said Kibwe when asked about her experience as a woman in leadership roles at UVU. “Sometimes it can be challenging but thanks to the BSU mentors, and various people around campus that are always willing to help, each day in leadership has been something to look forward to.”
When it comes to succeeding as a woman or a minority in leadership, “I would firstly say, take care of yourself,” said Kibwe “You will not be able to be in a position to lead and serve from an empty place, your physical and mental health is important. Take care of it.”
She also stressed the importance of asking for help from others. “Sometimes I would feel like asking for help would translate to me being incompetent, but that is a lie. The greatest successes that I have experienced were because of the people that have offered help when it was needed.”
Ivette Pimentel Padilla
Ivette Pimentel Padilla is a public relations and strategic communications major in her junior year at UVU, and is actively involved with several organizations on campus. Ivette is a peer mentor for the “I Am First” program on campus, which is dedicated to supporting first generation students, she is a writer for the UVU Review, a member of the Residential Community Leaders program and is the club president for Raíces, the Latinx club on campus.
“I have felt so much support from all my mentors here at UVU, they validate my concerns for students at UVU and they help me work to make students feel more involved and welcome here at UVU,” said Pimentel Padilla, expanding on her experience as a student-leader. “I have enjoyed developing my leadership skills through all these experiences because they push me to do and be better.”
Pimentel Padilla says the way to get the most out of your college experience is to apply to positions you think you’d enjoy, regardless of if you’re qualified or not. “We are all college students, we’re here to get qualified, so apply and get involved,” she shared as a reminder to those aspiring to leadership roles. “I always say to take up space, especially as a woman or woman-presenting because society has always pushed us to the side and it’s our turn to be leaders.”
Karen Magaña-Aguado is a junior studying accounting, and is the 2021-2022 UVUSA student body president.
Reflecting on her experience as a woman in leadership on campus, Magaña-Aguado said, “One challenge I have faced is constantly feeling like I need to prove myself. When I first won [the] UVUSA presidency, I faced the seemingly inevitable rhetoric that I had gotten votes because of my identity as a woman of color. So badly, I wanted to be able to brush them off and accept that I was qualified, but it was a lot harder than that.” Even though she had support from her advisors and peers, Magaña-Aguado shared that she still faced severe imposter syndrome.
“After some time, I was able to build a small community of allies & friends who were navigating similar experiences being women in leadership roles,” she shared, stressing the importance of building community. “We are able to empower each other in our personal, professional, and academic lives. Without them, I don’t know that I would have enjoyed my role as much as I do right now.”
“My biggest piece of advice [for women-presenting individuals aspiring to leadership] would be to avoid shutting yourself out of an opportunity before you have the chance to pursue it. So often, we don’t pursue roles, particularly leadership roles, because we are so critical of ourselves,” she continued. “Whenever I start to feel doubtful about my abilities in a role, I remember that men generally apply for jobs even if they don’t meet all the qualifications, while women tend to hold out unless they meet all or most of them. And there I was, doubting myself, while meeting ALL the qualifications. WHAT!?”
Magaña-Aguado discussed the impact it has made in her life to find people who have had similar experiences to her own. “It has also made a world of a difference to find people who are in my corner. These are people who I can rant with about all the struggles, microaggressions, sexism, etc. that we face in our roles, as minute as they might seem to others.”
“I also find that I am a distant admirer of the work of a lot of women, non-binary, and gender-fluid folk here on campus. I really need to get better at expressing my admiration,” shared Magaña-Aguado. “People notice what you do whether you like it or not! You probably have a lot of distant admirers of your work who haven’t made themselves known.”
“We have a long way to go when it comes to eradicating sexism in our culture, and it’s disheartening to know that it’s something women will almost undoubtedly face when pursuing leadership roles,” lamented Magaña-Aguado. “Still, if nothing else, know that you’re not alone in your experience and that there are people who want you to succeed.”
Madeline Brenchley is a senior majoring in philosophy with a double minor in classical studies and ethics. They currently serve as the president of A Hand Up at UVU—a student-run organization focused on addressing basic needs insecurity and homelessness both on-campus and off.
Brenchley is also vice president of Students United for Reproductive Freedom and secretary of the Philosophy Club. They work as an intern for the assistant vice president of the Student Development and Well-Being office, Alexis Palmer, and run various projects promoting the wellbeing of students on campus.
“Before coming to UVU I would’ve never never thought of myself as a leader. In fact, I felt quite under-prepared for university in general,” stated Brenchley, reflecting on their leadership experience thus far. “I am a queer, first-generation student and my family was very poor growing up.”
Brenchley went on to note that through the support of the university staff and the community, they have felt more motivated to speak up about their experiences and be proud of their identity. “I found that my experiences actually empowered me to seek out others like me. Because I refused to be silent about the things I care about, I now get paid to destigmatize the very same roadblocks I experienced growing [up] and support other students [who] have similar experiences,” they said. “Your marginalized identity and perspective is a leadership strength, not a weakness; don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise. UVU needs more diversity — your diversity — in leadership roles.”
Brenchley stated that they used to think leadership meant one was powerful, wealthy and self-sufficient. Through their experience at UVU Brenchley has found that real leadership includes collaboration with others, and asking for help when it is needed.
“Sometimes being a leader means noticing that others need help. But, more often than many of us are willing to admit, we ourselves are in need of help,” said Brenchley. “It takes leadership and strength to realize that you need help, and it takes leadership and strength to accept help when you need it. Many of my greatest moments of leadership at UVU couldn’t have happened without me finding the strength to ask for help.”