Photo courtesy of WILL's Facebook page

By TERRY LAKINS, Student Life

Photo courtesy of WILL's Facebook page
Photo courtesy of WILL’s Facebook page

The Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) is a student organization that focuses on women’s issues and feminism. This organization is well-defined for its hands-on approach to developing leadership skills.

Heather Simpson, the chair of the group, hopes that members will develop an open mind to leadership, feminist scholarship and different feminist perspectives.

“It’s a rigorous organization, but the benefits are immense,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the group focuses mainly on women’s issues, which have included equal pay, gender-based violence, sexual assault, transgender and gay awareness. Simpson said at beginning of the year WILL has a retreat where the members discuss issues, how to bring awareness and possible things that they want accomplished. The structure will vary on what’s relevant at the time and what the members decided.

“WILL changes depending on our members,” Simpson said. “It will never look the same as it did last year.”

Simpson also said the organization decides events and outings at their monthly meetings. This is left entirely up to the member’s planning and five different leadership positions, ran by first time WILL members, concentrating on different components of the group.

“Our members work really hard,” Simpson said. “WILL would not run without its members.”

The first position is the on-campus coordinator, who deals with on campus related events. This has included bake sales, film screenings, panels, guest speakers and promotion tables, among other things.

The second position is the off-campus coordinator, who plans events that are more on the academic side that are off campus. This has included important women suffrage film screenings or an event planned around an important academic scholar in the area.

The third position is the membership coordinator, who works to keep moral up for the group. This includes working closely with all the other members and helping them on their own projects to keep the group cohesive and on the same page.

The fourth position is the mentoring coordinator, who deals with community outreach. This has included volunteering at Vista Maria, an organization that helps young women that have gone through gender-based violence, human trafficking and sexual assault.

The fifth position is the social media manager, which involves promotion, social media, and generally getting the word out.

Simpson said these positions allow the members to build the group in the direction they want while teaching them valuable leadership skills.

“I want people to understand there are multiple ways to lead people,” Simpson said. “WILL allows them to take leadership on issues that they care about and they are given the resources to take what they want into fruition.”

Not everything is up in there air and subject to change. Take Back the Night, an annual event that brings awareness to sexual assault and gender-based violence is a staple in the organization.

During this event, members will march with blow up mattresses that have statistics on sexual assaults on campus, LGBTQ and men victimized. Simpson said there are few solid events that never change because the creativity and direction the members take is always changing. She also said that is what makes this organization so great because it can literally create endless opportunities for activism and volunteer work.

“WILL is anything you want it to be, depending how much you want to put in,” Simpson said. “It’s how much leadership you want. ”

Becoming a part of this organization does have some requirements. Anyone interested must have a GPA of 3.0 or over and a nomination from someone from WILL or someone affiliated with them. If both of these requirements are satisfied, there is an application process with an essay component. The essay topic itself varies, depending on the issues being discussed at the time and there will be multiple options that can be answered. Afterward, there is an interview process, where the organization will try to get a feel on what issues are important to the applicant and what they would like to accomplish. Simpson described the interviewing process as easiest part of the getting into WILL.

“We are committed to helping you learn leadership skills, whether you’re experienced or from the ground up,” Simpson said. “We want an open mind about leadership.”

Anyone interested in this student organization can find them on Facebook at Women in Learning and Leadership of UM-Dearborn or Instagram at will_umdearborn.