Every academic year, the American Association of University Women — a national grassroots organization that works to empower women as individuals and a community — selects 10 inspiring college students to serve on its National Student Advisory Council.
When UW-Eau Claire senior Abigail Johnson of Hutchinson, Minnesota, was selected to be a member of that elite council, she was thrilled about the opportunity that is yet another rung on her ladder to success.
Abigail is an accounting major with a double minor in economics and women, gender and sexuality studies. After adding her women’s studies minor last fall, Johnson began looking for ways to engage, learn and lead as she maps out her career path.
Kim Wellnitz, Abigail’s academic advisor, encouraged her to look into the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, which awards scholarships and holds a national conference each year. The scholarships are awarded to women who have an interest in empowering other professional women. Soon after hearing about the opportunity, Abigail applied and received the news that she had been awarded the scholarship, much to the delight of her advisor. Wellnitz said all she did was give Abigail a “nudge” and the Blugold leader took care of the rest.
“As her advisor, I was privileged to know her a little bit better,” Wellnitz said. “Hearing about her story and how she funds her education, I knew somebody like Abigail would not have the opportunity to go to the NCCWSL conference. She’s exactly the kind of student we want to support.”
Johnson said she had an amazing experience at the conference, which was held in College Park, Maryland. The students heard from a host of inspirational speakers, and Abigail learned about the National Student Advisory Council during the course of the conference.
As a member of the council, Johnson has the opportunity to advise a national women’s organization as well as represent the diverse voices of students at UW-Eau Claire. Through campus activism projects and coordination with other AAUW student organizations around the country, Johnson will develop valuable leadership skills and resume building experience. These students provide AAUW with college students’ perspectives and serve as peer mentors at NCCWSL.
Wellnitz said Johnson is a perfect fit for AAUW and called it an “easy connection.”
“She is an engaged learner, she takes initiative and has great goals professionally and personally,” Wellnitz said.
As part of her role with the AAUW/SAC, Johnson said she will help organize events at UW-Eau Claire centered around the organization’s issues.
“I will be teaming up with the College of Business administration and working with them to implement equity, diversity and inclusivity initiatives," Johnson said. "We also will integrate different strategies and events geared toward EDI issues that are relevant to the business world.”
When she goes from her accounting classes to her women’s studies classes, Johnson says it’s “totally different” the way they value individuals and inclusivity. Johnson says because of this, the business sector is behind on matters of EDI and she wants to bring that framework and methodology to the College of Business.
Before she graduates in May 2019, Johnson says she wants to make an impact in her time left at UW-Eau Claire.
“I want to use my specific experiences and perspective to make campus a better place,” Johnson said.
With Johnson’s involvement in organizations like AAUW and her diverse workload, she will surely make a mark on this campus and in the world.
As far as Wellnitz is concerned, it’s only a matter of time. “This lady is going places," she said. "You have to keep an eye on her.”
Photo caption: Abigail Johnson visited Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Student Advisory Council meeting. Johnson was one of 10 college students from across the country named to the council.