Feature Story: Inspiring and Empowering Women

Rachel Glass Fairchild, academic advisor and President of Empowerment for Excellence

Women’s History Month originated in 1981 with a proclamation declaring March 7, 1982, as Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress declared March as Women’s History Month. UCO celebrates this month every year with assorted events, speakers and discussions. As we embark on another March honoring women and their accomplishments, I want to share a staff and faculty group on campus who works to support and inspire women throughout the year Empowerment for Excellence.

I was first introduced to Empowerment for Excellence as a graduate assistant in the Women’s Outreach Center (WOC). In that role, I advised student groups, created a peer mentor program and engaged the UCO community in events focused on enriching and supporting women. I collaborated with E4E and other stakeholders to create an exciting Women’s History Month. When I began work as a UCO staff member, I wanted to continue this passion and was thrilled to be asked to join the E4E board in 2018. 

E4E promotes awareness, empowerment and transformation of women by actively engaging faculty and staff in educational, networking and mentoring activities. Programming includes fall, spring and summer book clubs, the annual Women Who Inspire Award, and other events. The E4E board meets monthly to plan these events and discuss other opportunities to support faculty and staff women at UCO. Membership in Empowerment for Excellence is automatic upon employment at UCO. No membership dues are required.

Book Clubs

Book clubs have a rich history in E4E. Empowerment for Excellence was established in 2013 by a small group of UCO women who met in an informal book club. This inaugural group sought to develop a more structured organization to advocate for UCO women. They determined the following objectives for E4E:

  1. Create and promote accessible educational resources and programs that foster personal and professional growth for women.
  2. Provide networking and mentoring opportunities for faculty and staff to connect and champion women.

E4E facilitates several book discussions each semester. These book clubs tend to fill up quickly so be sure to keep an eye out for a new one this summer. In addition to focused study, these groups provide vital networking opportunities. This year, one of the fall groups decided to continue to meet and support each other, keeping up the legacy of the very first E4E book club.

Women Who Inspire

Each year, Empowerment for Excellence honors a UCO faculty or staff woman who has made a significant impact that may extend outside the campus community. We invite the entire campus to help us recognize the Women Who Inspire honoree during an event in the Fall (typically October). The honoree shares her experience with the audience and engages them in discussion. Nominations are submitted to the E4E Board, which votes to select the annual recipient. Recently the E4E board acted to preserve these incredible stories by compiling them in a book. The book is currently in the editing process. We hope to release it soon.

E4E Scholarship

Toward the goal of making educational opportunities more accessible, Empowerment for Excellence will soon announce a scholarship for professional development. The scholarship will be open to anyone who has been employed at UCO for at least 90 days. Additional criteria will be noted in the application. We hope that this scholarship will allow more staff and faculty to participate in learning activities that will benefit women at UCO.

How can you get involved in E4E? Participate in a book club. Attend the women who inspire event. Nominate a woman who inspires you. Support and inspire your colleagues. Apply for the scholarship to further your own professional education. Contact a board member with an idea or issue you’d like to address.

Current board members

Laura Butler

Dr. Jennifer Burris

Dr. Sunshine Cowan

Rachel Glass Fairchild

Lisa Kern

Lauren Loucks

Dr. Victoria McKee

Dr. Shannon Montgomery

Dr. Dawn Pearce

Dr. Kim Pennington

Cait Porterfield

Dr. Alicia Welch