Cultivating female student leaders



Lexi Gause, pictured center, is the co-president of UNI’s Black Student Union. She is one of many women at UNI who have stepped up into leadership roles thanks in part to the sense of community and support in her organization.


How UNI is creating and supporting the next generation of women’s history-makers

UNI’s campus is chock-full of organizations to get involved in. Of these organizations, no two are alike or serve the same purpose. These organizations participate in a variety of activities, like host activities for students to attend, host political activists and educate, make space for minority communities on campus, or create forward thinking media. The female leadership at UNI uplifts these communities and drives these organizations forward. 

“Uprising has been a really nice creative outlet. It lets me explore different ways to channel my creativity,” Ireland Frisch commented on her experience with the on-campus magazine, Uprising. Frisch serves as the co-editor in chief for the publication, serving alongside Mia Rampton. Although she’s served as a co-editor for four semesters, Frisch was originally  nervous to join the magazine, and remained reserved during her first semester. “It was my TAPs professor who plugged it during class, she’s the advisor, so I decided to go for it. It was the only club I decided to join.” 

Frisch moved from a member of Uprising to co-editor two years ago. According to Frisch, the co-editor role is a lot more logistic-oriented than some might think. “Each semester our job is to come up with a theme for the magazine and coordinate how our committees will interpret the theme. We do a lot of behind the scenes work.” 

The upward movement has served as a lesson in leadership not just for herself, but in leading an executive team as well. “It’s easy for us [the executive team] to get along. This leap of faith in deciding to take on a leadership role, getting out of my comfort zone, it’s been so rewarding.” Uprising’s spring semester issue is set to release the week of April 17th, which will be Frisch’s last issue as co-editor in chief. “Part of the reason I was able to become a leader is because I learned how to feel comfortable giving feedback…If I had to give advice to anyone apprehensive about becoming a leader, I’d say absolutely take that leap of faith.” 

The president of the Northern Iowan Feminists (NIF), Madeline Hinz, spoke on how wanting to find a community for activism to be a part of affected what organization she wanted to join. “I was motivated to join a student org by my own personal interest in finding a community that had similar interests and passions as mine. I was also interested in activism, something I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to explore before college. In my hometown growing up, I lacked a community I felt safe in regarding my politics and social values, but was able to find that here at UNI with NIF right away.” 

After finding NIF, Hinz knew immediately that she wanted to be involved on their leadership team. According to Hinz, that leap to leadership is one of the most fulfilling things she’s done. “Being involved in NIF gave me the opportunity to be a leader in ways I was never able to before coming to UNI…While each of the responsibilities I took on brought a new challenge, each one also allowed me to make new meaningful connections and taught me valuable skills that have helped me grow as a person.” 

Hinz has found a strong community to support her through NIF, and she knows that the same communities await others on UNI’s campus, “Student leadership teams at UNI put their hearts into creating events for us, and it means so much to us when even a handful of the UNI community joins us. So, if you have yet to attend or explore a UNI student org, try one out, give one a chance, and push outside of your comfort zone! You might just love it and find a community you didn’t know you needed.”

Lexi Gause, co-president of the Black Student Union, was elected to her position as a sophomore, offering a unique perspective on leadership. “It helped me learn how to deal with issues, it was a huge jump from being a member and sitting in meetings to running the meetings.” She also accredits some of her Center for Multicultural Education (CME) advisors for pushing her to apply and seeing the leader in her. “The CME staff brought me affirmations and really saw the leader in me. After some convincing from them I took the step and applied.” 

Gause is poised to grow not just herself and her executive team, but the entire chapter of the UNI Black Student Union. “It’s allowed me to grow not just as a leader but a person…Along with that, the entire executive team is brand new to the team, so we’re growing alongside each other and coaching each other through our mistakes. Even though we’re all growing in our leadership abilities, we remind ourselves and each other ‘you got this position for a reason’, kind of taking on that leader/mentor mentality.” 

Gause also acknowledges how nerve-wracking it can be to step up as an underclassman, but knows that the potential for success is limitless. “Step out of your comfort zone, it’s okay to try something and not like it, but you’ll truly never know unless you try.” 

The Campus Activities Board (CAB) is known for their campus wide engaging events for students. From concerts to Panther Hot Ones and even their new event, CAB After Dark, CAB is always finding new ways to engage students. At the helm of this organization is Valerie Beary, their Executive Director. “When I was a freshman, I was at the organization fair and a girl at the CAB table told me all about CAB and I knew I wanted to be involved in it, but I don’t think I ever would have envisioned myself as the Executive Director!” Beary acknowledges that a lot of her growth as a leader has come from the executive teams that surround her, not just in CAB but in her sorority Alpha Sigma Tau as well. “It’s such a great support system…I appreciate their openness, flexibility, and willingness to just do crazy things!” Beary mentioned how she also felt apprehensive taking on leadership roles, but it was the people around her who coaxed the leader out of her. Her advice? Reach out! “You never know what’s out there if you don’t look for it. Keep moving forward, keep taking those opportunities. You never grow if you don’t step out of your box.” 

What all of these leaders have in common, beyond their leadership roles, is the fact that they all took a risk and stepped outside of their comfort zone. But, they’ve all benefited and grown from taking that risk. Female leaders are taking shape at UNI, across all organizations. Their impact, encouragement and wisdom plants seeds of inspiration for the leaders to follow them.