The 20th Annual New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium Undergraduate Research Colloquium held at Drew University on April 12, 2024, witnessed a remarkable showcase of academic excellence and activism. One of the standout presentations came from Brookdale Community College’s Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) students, who delved into their fall semester initiative, “‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’: Women’s Health Initiative.” Their research, aimed at empowering women with vital health information, earned them the First Place Award.

The panel of students, Kaitlyn Nickerson, Nidia Jiménez-Barrios, Anna Vasquez, Brianna Dudley, and Kyla White demonstrated an unwavering commitment to women’s health and advocacy. Their initiative is an inspiration for future feminist activism.

However, the day’s brilliance extended beyond the boundaries of Brookdale, welcoming back alums who continued to make waves in their respective fields. Catherine Kane, representing Rider University, presented a thought-provoking paper titled “Two Sides of the Same Coin: An Observance of the Strategies Utilized in the Women’s Suffrage Movement in 20th Century America.” Meanwhile, Sara Hosbach, now at Ramapo University, addressed the pressing issue of menstrual product accessibility and inequality in America with her paper, “To Be Free But Not to Bleed Free: America’s Inequality in Menstrual Product Access.”

Reflecting on their experiences, Dudley expressed, “Being able to surround myself with such passionate women through the colloquium inspires me to continue my activist efforts and wear my feminist identity loud and proud, especially in a world that does not always value women’s voices.”

In addition to participating in WILL, Dudley is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honors program and the Tou Upsilon Alpha National Honor Society for Human Services. She graduated from Brookdale on May 9 with an Associate of Science in Human Services-Pre-Social Work. She is transferring to Rutgers via the partnership program with Brookdale to obtain her bachelor’s in social work.

Jimenez-Barrios added, “It’s always inspiring to be surrounded by people who share their passions about their outlook on life! It was a wonderful surprise that our initiative was chosen as one of the winners.”

Jimenez-Barrios received her associate degree in psychology from Brookdale and is working on her bachelor’s degree from Georgian Court University at Brookdale Community College.

For Sara Hosbach, the journey from Brookdale to Ramapo was marked by a steadfast dedication to social justice research. “Presenting at the New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Colloquium was such an honor,” she shared. “It was also so nice to connect with current WILL members.

My research was on menstrual product inaccessibility and inequality in America. This is a topic I have been passionate about since my days at Brookdale when other WILL members and I hosted panels on menstrual toxic shock syndrome and filled restrooms across campus with supplies. When Ramapo offered its first gender communication course, I eagerly took it and brought this passion into my course research. Overall, it was a fantastic experience and continued to nourish my interest in social justice research.”

Transitioning to Ramapo University, Hosbach is pursuing a degree in Communication Arts with a concentration in Global Media and a minor in International Studies. At Ramapo, she is a senator in the student government, vice president of leadership, sunshine chair of Alpha Phi Omega, and student ambassador in the admissions office. She continues her passion for writing as a contributor to the Ramapo News. She holds honor society memberships in Tau Sigma, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Lambda Pi Eta. Additionally, Hosbach is actively engaged in research as a student-faculty researcher, embodying a holistic approach to learning and community engagement.

The colloquium celebrated academic achievements and fostered a sense of community and empowerment among attendees. As the Consortium continues to champion feminist ideals and multicultural education, the work of these passionate individuals shows how critical women’s and gender studies are in New Jersey. They prove that these studies make a lasting impact and help us understand and address issues related to gender equality.

The New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium is a state-wide forum for discussion and support of all aspects of the functioning of the Women’s and Gender Studies Programs.

The mission of the New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium is to ensure the continued strength, visibility and development of interdisciplinary women’s and gender studies at universities and colleges in New Jersey. The Consortium stands as the formal organization of women’s and gender studies programs, departments, and initiatives across New Jersey.