By Amanda Thorogood
The top two editors of HerStory, the women’s literary journal at Rider, attended the second annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University, held at the University of Texas at Austin this year from Feb. 13-15.
HerStory’s president, junior Maria Gullo, and vice president, sophomore Julie Morcate, were sponsored by Rider to go to the three-day conference and attend lectures and workshops.
“It was a place where 3,000 applied to come and learn how to be better leaders in the community and 600 were chosen,” Gullo said. “I was shocked that HerStory was chosen to be developed, but I was really, really thankful.”
The conference is meant to turn ideas into action and provide students with the tools they need to make changes in their own communities and throughout the world. Speakers at the events included influential leaders and activists, such as founder President Bill Clinton, actor Matthew McConaughey and actress Natalie Portman.
“I have idolized [Portman] for so long,” Morcate said. “Besides that, every single movie she has been in is really incredible and she has so much talent, but now she is an ambassador for an organization that is all about microlending.”
Microlending is a process by which very small loans are given to impoverished people so that they “can build a community well or start a sewing business or start something so that they can provide for themselves and their families,” Morcate said.
She explained that through the organization Portman is involved with, the women who are given the loans repay the money in however long it takes for them to get back on their feet and become leaders in their communities.
According to Morcate, this organization provides women with independence and the ability to turn their lives around. It is from projects like this that Morcate and Gullo were able to formulate ideas for HerStory and share them with others in attendance.
“I think the greatest thing about this meeting was that it was a community that actually felt like a community: We all belonged and we all had faith in each other,” Morcate said. “We felt so much support from everyone, from our peers and we felt it from the adults that were there — major CEOs and celebrities.”
Currently HerStory, which is still an organization under the Women’s Center, is exploring ways to expand its reach beyond Rider and impact the lives of others.
“We do have all of these ambitions now,” Morcate said. “We are currently talking about joining something called Women for Women International, which is where, either as an individual or as a group, you sponsor a woman abroad through this micro-financing.”
While the plans for HerStory may not be set in stone, both women agree that their time in Austin opened up their minds to a number of possibilities.
“We are still trying to figure out where our sights should be set first and we’ll move on from there,” Morcate said. “We definitely do not want to just be a literary piece; we also want to be more involved in the actual community.”