Women’s History Month empowers women and men at Western

Western celebrates women on campus and in the community

Bethany Eveleth/Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Mar. 7, Western celebrated Women’s History month on campus. Hosted by the Western Cabinet, the event welcomed guest speakers to campus to encourage and empower women (and men)! Tom Burggraf, director of the Western Foundation welcomed all of the guests in attendance, and shared an anecdote about his mother, in which he reminded women to not limit themselves to “what man can do,” but to challenge themselves as individuals and achieve what they personally can do.

Keynote speaker Stephanie Dawes spoke about her experiences in the fashion industry, and her challenges as a business owner. Dawes graduated from Gunnison High School in 2005, and moved away for several years to pursue a degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California. Three years ago, Dawes took over “The Toggery,” her family’s long-time business. After renovation, Dawes reopened the store as “Toggery Elevated,” which is located on Main Street in Gunnison. A business owner, mother of two, and wife to a full-time student, Dawes addressed the pressures and stresses of being an entrepreneur while raising a family, and reminded everyone that with hard work and determination, anyone can accomplish their dreams.  

“I was fairly nervous,” Dawes said. “I had been contacted just the week prior, so I was a little intimidated at the idea of speaking for 30 minutes! Once I began though, I felt more comfortable and really just tried to share my experiences in a way that would be encouraging to those in attendance.”

Dawes attended the event last year and was pleased to see the improvements, and hopes that it continues to gain popularity in future years.

“It felt very empowering to be a keynote speaker for a Women’s History Month celebration!” Dawes said. “I really did enjoy everyone who spoke and it always is a lovely event.”

Between speakers, recent Western graduate Sara Coblentz kept everything moving and introduced the line-up as the MC of the event.

“The atmosphere when you walked into the ballroom was empowering, sassy, classy, and beautiful all in one,” said Coblentz. “And that was all because of the community that attended.”

Not only was the event about recognizing women at large, but recognize women at Western’s campus. History professor Heather Thiessen-Reily was recognized at the event for her leadership on campus. She was introduced by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department administrative assistant, Donna Holden, who gave audience members who were not familiar with Thiessen-Reily a snapshot of what exactly she does for her students and colleagues on campus. Thiessen-Reily has been with Western since 1995, and added new fields to Western’s history program: Borderlands History and Public History.

“It was inspiring to hear a local woman speak about her struggles and successes in the pursuit of her dream,” said Western student, Brooke Gilmore.

The event ended in social time for congratulations, old hellos, and new acquaintances for all that attended.