Women’s Studies and Public Policy Student Receives Research Grant

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
July 6, 2011

 Women’s Studies and public policy student, Giselle Sorial, first became involved with feminist action back in high school, where she was vice president of a women’s health and issues club. The topic of gender equality, however, has been important to Sorial since childhood, when she realized independence was more appealing to her than fulfilling the domestically centered gender role she was raised towards. In her own words, “[I] wondered how things would be if I was male, and then decided that it wasn’t fair.”

Since attending UC Riverside, Sorial’s interest and involvement in women’s rights has only increased. She was involved in the annual White Ribbon campaign to protest domestic violence, and led UCR’s Barbara Boxer Senatorial Campaign. Further, Sorial is responsible for the reinstatement of a Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) chapter on campus, and currently serves as chapter president. The FMLA is the largest feminist organization in the United States and contributes significantly to protecting women’s education and political rights. The Riverside chapter specifically is, “dedicated to women’s equality, reproductive health and non-violence,” with the goal of using, “research and activity to empower women economically, socially, and politically.” Anyone interested in exchanging political ideas or becoming active in feminist political movements is welcome and encouraged to join. Meetings will recommence in fall and general elections will be held for leadership positions at that time. More information on becoming involved can be found online at Community, the university’s student organization page.

Giselle‘s work on the Students for Boxer campaign got her invited to The National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, an annual event sponsored by the FMLA in order to get young feminists inspired, informed, and in contact with one another. The conference is one of the largest feminist events and every year people from all over the country travel to D.C. to attend. This year is the first time Sorial was able to attend, and she also happened to be one of only two young women invited by the FMLA to speak at the conference. She spoke on voting and the gender gap, even though women fought for the vote a little over a hundred years ago, women are now the least represented at the polls. Sorial’s favorite part of the conference seemed to be centered more around interacting with other feminists than solely the honor of speaking, however, she avidly describes the energy of being in D.C., lobbying women’s issues to senators Boxer and Feinstein, and getting to meet FMLA president, Elie Smeal, who actually sat next to Sorial during her panel. The experience of having her own ideas honored and recognized is clearly inspiring, but Sorial goes on to say, “it is a beautiful thing to sit down with other women who can agree and disagree with you on feminist ideology; that’s what I love about it. There are so many ways to be a feminist, so many ways to believe in equality, and it made me realize that I have so much more learning to do.”

The fact that she is so willing and eager to learn from others continues to fuel Sorial’s own ideas and political aspirations. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the College Council of Riverside, a sub-committee of the riverside mayor’s office that is comprised of eleven student representatives from four Riverside college campuses. The College Council interacts with both the mayor’s office and other local politicians, serving a crucial role in protecting student interests, particularly at present, in the face of severe budget cuts.

Sorial was recently awarded the Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program  as an aid to her research on federal policy bias against women, with a focus on health insurance policies. Her hope is to be published by the end of summer and begin applying to public policy graduate school programs. Sorial wishes to return to D.C. for graduate school, where policies are constantly being shaped and redrawn and she can be close to the action. “I am doing all this because I really want to protect women’s health,” she says. “I think it is ridiculous that women time and time again get neglected… I want to be a part of the movement that makes a positive change…” So far, she certainly has been.

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