NAHJNU Secretary Natalie Escobar’s story on black students in STEM

More African-Americans have access to college, but few of them end up earning tech and science degrees.

When Harvard University sophomore Solange Azor decided on a college major, sociology seemed like a natural fit. Her classes on gender and social policy shined a light on things she experienced as a young black woman in America.

“My decision to major in sociology was influenced by a lot of things, but very specifically by my race,” said the New York native. “As a black female, I’ve seen a lot of marginalization.” She has noticed, however, that Harvard’s STEM community seems much less diverse than others on campus. That was not necessarily a deciding factor in where she landed, Azor said in a phone interview, but the sociology community felt much more diverse and welcoming.

African-Americans have more access to a college education than ever, but they are underrepresented in major fields like STEM that are correlated with higher salaries, according to a new study by the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.


NAHJNU Member Isabella Soto’s Story on Students of Color in STEM

NAHJNU Member Isabella Soto wrote a feature story for North by Northwestern’s fall 2016 magazine about the experience of students of color in STEM.

“For students of color, however, other pressures pile on top of this already heavy load. Magan Omar (McCormick ‘16), who studied computer engineering, remembers how demanding his classes were and how difficult it was to focus on his studies as news headlines about police shootings proliferated, making it hard for him to focus on anything. But like Vinson, he worried that if he didn’t perform at a high level in his classes, he would play into the stereotype of being a token for diversity.”

You can read ‘Short Circuit’ on North By Northwestern’s website here.

Alani Vargas reports on How To Help a Friend Who May Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Originally written for the Her Campus national site; visit it here.


The topic of sexual assault has consumed the media for months now. From cases such as Emma Sulkowicz’s at Columbia University to the horribly short sentence of Brock Turner, assault on college campuses has never been as discussed as it seems to be now. Plus, with Donald Trump’s most recent comments regarding a female’s anatomy in such a lewd and degrading way, and the subsequent outpouring of sexual assault accusations, we can’t tell if the visibility on the important topic of sexual assault is helping the cause or doing nothing at all to reverse the toxic rape culture that permeates today’s society.

However unfortunate, rape happens. No matter how the assault occurs, where it happens or with whom it happens to, it is a very traumatic experience. If you’ve never gone through something like this, it’s hard to wrap your head around what to do or how to even go about thinking about it. Statistics do point to the fact that someone you know will experience this horribly barbaric breach of privacy. That person can very well be a friend, a family member or someone else you love and care for. If that were to happen, here are some things to keep in mind.

Don’t make assumptions

If you suspect your friend has been assaulted, there are definitely going to be many feelings and impulses coursing through your mind. Instead of acting on those, remember to not jump to conclusions. Everyone behaves and copes differently, but there are some signs that your friend was sexually assaulted. Sara K Walz, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and counselor at Northwestern University’s Women’s Center gave us a list of a few physical and emotional symptoms pointing to an assault.


  • bruising
  • bleeding
  • soreness


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicide attempts
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms (disordered eating, alcohol use, risky sexual behavior)

If you strongly believe your friend has been assaulted, let her/him set the pace for the conversation surrounding the assault. “Sometimes [reaching out] can make all the difference in the world,” says Jennifer Wider, M.D., a nationally renowned women’s health expert, author and radio host. “You just need to approach compassionately and without judgment. Encourage your friend to seek medical attention, and offer to accompany her.  Many sexual assault victims are bewildered, frightened and some are in shock…having a friend there can make a huge difference.  Offer to help find resources on campus like a counselor and/or support group.”

Along with not making assumptions, it’s important to keep in mind that they need to make their own decisions as well. “Let the survivor make the decisions (about what action to take, who to tell) – even if you do not agree. Keep in mind that she/he knows what is best.  Being able to make own decisions is an important part of re-establishing control in one’s life.  Feeling shame or guilt around the supporters because of the decisions she makes will not help in the healing process,” Walz says.


The best tool you can provide as a friend is your ear. You need to make sure that once they have opened up to you that you give them a safe space to talk and vent their frustrations, fears and concerns. And if your friend isn’t ready to share, the next best thing you can do is to let them know you’re there for them, you’re thinking of them and you support them wholeheartedly.

Also make sure that you’re engaged when being their confidant. Laura Palumbo, Communications Director at The National Sexual Violence Resource Center notes a show of support and the want to listen is invaluable to the survivor. “Listening actively means staying with everything your friend is saying and not being distracted by what you will say next,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about giving the right advice; just let your friend know they are being heard. You can create a safe space by listening without judgment.” To some, just being there may seem inconsequential, but to the survivor it’ll mean the world.

A way that you can avoid, or try to avoid, making your friend uncomfortable is, again, to be sensitive. Mcgovern gave some key phrases to consider.

  • “’I’m sorry this happened.’ Acknowledge the experience has affected their life.
  • ‘It’s not your fault.’ Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind them that they are not to blame.
  • ‘I believe you.’ It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. The best thing you can do is believe them.”

These won’t work for every situation and certainly not every person, however, these are a great start if you’re ever stuck on what to say or how to respond appropriately.

Everyone reacts differently

As mentioned earlier, there isn’t just one way someone will act following an assault. Maybe you think he or she should be acting withdrawn or constantly want to be alone, but the survivor might be upbeat or try to engage in different activities. Palumbo says to not judge how they are dealing with their situation. “The research supports this by showing a spectrum of ways individuals deal with the distress of assault physically, psychologically, and emotionally,” she says. “For example, a survivor might seem withdrawn or lose interest in activities. However, a survivor might also start going out more and engaging in high-risk behaviors.” Just keep this in mind when trying to help your friend and don’t let this cloud your good intentions.

Sara Mcgovern, Press Secretary for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, says that what some might perceive as “warning signs for sexual assault in college-age adults may be caused by events that are unrelated, such as being away from home for the first time.” It’s better to be safe than sorry in these situations, says Mcgovern. “You can ask questions that point to a specific person or time like, ‘Did something happen with the person you met at the party the other night?’ You can also simply reaffirm that you will believe them when they are ready to come forward, and that it’s not their fault.” Be vigilant of your friend during these times as well; realize if anything you ask is bothering them and don’t push too much in one direction if they are getting visibly upset.

Be the support

Just like reactions and aftermath looks different for every individual, recovery looks different as well. Don’t judge how they choose to heal. Even if it isn’t what you would do, even if you have experienced the same thing, letting them know you support and trust their decisions is the best thing you could give them as a friend.

Trust that your friend knows what she or he wants. “In some cases, your friend may have already considered all of their options,” Palumbo says. “At other times, they may not be aware of the supports available to them, so discussing these can be helpful.” If they are hesitant or uncomfortable with the next course of action, be their pillar of strength. Palumbo says to offer something as simple all as a ride to the hospital or waiting for them in the counseling office can be the support they need to follow through. Your support alone could empower them or at least make them feel more comfortable.

Another place where your friend may need support is when reporting and taking care of her/his health. “Medical attention is very important – STD testing, counseling, etc… If your friend wants to report the incident to campus authorities or the police, offer to accompany her,” says Wider. Carrie Wachter, Coordinator of Sexual Violence Response Services at Northwestern University, gave a great tip: “look up resources yourself, print them out and have them just in case.” In addition to being there for your friend, another part of being supportive is having concrete plans and sources to help yourself better help her/him. Having a plan is very important, and will make you feel better prepared when faced with this situation.

Never blame the victim

In today’s society, we have to deal with the repercussions of rape culture. This entails many things, but one huge aspect being the blame survivors often put on themselves. They believe they could have prevented it by changing something they wore or something they did. This is of course not true because the only person that is ever to blame for rape is the rapist.

However, these feelings of guilt are common in survivors, so it’s important to never say anything that would condemn them for what happened or hold them accountable for what happened. As a friend, this would most likely happen on accident, but just be aware of what your words sound like to the survivor. “One of the things that makes disclosing a sexual assault so difficult is that survivors fear they won’t be believed,” says Palumbo. “Even if the order of events or memories are fragmented, know that it’s not your role to understand the details of what happened or question the validity of their story.” Keep in mind that it isn’t your friends fault, no if, ands or buts about it.

Mcgovern from RAINN says that, in addition to shutting down the above stigmas related to sexual assault, thanks to rape culture, these items should be left off the table as well:

  • “Leave any ‘why’ questions or investigations to the experts. Your job is to support this person.
  • Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign the event did not occur [going back to the fact that everyone behaves differently]
  • Be patient. Remember, there is no time table to recovering from trauma. Avoid pressuring your friend to engage in activities they aren’t ready for yet.”


Sexual assault, no matter how unbelievably common, is still a sensitive subject and needs to be handled with care. As a friend, if you suspect that they have been a victim of assault, supporting them, not judging and listening to them is the best thing they could ask for. Laura points out the frequency of such crimes: “We know according to research from the Centers for Disease Control that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lifetime.” She says, “Keeping these statistics in mind can be helpful, as it points to the fact you are often likely interacting with someone who has experienced some form of sexual assault or abuse.” And according to RAINN, college produces an environment that makes sexual violence more prevalent, in comparison to other crimes; college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than be robbed and that’s only based on the 20 percent of college women that report their rape to law enforcement. Yes, this is daunting, but hopefully the aforementioned guidelines give at least a stepping stone to helping you and anyone that may have been sexually assaulted.

If you have been sexually assaulted, or if you need further help for a friend who has been, you can call:

  • The RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime Victim Service Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL or 1-800-211-7996 (TTY/TDD)
  • NSVRC (The National Sexual Violence Resource Center) at 717-909-0710 (or request assistance here).

Alani Vargas on What You’re Really Saying When You Say Girls Have “Daddy Issues”

Originally appeared on Slant News as a Trending Story, but can currently be found on Alani’s website here.

Recently, I overhead two college guys boasting about trying to hook up with girls.

Look for the ones with daddy issues!” one said boisterously. Maybe he read the Urban Dictionary definition, with related words such as “slut,” “attention whore,” and “bitch.” I would usually joke and laugh along if it was about anything else. But the term does not amuse me. At all.

My dad was my personal chauffeur all through middle school and at the start of high school. I usually got a ride with my carpool freshman year, so the drives with him at the wheel became less and less frequent.

But I remember each one. I would gush to him about the latest Robert Pattinson-Kristen Stewart (a.k.a. Robsten) news or about what was bothering me at school. He responded with jokes and a dash of advice. In that little beige Honda Accord, I was introduced to the greatness that is Eminem and The Beastie Boys. All the anger and energy in those songs were my form of coffee.

On one December day, my father dropped me off for my first final exam, right before Christmas break. It was the usual: He said “I love you” in the car and proceeded to yell “HURRY UP!” at me as I walked away, so loudly that the nuns inside could definitely hear.

And then he never came home.

He didn’t call my mom to say where he was. He first tried to play it off like he had to stay at work longer that day, even though we had plans to see Santa Claus at the mall that night. And then it became a week. He finally came back on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but he didn’t stay the night. He packed his stuff and left on Dec. 26.

He went to live with his mistress ? a co-worker ? and her children. And since then, the person he has become almost completely diminishes the man who was once my “poppy.”

I don’t want to relive the memories of him coaching my soccer games for almost 10 years before that. I don?t want to think about how he would blast mariachi music and scream that obnoxious Grito, or “Mexican Shout.” I can only remember the bad. His harsh discipline. His terrifying disappointment when I got B?s.

It might have been different. But he left. Completely withdrew from my three siblings’ and my life. He didn’t show up for Christmas this year, despite saying otherwise up until the December 23. He would like to blame it on my mom, who is the best person I will ever know. But when someone doesn’t contact their kids for months, fails to give child support even when he has a full-time job, and refuses to take the blame, those accusations just further reveal his true self. And now I?m subjected to the judgmental expression, “Daddy issues.”

Urban Dictionary says this occurs when “a female has a [screwed] up relationship with her father,” leading “to the chagrin of any poor male in [her] life.”

The expression actually comes from a philosophical term developed by Sigmund Freud called the “Electra Complex,” as opposed to the “Oedipus Complex” in boys. It?s the idea that a toddler feels sexually attracted to the opposite-gender parent and competitive with the parent of the same sex. For a girl this “fixation” stage would end once she identified with her mother. If not resolved, the girl will continually want to dominate men by either becoming super seductive or really submissive. I don?t know when it got twisted to mean the girl strives for the acceptance of men, but it?s far from its origin.

“Daddy issues” are just a way to put blame on the victim, instead of the negligent dad that left her. My little sister hasn’t lived in the same house as my father since she was 3. Now 8, she is still in denial about how horrible he is. My other sister, who is now 15, doesn’t talk to him as often as the other two because she is so indifferent to him and she won?t notice when he says something offensive about her taste in music or her “attitude.” Even my little brother, 11, is so used to being disappointed by his dad and the seldom phone calls that they are a surprise and a conversation lasting more than five minutes is never expected.

They shouldn’t have to feel the pressure of not conforming to what society says will inevitably happen to girls (and boys) without fathers. Because they are not good things and it just adds to the personal difficulties they are facing with having a deadbeat dad.

Today, one-third of children grow up in single-parent homes, and many notable women have grown up without fathers.

Barbra Streisand lost her father when she was one due to complications from an epileptic seizure. She went on to become one of the most successful recording artists and one of few to win an EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony).

And Sarah Michelle Gellar was raised by her mother and has said, “Just because you donate sperm does not make you a father.” (They were estranged until his death in 2001.) Gellar has gone on to play one of the most iconic female characters in TV history as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Jenna Rowen, a post-doctoral fellow at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, said a child?s future self depends more on how loved and accepted he or she feels in general rather than what gender they?re being raised by.

I am not a misandrist, or man-hater; I love men and love fair portrayal and treatment of men even more. But if a child has a supportive and affectionate mom or moms, who raise their children well, she will most likely not grow up with unhealthy behaviors or psychological pain.

I know life isn?t fair and no matter how much a single mother or father tries, events happen, possibly leading a child on the wrong path. But just the idea that a girl growing up in a household with no male figure spells certain doom is sexist, archaic, and needs to stop. My dad leaving sucked. Real bad. But I?ll be damned if he gets to take any credit in shaping who I am today.

NAHJNU Secretary Natalie Escobar’s story on faculty unionization at Northwestern

Natalie wrote an enterprise story on the ongoing division among Northwestern non-tenure eligible faculty about a unionization vote that took place in June 2016. The link to the story is here.

“A battle over unionization has been playing out since the end of last school year, almost entirely out of sight from the student body. The debates have taken place behind closed doors, over email and even in a faculty-members-only Facebook group for discussing the vote. Faculty members have been reluctant to go on record or even be interviewed, saying that speaking out openly about the vote would not be in their best interest. Some even said they feared retaliation from their colleagues or possibly jeopardizing their job security.”