Celebrating the women who impact our Bobcat community

In celebration of Women’s History Month this year, students, faculty and staff shared stories of women who have influenced them. From historical figures to family members, there are countless women who have touched the lives of our Bobcats that deserved to be honored this March.

Dawn Sardi smiles and hugs her grandchildren.
Dawn and her grandchildren enjoying time together.

"The most influential woman in my life is most definitely my mother, Dawn Sardi. From a young age, she taught me about empathy, compassion and the importance of integrity. She built in me the strength to stand by my convictions, even if it's not always the popular choice. Her wisdom, which has always been well beyond her years, has helped me through my path in life."  Lauren Sardi, professor of sociology and women's & gender studies, director of the collaborative for interdisciplinary & integrated studies

"I am inspired by the Egyptian academic and journalist Suhayr al-Qalamawi. She was the first Egyptian woman to earn a PhD in a class of 14 men. A politician, feminist activist and writer who shaped Arabic writing in Egypt. I am inspired by her resilience in defying social norms and her academic excellence as a pioneer in the field."  Ruby ElKharboutly, PhD, associate professor of software engineering

"The most influential woman to me in my life is Christine Ha. Christine Ha is the winner of “Master Chef” season three. I have always loved food because it provides a space for cultural exchange and appreciation. Though having Neuromyelitis Optica, she was still able to create beautiful dishes and incorporate her Vietnamese heritage into every dish. I think that her resilience and pride in her identity as an Asian woman have influenced me in my own cultural heritage and how I view food. She also shows the importance of preserving your upbringing as well." — Naomi Gorero ‘24

"Judith Butler is an influential feminist scholar and foundational theorist of the social construction of gender. Their work taught me that a 'woman' is not a body but a role that has been and can be endlessly rewritten. We have the power and the responsibility to rewrite the role of women: to push its limits and expand freedom and belonging for the generations to come." — Kimberly O'Neill, associate professor of English and women's and gender studies, director of women's studies

Tilottama Ghosh Chowdhury's mother in traditional Indian wear.
Tilottama's mother, Aleya, inspired her to chase her career dreams.

"Coming to the United States from India to pursue a PhD and successfully completing it, perhaps was feasible because of the teachings and learnings from two inspiring women. One is my mother, who continues to show me firsthand, the silent strength behind persistence, resilience and patience. While the other, Jane Austen, my favorite author, whose books not only gave me a sense of calm and happiness in a world of hectic lifestyles, but also her writing shines light on young women, and their ability to grow, learn and mature, although portrayed in a society far removed from mine. The lifestyle and characteristics of one woman and the works of another, both inspire me, and make me go back to them, time and time again, motivating me to move forward, dream and accomplish." — Tilottama Ghosh Chowdhury, professor of marketing

"I fell in love with silent cinema in high school. And the person who got me hooked? Louise Brooks in the movie 'Pandora’s Box.' I related to the queer elements in the film. And her acting was subtle compared to many of her contemporaries. Her character, Lulu, ruins the lives of every man she touches. And ultimately, she is killed by Jack the Ripper. What more could you ask for in a film? Louise Brooks personified everything I found fascinating about 1920s culture. She made me realize that I wanted to spend my career writing, producing and otherwise engaged in the film industry." — Julie Buck, assistant professor of film, television and media arts

"There are many women who are important to me, so besides my mother, Jane Junn has had one of the largest impacts on my life. Jane is a political scientist and my mentor during my college years, who now works at the University of South Carolina. In addition to being a constructive, hands-on guide during my research, she went out of her way to find opportunities for me professionally. She also has always given me excellent life advice — she has never steered me wrong, not once. In addition to being a pioneering woman of color researcher, she led the charge for equal pay in a previous job at great personal expense to herself, for the benefit of all women in academia. So, she's one of many at the top of my list." — Jennifer Sacco, professor of political science and women's & gender studies, chair of philosophy and political science 

Terri Estes smiles for a headshot.
Don's mother, Terri, has left a profound impact on the healthcare field.

"I would say my mother, Terrie B. Estes, is the most influential woman in my life. Outside of the apparent connection, she has continually modeled personal and professional behaviors that exceed most expectations. She is currently the Vice President and Chief Compliance officer for MedStar Health and the top 10 Chief Compliance Officer of 2022 nationally. She has always had the tenacity to pursue and overcome every obstacle placed in her path, which has always been admirable." — Don McAulay, PhD, assistant professor of management

"One of the most influential women in my life is my former professor and mentor during my MFA studies in creative producing at Columbia University, Maureen Ryan. Not only did she set an excellent example of what it is to be a producer and fulfill a leadership role, she played a pivotal role in shaping the person I am today. Her knowledge, guidance and support have been invaluable to me. She continues to be a dear friend and colleague today." — Blythe Frank, assistant professor of film, television, and media arts, director of cinematic production management master’s program

"The most influential woman in my life is my mother, Melissa Ashman. She is the strongest person I know and always looking out for me. I would not be following my dreams of becoming a television reporter if it wasn't for her." — Keith Savage ‘24

Audrey and her grandmother Patricia Scafati smile together.
Audrey and her grammy making memories at a family function.

"My grammy, Patricia Marchant, is the most influential person in my life. When I was in the fifth grade, she was diagnosed cancer and it was a tough battle; now she has been cancer free for over a decade. I am so proud to be named after her and I look up to her strength every day." — Audrey Scafati ‘23, MA ‘24

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