By Lauren Ebben and Jeremy Stitsworth/ Staff Reporters
Women at Amarillo College are making a difference in campus culture and policy thanks, in part, to a student profile created by college officials.
Created several years ago, ‘Maria,’ according to AC President Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, is the name given to the profile of the average college student attending AC.
Several characteristics define this student, said Lowery-Hart, although the profile changes slightly every year, including for 2019.
According to Lowery-Hart, ‘Maria’ has always been a female, since sixty-six percent of students attending AC are women.
‘Maria’ is also Hispanic/Latina. Fifty-seven percent of the student population represents a minority, however 48 percent of the 57 percent are Hispanic.
‘Maria’ is a transfer student. Fifty-two percent of students who attend AC do so with the intent to transfer to another college or university.
Other important notes about ‘Maria’ include the fact that she is 25 years old, works two part-time jobs, typically majors in the health science field and has at least one child.
Identifying the average college student means several things for AC, added Lowery-Hart.
“One, it means that this culture of caring that we’re trying to build is even more important. I’ve talked to so many of our students that say the women in particular need us to build her up and support her and her family. They need the confidence to know that they can accomplish anything, and that relational support and that culture of caring is really important to her,” Lowery-Hart said.
“It also means that we have to be more thoughtful about how we don’t allow our own societal gender stereotypes to limit fields that are open to ‘Maria,’” he continued.
“An example is our technical fields out on East Campus. We have companies that would do anything to hire ‘Maria’ as a welder or as a diesel mechanic or as an aviation mechanic, because they found that women in those technical fields are more detail-oriented and produce a better product. But we don’t typically market those programs to Maria and so we’ve had to change our own stereotypes.”
Since ‘Maria’s’ introduction, the college has made several changes to its policies to ensure her success, according to Lowery-Hart.
These changes include providing family-safe bathrooms for these students, as well as putting certain support structures into place, such as offering child care.
“You can look at our completion rates and know that we’re helping ‘Maria’ more than we’ve ever helped her. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a ways to go,” Lowry-Hart said.
Maya Raigada, an occupational therapy major, was surprised when she learned that the average student at Amarillo College was female.
“I had no idea that there were more women than men going to school here. The fact that most of them are Hispanic is also really eye opening. That’s what I call girl power,” she said.
Women are also playing a larger role on the faculty and staff. Denese Skinner, vice president of student affairs, said women have “significantly” impacted AC campuses.
“Early in AC’s history, we’ve had women serve as student body presidents where they had the opportunity to impact AC’s student engagement and drive changes across our campuses to better serve our students’ needs,” she said.
Skinner also pointed out the importance of female leadership in administrative roles.
“Equally important, for many years, we’ve had women on the president’s cabinet and in deans’ roles where they directly impact the course of the college,” she said.
Students say they have noticed a change with women in the AC workforce. Olivia Onteros, a nursing major, said that many of her instructors are women.
“It may be because I’m a nursing major, but I’ve noticed that most, if not all, my instructors are women,” Onteros said. “It kind of inspires me and proves that women are definitely getting more attention because of their accomplishments.”
“I’m glad that women are taking education seriously and that AC can help them with that,” Onteros said.