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Women Funding Women’s Education
The Sunflower Initiative logo
Women Funding Women’s Education

2014/12 The Sunflower Initiative Quarterly


The Sunflower Initiative’s quarterly newsletter
The Sunflower Initiative Quarterly
Betsy McCrodden
Seven years ago, when a  group of Randolph-Macon women decided to launch The Sunflower Initative, we were all Randolph-Macon alumnae who felt passionately about the value of a woman’s college education.  While the Board of Directors is currently composed of only Randolph-Macon Woman’s College alumnae, that may soon change.  We are moving on.
Here are two examples:  Our Scholarship Committee, which works hard to advertise our scholarship and even harder to narrow the field for a recommendation to the entire Board, has already had one non-R-MWC member, Beth Wahlig, a Wheaton College graduate.  As some of you may know, Wheaton was at one time a woman’s college but abandoned that mission a while back.
Now we are adding another non-Randolph-Macon Woman’s College Committee member, Frances Hoffman.  Fran graduated from Cornell, a distinguished co-educational institution.  Throughout a successful academic career she has come to value highly the woman’s college experience.  Fran will certainly bring a fresh perspective to our scholarship process and decision-making.
Over the years, we have received significant financial support from alumnae of other women’s colleges:  Agnes Scott, Hollins, Peace, Salem, Smith, Stephens, Sweet Briar, Montevallo College, Lindenwood, and Wellesley.  Many graduates, female and male, of co-ed universities and colleges also support us.  We can only hope to increase that support in years to come.
While we all understand that a woman’s college is not appropriate for every woman, we believe that women should have the opportunity to attend a same-sex institution if they so choose.  The Sunflower Initiative is designed to assist in making that choice a reality.
News about Aastha Sharma
2012 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship Recipient
Wesleyan College, Atlanta, Georgia
Last summer, Aastha Sharma traveled to Karlsruhe, Germany, for her internship at the Kultural Institute of Technology.  There she worked in the lab of a PhD student who was working on her thesis entitled “Experimental Investigation of Silane Penetration of Cementive Materials.”  Aastha expected her to become her research mentor, but within two weeks of Aastha’s arrival, the thesis student left on maternity leave.  Aastha calls this both fortunate and unfortunate–unfortunate because she and her mentor did not have much of a chance to build a relationship, but fortunate because Aastha was forced to work independently.  “I really learned how graduate school works,” she says of the experience.
Aastha Sharma
Aastha applied for this particular project because it involved an interesting combination of numerical modeling and experimental investigation.  For a double major in chemistry and applied mathematics, this was useful indeed.
Aastha found that she enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of her internship so that she is now considering graduate programs in materials science, a field that requires the integration of chemistry, physics and mathematics.
A fellow chemistry major at Wesleyan had been a participant in this research internship program for American, British and Canadian students organized by the German Academic Exchange Service.  She encouraged Aastha to apply.  Last summer, Aastha was one of about 300 students who were placed at institutions throughout Germany.  She earned the distinction of being one of five selected to make a research presentation at a meeting of all participants held in Heidelberg.
Aastha in Europe
Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly to her, Aastha’s interests broadened from this experience.  In addition to her travels within Germany, she journeyed with other students to Strasbourg and Zurich.   Now, not only is she studying modern building material like cement, but she finds that the old and beautiful buildings of Europe fascinate her as well.  This semester she has enrolled in her first art history course, for which she is doing a research project on Gothic architecture.  Visits to concentration camps in Germany have inspired her to enroll in a course on 20th century holocausts.
“I used to be fearful of taking courses outside science and mathematics,” she says, “but after my travel to Europe, I plan to take at least one non-technical course each semester.  I’ve learned to appreciate the food, music, art and history of other countries much more.”
In her list of new appreciations, Aastha could have added sport.  She had the good fortune of being in Germany during its run to the World Cup championship, and she attended public viewings of the games with other students.  “It’s [soccer] almost like a religion there,” she exclaimed.  She also notes with admiration that the  Germans are extremely environmentally conscious.  “The recycle everything–even my cement samples,” she says.  And she notes, “They take a more relaxed, less pressured approach to work [than Americans] while still taking their work seriously.”
Reflecting on the overall impact of her summer in Germany, Aastha sums up, “I have become more open-minded, independent, and appreciative of other cultures.”
Why I Support The Sunflower Initiative
Karen Bush Everett, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, 1966
Karen Bush Everett '66
I am honored to have served on The Sunflower Initiative (TSI) Scholarship Committee for the first three years of the program.  Each year, TSI has awarded a $10,000 renewable scholarship to an outstanding young woman, each from a very different background and experience, but with the common desire to attend a woman’s college.  Reading the applications of forty-some-odd finalists among hundreds received each year has made me even more committed to the effort to make their dream possible.
These young women not only have stellar academic records and excellent test scores, but their involvement in extracurricular activities and service projects both local and international are extraordinary.  They believe their goals and dreams can best be met in the challenging and nurturing environment of a woman’s college.  They write eloquently of their vision for the future and what they hope to achieve, and why a woman’s college is their best choice.
Vita Abundantior.
When I first heard those words, I began to realize that my college experience was about a lot more than earning a degree.  At Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, I developed the love of learning as a life-long endeavor, and the confidence to take on new challenges.  I thrived in the close-knit community of women that provided an environment to explore and grow.  I have always been  grateful for my years at R-MWC because they enriched my life beyond measure.
I know what my education means to me, and I want to ensure that other young women have the same opportunity to discover the life more abundant.  This is why I have donated both time and treasure to The Sunflower Initiative.  If you are also grateful for your woman’s college education, I hope you will join me in supporting The Sunflower Initiative.
It’s not too late to support the 2014 Sunflower Initiative Annual Fund!
Your donation will help ensure that another highly qualified young woman attends a woman’s college in 2015.
Donate now
Bulletin from the World of Women’s Colleges
Research shows that there is a connection between running for student office and later running for political office, says Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University.  According to research conducted by Lawless and Richard Fox, people who run for student office are 11 percentage points more likely to run for political office later in life. 

Students at women’s colleges are not only encouraged, but required, to step into leadership roles. Often these women would have lacked the confidence or courage to run for office at a co-ed institution.  As Gwen Ifil, Managing Editor of PBS and graduate of Simmons College has said, “I became a leader in college.  I’m not sure if that would have been so automatic in a co-ed setting.”