This week is “Why a Women’s College” Week, and we’re featuring a post a day from different perspectives on the value of an inclusive women’s college education. Today’s post features numerous current student perspectives on why they chose and value being part of a women’s-centered community.
The Women’s College Community– Laura Cain ’22
During the college search and decision process in high school, I was honestly pretty indifferent about women’s colleges. I applied to a few that seemed like they might be a good fit, but I also applied to several co-ed institutions. Eventually I decided on Agnes Scott, primarily because of the community that Agnes has. I felt like I would be pushed to take on new opportunities and be the best I could be while also being supported holistically. At the time, the fact that Agnes was a historically women’s college felt unrelated to this sense of community. I thought it was cool and exciting to be in a women-centered space, but it wasn’t something that was super important to me.
However, after being a student here for almost three years, I can definitively say that the fact that Agnes is a historically women’s college is what fosters that incredible community that initially drew me in. This goes beyond just feeling comfortable wearing pajamas to class; it is an integral part of life as an Agnes student. For example, when working on group projects or planning a club event, I always know that I will be comfortable with the people I’m working with, even if I don’t know them! I also know that I will always be taken seriously and given opportunities by professors. Going to a historically women’s college has truly increased my confidence and assuredness in my ability to take on anything that I want post-graduation, and I will always be grateful for the support and encouragement the Agnes Scott women-centered community has given me.
Laura Cain is from the one-stoplight town of Advance, North Carolina. She is currently a junior at Agnes Scott majoring in Psychology with a minor in Public Health and a specialization in Global Learning.
Lifting Up Women- Charlotte Capers Snoad ’23
In middle school, I went to Washington DC as part of a girls leadership program. We got to meet with women in leadership positions in a variety of professions: a woman who is the pastor at a large downtown church; an entrepreneur whose cookie company shipped worldwide; a group of women who work at NASA; and the women who run an international women’s development organization. As it turns out, every single woman we met with – or at least one woman in every group – was a graduate of a women’s college. And they all talked about how it shaped their lives. The leaders of the conference did not know this, so it became an unexpected topic of conversation throughout the trip. I was in 7th grade, and that experience planted a seed in my mind.
When I began looking at colleges, a family friend with a daughter at a women’s college made a passing remark and said “You seem like you might be a women’s college kind of person.” Because of my 7th grade experience, I recognized that as a compliment. And then I remembered what the women had told us. They talked about being in class where you know the smartest person in the room is a woman. And the person struggling is a woman. And the people who are going to reach out and support that struggling student are all women. So when I started thinking seriously about what I wanted my college experience to look like, I knew I wanted to go to a women’s college. Because I had been in those classes in high school where I knew the smartest person in the room was a woman, but I had seen how the dynamics sometimes played out, and it was a challenge for her to be heard. Imagining a classroom setting where women could look up to the other women in the class, reach out to each other, lift each other up, and be inspired by each other – that sounded like my ideal learning situation. Two years into my academic career at Agnes Scott, I can say that I was right.
I’ve got friends who, when they hear I go to a women’s college, say “You know that the real world has men in it, right?” And my answer is, “Yes, and I have professors who are men, friends who are men, and my life is not cloistered!” But college can be that time in our lives where, if we are thoughtful and intentional about what kind of community we are seeking, we can spend this time in an environment that is ideally suited for us. For me, and for my friends at ASC, the opportunity to spend four years at a challenging, supportive college that believes in the unlimited power and possibility of women is my perfect environment.
Charlotte Capers is a sophomore from Greenville, SC double majoring in psychology and political science. She hopes to combine those two areas of study and work in the field of voter engagement, voter motivation, advocacy and activism. She is an activist and cares about issues pertaining to LGBTQ equality and advocacy, women’s issues, and smart gun laws advocacy. Last year, she was a Giffords Fellow and got to be part of a project led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to help train college students to become informed advocates for smart gun laws. She was also a HERlead Fellow, and since high school she has been active in politics as a volunteer and advocate. She took a gap semester in the fall of 2020 to work as a Field Organizer for the Biden/Harris presidential campaign and the Democratic Party of Georgia. She loves hiking, travel, and animals. Her ASC friends love marathon movie nights, making charcuterie boards, and exploring Atlanta, particularly the amazing thrift shops.
An Inclusive Women’s College– Jayla Norman ’23
When I initially searched for colleges, a “women’s college” was not a specific criterion that I was looking for, yet it somehow turned out being the criterion that made the difference in my college experience. Not only is Agnes Scott a women’s college, but it is an inclusive women’s college. The inclusive aspect of Agnes’s environment creates comfortable spaces for women of different backgrounds, ethnic and racial groups, as well as gender and sexual identities. Coming from the small island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, there was only so much that I was exposed to. The Internet does expose you to a lot of things, that is certainly true, but the exposure and the wide array of perspectives that I have experienced at Agnes Scott is amazing. Something as simple as learning about pronouns, which truly was completely new to me, to having conversations about diversity and inclusion in all courses (no matter the field).
So when you’re wondering why a women’s college, specifically an inclusive one like Agnes Scott, it’s because an inclusive women’s college opens up your mind to new things, new ways of life, and new ways of thinking. It exposes you to behaviors that make you an all-around better person and equip you for meeting and networking with other people of any background. It creates a safe space for women, women of color, women of any minority group, and creates a safe space to be you in a world and country where sometimes you simply cannot do so freely. An inclusive women’s college like Agnes Scott is filled with inspiring women who have done amazing things and are dedicated to supporting students through their college journey and beyond.
Jayla Norman is a second-year student at Agnes Scott College, class of 2023. She was born and raised on the beautiful island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she currently resides due to the pandemic. Her major is Public Health with a minor in Spanish. There are many things she loves in the field of public health, including epidemiology, biostatistics, and maternal and child health. As of now, she plans to become an epidemiologist, and she is currently a doula in training. She hopes to one day open the first birthing center on her island.
A Journey of Empowerment– Peyton Capehart ’21
When I began my college search, I didn’t think I would want to attend a historic women’s college. All I had heard about them growing up was how different they were from “traditional” co-ed schools, and I wanted that traditional college experience. However, when I started looking at Agnes Scott, I noticed that they were focused on creating global leaders prepared for the 21st century, and that sounded like my kind of college. My mom encouraged me to look past the women’s college thing until I went for a visit and could see the environment firsthand. So when I went on my campus tour and realized I didn’t feel out of place here, I knew that I was misjudging what it meant to be a women’s college. And I’m so glad that I went to a women’s college.
Depending on the women’s college alum you talk to, there are a million different analogies for describing the community at a women’s college. Some will tell you that it’s just like a giant sorority, while others will tell you that it’s like going to an all-girls sleep-away camp for four years. I don’t think these comparisons come close to describing a women’s college community. We are a community that works to empower and support each other by challenging each other. Sure, I can wear whatever I want on campus and get compliments on it; that’s nice, but that’s not what I’m talking about. My peers at Agnes push me to think critically about my beliefs about the world, my classes, and myself. They support my passion for investigating current issues in systems and finding solutions that I couldn’t come up with on my own. The community at a women’s college empowered me to use my voice, just as it is, to create the change I want to see in the world. My classes and peers pushed me to the limits of what I thought I could do and taught me that my limits were so much greater than that. My community at Agnes Scott took care of me in ways words alone cannot describe. I also got to support my friends when they needed to know that someone was there for them. The beauty of a women’s college is the community they create individually is incredible, but the women’s college community as a whole is beyond even that. I’ve found a widespread network of students who had similar experiences and have similar values.
As for that traditional college experience I wanted, it’s out there and you can make it wherever you go. I still pulled all-nighters in the library and debated classmates at a lunch table. I still had a social life that I enjoyed. Doing it at a women’s college meant that I got to create it on my own terms. I had a community to fall back on when I had pulled one too many all-nighters in a week. My community was there for me even when I didn’t want to discuss class material over my fried chicken. I got to see a wide variety of self-expressions, and I got to explore what fit my expression best. Also, let me tell you, if you want to try something new with your hair or skin routine, someone on campus has the best advice for you and can show you where to find all the hacks you need to make it work for you. Going to college means a time of growth and self-exploration; Going to a women’s college means experiencing a time of empowerment and support that you can’t find anywhere else.
Peyton Capehart is a senior at Agnes Scott College with a double major in Psychology and Spanish. Originally from Kansas City, she now calls the Atlanta area home. Currently, Peyton works in the Intersections research lab on campus and is the president of the campus chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota.