Marta Hanson ’11 was appointed the new Associate Director for the Women’s Community Center (WCC) earlier this year. Hanson received her degree in American Studies and Feminist Studies and recently worked as the deputy finance director for the 2014 re-election campaign of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The Daily spoke with Hanson about her past experiences and her goals for the WCC.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Tell me more about your new position as the Associate Director for the WCC. What does this entail?
Marta Hanson (MH): As the Associate Director I have several different responsibilities. First of all, I work with the student staff at the WCC. We have about 10 undergrads and three graduate students on staff, as well as one professional school liaison at the medical school and several interns. All the programming at the WCC is driven by our student staff to provide opportunities for scholarship, leadership and activism, and my role is to be an advisor to the students. I’m also a resource for all of the women’s voluntary student organizations (WVSOs), which includes everything from the Society of Women Engineers to the sororities. One of the things I’m working on now is building those relationships since I’m new to campus. I also get to work with the other community centers. There’s more cross-center partnering now, it seems. I’m really excited to tap in and learn more about the great things the Asian American Activities Center, Black Community Services Center, Native American Cultural Center, El Centro Chicano y Latino, LGBT Community Resources Center, Diversity and First Gen Office and everyone else are already doing.
TSD: You’re a fairly recent graduate. What made you want to come back to Stanford?
MH: I really thrive and I love work when I get to build relationships and work on issues I care about. In political and non-profit work I was able to do that, but I also felt a bit far removed, so one of the things I was looking for was a situation where I could have a direct impact with individuals. The idea of working here and working one-on-one with students and getting to engage with issues of identity, gender and social justice in this academic but also personal context was really exciting to me.
TSD: Were you involved with the WCC when you were on campus? How has it changed?
MH: I was the outreach coordinator my senior year, which was a great experience as a student; I held our first ever WVSO networking dinner, bringing faculty and staff and student group leaders together to see what connections and partnerships could emerge. Now, as a professional staff member, I see and appreciate the energy and hard work that goes into creating spaces for student development and the impact that community centers have in cultivating students as leaders and change makers. I am thrilled to be a part of that growth.
TSD: While you were a student, you were a delegate to the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women. What was that experience like?
MH: The UN Commission of the Status of Women is a two-week conference that happens around this time of year. I applied through an organization called the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and was selected as part of a student delegation that went to the UN. The topic that year was Women in STEM – so getting more women involved in science and technology and talking in a global context about access to the internet, to computers, and how gender and location and education and culture all intersect with these issues. I was there for the launch of UN Women, the program Emma Watson is now a spokesperson for. I met Michelle Bachelet, who was the first head of UN Women and is now the President of Chile. It was such an incredible experience to meet students doing social justice work from across the country and also to meet people from the non-profit, political and NGO worlds all working on these issues across the globe.
TSD: Why is Women in STEM such a focus for you and the WCC?
MH: Being in Silicon Valley, it’s important for us to think about it, especially with Stanford having so many ties to tech companies. It’s important to build more of a pipeline for women in STEM and to consider the unique experiences of people of different genders, ethnicities, abilities and more who are historically underrepresented in STEM. The numbers of women and people of color in STEM, both in industry and academia, are still abysmally low. I think we are uniquely positioned at Stanford to be a leader addressing this issue, both in a geographical context and also as one of the leading teaching and research universities in the world.
TSD: Are there any specific issues on campus you want the WCC to tackle under your leadership?
MH: One thing I have loved seeing since being back is the sparkly “Of Course I’m a Feminist!” stickers everywhere. So many people have them! Women, men, faculty, students, staff – I’m seeing them all over, and it makes me so proud. Being able to talk about what it means to be a feminist in 2015 is incredibly important. For example, we can have conversations about the fact that rape culture does exist, even here at Stanford. In light of recent events, we have had a wake-up call that sexual assault is not an issue that just happens elsewhere. It happens here, too. For me, I’ve found that so much of working on social justice issues is driven by hope. Even in the darkest of hours when we are dealing with really tough and heart wrenching issues or experiences, it’s believing that conversation and action can and will lead to change and that things will get better, and it’s drawing on the strength of one another. That’s why community is so important when doing this work and why I love the WCC space as well. It’s a place to come where we can help each other, learn from each other and lift each other up.
Contact Elizabeth Wallace at wallacee ‘at’ stanford.edu.