Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Allyson Huttenga
Aquinas College offers many formal support services to current students. Unbeknownst to many of them, however, an informal version of this support is extended to alumnae and the community at large by a young and growing group called the Aquinas College Women’s Connection.
The AQ Women’s connection began in 2015 with Aquinas alum Noelle Frost. As a member of the Wege Foundation, she noticed that there was no women’s group like those in many other fundraising organizations. With the help of Sr. Aquinas, then-first lady of the college Mary Olivarez, and another female donor, the Women’s Connection came into existence with a tea event at the annual Wege Pro-Am Golf Tournament.
The event has grown from 13 attendees to over 60 in the years since, and the organization has grown along with it, although the group has no formal membership besides its 18-person Planning Committee.
Despite its origins, Frost emphasizes that the organization is not directed towards fundraising (although, Frost says, “that characteristic of ‘giving’, whether time or treasure, runs strongly in the group”). Neither is it meant to be a business-oriented network. Rather, it serves to connect women inside and outside of the Aquinas Community in a personal way that runs beyond typical networking groups.
Its stated mission is to be an “inclusive community connecting women to support their life journeys by creating welcoming experiences for educational, spiritual, and social connections.”
Founder Frost elaborates on this vision: she hopes to “bring a mix of women together with no agenda other than to meet, mingle and organically grow relationships out of that…to share our diverse backgrounds and very different journeys with no other expectation than to feel supported and connected in a very welcoming atmosphere.”
A wide variety of women participate — from recent graduates to stay-at-home mothers and even Dominican sisters — and they are encouraged to interact in whatever ways they may need, be that at formal events or personal meetings. The idea, Frost adds, is for each woman to be met and supported where she is.
The Women’s Connection presents a unique resource for Aquinas students approaching graduation through the many forms of mentoring it facilitates.
Member Allyson Huttenga hopes more students will become part of the organization: “We would love to have more young women involved making connections with other women of the community that could lead to new friendships, a mentorship opportunity, or even a networking/career opportunity.” Though they do not provide formal services, the relationships formed through the AQWC can prove to be just as valuable.
The quarterly “SpeAQ2Me Series,” a fireside chat with a member who shares her life story, is recommended for current upperclassmen and continuing education students looking for an introduction to what the group offers. Aquinas alum Claire Timmer, ‘17, says of the series: “[it is] a time for ladies to come together and share our life experiences in hopes of finding common threads among us all to support one another.” Huttenga adds that the events are helpful for young women learning to navigate adult life.
Other events, often free or at low price to cover the cost, include speaker series, cooking classes, indoor tailgates, a sustainable fashion show, conversations with the Dominican Sisters and more. They are often held on campus and open to all female students.
These events and the whole of the Women’s Connection’s resources are available on the Moose and ACORN; on the group’s Facebook page; and through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, there will be a dedicated page under the office of advancement on the AQ website in the new calendar year.
About the Writer: Elizabeth Walztoni is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies with concentrations in Ecology and Sustainability & Policy.