When Nicole Diaz Del Valle joined the inaugural cohort of the College of Liberal Arts Women’s Empowerment Program last fall, she didn’t know it would be one of the most rewarding experiences of her college career.
Her personal growth was palpable as she found her voice and used it to speak up for herself and other women. She said the program impacted her so much that she came back for a second semester of the semester-long program.
“Before, I was not fully aware of how critical building a foundation of sisterhood could be for both my personal and professional development,” said Diaz Del Valle, a sophomore political science major and philosophy (law and justice) and Brookings public policy minor.
“I have made long-lasting friendships and been able to network with other high-achieving women in an array of different industries. I strongly believe that everyone should join the program. It has been one of the most fulfilling things I have done at UNLV thus far.”
Liberal Arts launched the Women’s Empowerment Program last fall to help people who identify as women prepare for their futures while empowering themselves and others. With a cohort of about 30 women-identifying liberal arts students, the select group participates in workshops and activities designed to help them discover and use their voices for self-advocacy and empowerment.
The program is sponsored by Swati Bhise, the creative force behind the movie The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, which she co-wrote, directed, and produced in 2019. The film tells the story of feminist icon and Indian freedom fighter Rani of Jhansi.
The film inspired Bhise to create The Warrior Queen Project to help Asian American Pacific Islander women and others identifying as women celebrate their inner “warrior queens.” Later, she designed the Warrior Queen Action Kit, which emphasizes five traits: voice, determination, boldness, sisterhood, and resilience. The empowerment program is based on the action kit and features a series of five workshops, each focused on a different warrior queen trait.
In addition to the workshops, students write blog posts and meet with peer mentors. At the end of the program, participants earn a certificate of completion and a chance to win a scholarship.
Bhise said she was motivated to create the program at UNLV because of the large first-generation population and the need to offer more enrichment opportunities for women.
“It is a unique campus that has opened its doors to the largest first generation of college-going young people. Since education is a legacy, we at the Warrior Queen Project wanted to gift to those who have the hunger, yet few opportunities, the ability to be truly empowered with the program,” she said.
“Empowering a woman is empowering a nation, as she alone changes the thought process in every generation of children and is the catalyst for change.”
The empowerment program is part of a suite of mentoring programs the college offers to enhance the student experience at UNLV, said Jenna Heath, director of student and community engagement for the College of Liberal Arts.
“We are so grateful that Swati chose UNLV to create this program. It is a powerful addition to our offerings and another opportunity to enrich the lives of our students,” she said.
“The program has been wildly effective in building our students’ sense of self and ability to advocate for their needs, which is critical to charting successful futures.”
For more information, visit the Women’s Empowerment Program website.