In 2017, Jasmine Wang ’19 made Aggie history as the first Asian American woman to become speaker of Texas A&M University’s student senate. Aside from helping enhance the relationship between the senate and student body during her term, one of Wang’s proudest accomplishments was the precedent her election set for other women.
“It was a big deal for me because it was a major step forward for the Asian American community at Texas A&M and began a wave of continued leadership for women of color who came after me,” she explained.
Wang found another outlet to support her fellow female students through the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) on campus. In 2017, she spoke at the center’s annual Elect Her: Aggie Women Win conference, which features presentations from female leaders and trains collegiate women to run for student government or future political positions. “It was a great opportunity for me to meet new students and initiate many mentoring relationships where I could encourage others to be their own advocate and continue learning beyond their time at Texas A&M,” she shared.
After her term as speaker, Wang continued her focus on women’s causes as a student employee of the WRC. As she helped to positively impact students, the center also made a difference in her life through the mentorship and support of Heather Wheeler ’03, director of gender and sexual diversity for the Offices of the Dean of Student Life. “Heather taught me to take pride and ownership in my accomplishments and to take steps forward, even when others ask you to take steps back,” Wang explained.
Now a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was selected for the law school’s inaugural First Generation Professionals Fellowship, Wang also utilized the perspective she gained from the WRC when she interviewed with top law firms. “The center showed me the power and importance of elevating other women’s voices in my personal and professional endeavors,” she said. “Now that I’m deciding where to begin my career, I can make distinctions between different firms based on how they support women. Those little details speak volumes about company culture, and those are things I learned through my experiences with the Women’s Resource Center.”
Wang’s story exemplifies the numerous ways that thousands of students have benefited from the WRC. Now, planned gifts from Dr. Lynn Hagan ’77 and Mary Hanel McDowell ’80 are helping ensure this support for future generations of female professionals.
Since it opened in 2001, the WRC has continually increased its impact on campus and in students’ lives. Part of the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, the center functions as a resource and referral center and provides various programs to increase equality and empowerment, while educating the campus community on women’s issues.
“While women make up almost 50% of the campus population, they are not proportionately represented in student leadership positions across campus,” Wheeler explained. “Additionally, women students are disproportionately affected by pregnancy and parenting responsibilities. The university recognizes these issues and provides support through the Women's Resource Center and other campus entities to help women achieve parity on campus and beyond.”
The WRC offers pregnancy and parenting initiatives and collaborates with the Aggie Women Network to offer a mentoring circle and a first Thursday speaker series where students can network with and learn from professionals. The center also prepares students for future careers through Elect Her and salary negotiation workshops. Although these events are geared toward women and designed to help reduce the gender wage and leadership gaps, they are open to any student. Since 2013, more than 1,000 students have learned how to negotiate a fair salary through the workshops, and more than 400 students have attended Elect Her, with many applying those skills in successful campaigns for student body president, the student senate or the Texas House of Representatives.
“We are one of the few women's centers in the country to offer nationally recognized skills-based trainings in the areas of campaigning for office and salary negotiation,” Wheeler said. “With time, I hope we can grow the staff at the center to tackle additional women’s issues.”
A Legacy of Support
Women’s causes have also been a focus for Dr. Lynn Hagan and Mary Hanel McDowell throughout their lives. A licensed clinical social worker and member of the American Association of University Women, Hagan has promoted equity and education for all while in the U.S. and during her years in the Middle East, in which she provided psychological assessments and counseling for soldiers and Department of State employees. Involved with the WRC since its beginning, she played a role in the center’s partnership with the Aggie Women Network and has spoken and volunteered at numerous first Thursday events and Elect Her conferences.
“The Women’s Resource Center is a model for other centers across the country,” Hagan said. “I’ve seen it grow from a handful of minor programs to something that has impacted so many women and men as well.”
In 2018, Hagan expanded her support by creating the center’s first endowment. With a gift through their estate, she and her husband, Don ’76, later increased her endowment for the center, as well as added to a scholarship Don had created for physics students. “We believe in paying it forward and wanted to ensure our support would be carried forward with the center’s plans,” Hagan explained.
In addition to advancing the center’s capacity for support, Hagan’s generosity also inspired McDowell. McDowell, the 2020 Aggie Women Network president, worked for Ernst & Young for 10 years in Dallas and New York, and for Citigroup for 25 years in Dallas, New York and Baltimore. She served as president and CEO of CitiFinancial North America and OneMain Financial for 10 years before retiring from full-time corporate work. Since 2018, she has served as an independent director on the Barclays U.S. Consumer Bank board.
McDowell has worked to support women throughout her career, including chairing the American Financial Services Association’s first women’s leadership group. “I’ve always tried to advocate for women’s issues and ensure everyone is afforded an equal opportunity, no matter who they are,” she said. “When I saw everything the Women’s Resource Center is doing, I was really impressed with it and the way it has become a safe place for students.”
Inspired by Hagan’s example and the impact she saw when volunteering at WRC programs, McDowell created endowments for the center and the Aggie Women’s Network. She and her husband, Kim ’76, then planned a gift through a revocable living trust to expand these endowments, in addition to funding a scholarship for university students from Milam County, Texas, and creating an endowment for Texas A&M’s LGBTQ+ Pride Center. “It’s important to support things you believe in,” McDowell said. “I hope our gift shows the WRC that former students support its work.”
Both women have already seen opportunities for female students at Texas A&M significantly expand since their undergraduate days, and their gifts will continue these advancements and leave a legacy of empowerment beyond their lifetimes. “I like seeing change and then seeking how I can be part of it,” Hagan concluded. “Giving is one of the biggest ways to actively participate in that change and see it to its fruition.”
Interested in being part of the change and supporting the Women’s Resource Center? Contact Angela Throne ’03 using the form below to see how you can use a planned gift to build up future generations of women.
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