President’s Message



by Diana Elena Moran Sanchez Thundercloud, Public Policy Chair

We are in critical times for our AAUW members to reflect on civility in working together regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion at the branch, state, and national level.

While attending an AAUW online seminar this past month on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the national level, what truly struck me was the many viewpoints that were shared by individuals. In these times of tense political climate– emotions are often invoked. During the online seminar, a few women gave personal “testimonials.” (I have shared my own “testimonial” below.) Difficult conversations regarding “diversity of ideas”is a hallmark of growth in our advocacy as AAUW members.

After the webinar–I thought about these issues:

How we may discuss the VOTE about membership—the possibility of opening membership to individuals without college degrees? What does it mean to be civil? Do we support an atmosphere to agree to disagree too? How do we support or discuss “diversity of ideas”? How do we handle conflict in discussions? Can we work through difficult conversations as AAUW members too? Are we civil to each other? A good place to begin is through reflection and dialogue.

My own “testimonial” about the college degree requirement: I would like to share my thoughts on the voting of opening membership to all women and men without college degrees.

* NOTE: AAUW will be holding a VOTE regarding opening membership for individuals without college degrees.

The voice of women must be inclusive and diverse. The barriers for education within society are historic. We cannot work for empowering women when we do not allow ALL women– to

the table! Men also can join AAUW. We should welcome all to AAUW— regardless of college degree. The work of empowering women and girls must be inclusive.

We all have reasons why we joined AAUW. I can only share with you, my reason.I know our work through AAUW is important and to work together is critical.

The history of the United States was influenced by various oppressive laws, policies, and practices that impacted women of color and the right to entrances into educational institutions. Women and women of color were many times not treated equally. The road to enter a college and graduate is another story. Representation matters. The deep well of racism in the United States has impacted and hindered education for many for generations. Education is still denied for many.

In the United States, our institutions of K-12 education and higher education were not built on equity. They were not built on foundations of diversity, equity, or inclusion. The topic of social class is important. For many women it may take generations to pull out of intergenerational poverty. What I have learned through my Public Policy work is that women of color in the USA have the highest rates of student loan debt. It is crushing debt. When a person grows up in poverty, they experience the world differently.

I am the first generation to go to college. I also know that my mother’s second grade education (rural Mexico) would prevent her from joining AAUW today. She had to go to work in the agricultural fields as a young girl due to poverty. She does not have a college degree. She is one of the smartest women that I know. I ask myself—would my Mexican mother have access to this organization? We must open membership to all.

Native Americans are one percent of those graduating college at this time in Wisconsin. Latinas earn some of the most unequal amounts of pay for work in USA society. We have some of the highest levels of poverty and violence against us as women and girls. It is not an even playing field in society. Many disparities create the ability to obtain a college degree elusive. We cannot ask for college requirements when the empowerment of women and girls through educational systems was NOT equal historically. Everyone must have a “seat at the table” for that transformational change.

I found out that only 25 percent of our members vote within AAUW. This vote on opening membership to all women regardless of college degrees is critical.

Voting will take place online starting April 3. AAUW is utilizing an independent, third-party voting system for this year’s vote. Most members will receive emails from with their unique Elector ID and Password to vote. Please make sure this address is in your contacts so the email doesn’t go to your junk folder.

Voting will close on Wednesday, May 15 at 11:00 pm CT.
If the amendment passes, changes to the bylaws take place immediately.

I encourage everyone to vote.



Working Together

by Andrea Hansen, Branch President
February 2024, from “The Current”

“AAUW believes that high-quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and the key to improving economic prosperity and gender equality.” fromPublicPolicy 2023-25 AAUW Public Policy Priorities.

My modest daily diet of political news and analysis continues to be an unsettling experience. Is that true for you? Here’s a sampling of my recent reads.

New stories included these WI stories: 6 of the 14 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this January focused on our schools, tax-paid vouchers for private schools, and passage of a “parents’ rights” bill in the Assembly. In Florida, a school district is prepared to ban 1600 books, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and “The Guinness Book of World Records.”

Sometimes, folks send me links to research and videos. A recent Ted Talk featured Diane Greene Foster, a UC-SF demographer and her landmark “Turn-Away Study.” The 10-year study followed 1000 women who sought abortion care. The study compared the health and well-being of women who received the abortion they sought with the women who were denied abortion services.

The findings didn’t support the speculations that are used to justify public policy and restrictions. A finding that crushed me: Educational aspirations and attainment were negatively affected, of the parents who were denied health services, and their children.

These days, I find myself thinking about Greg Wegner’s 2019-2020 presentation to our Branch. A retired UWL history professor, Greg’s PhD research centered on the propaganda machine of the Third Reich and, specifically the targeting of school children and curriculum materials. It was a terrifying lesson in how quickly and systematically democracy can be un-done. Control of education was the key to shaping perceptions, creating scapegoats, othering and dehumanizing people, and minimizing dissent. I use this lens in understanding the current attacks on our education system. Dr. Wegner’s research came to mind as I watched “Israelism,” the new documentary from two American Jewish students. The filmmakers describe their experiences and distress of learning the full history of the creation of Israel and the removal of Palestinians. They give voice to the difficult questions surfacing about what they were taught about Israel and the government/military’s brutal system Palestinians are forced to live under. 

How do you practice hope and refresh your spirit community in such a time? One simple response is this: I include regular visits to the AAUW website, not only as a source of information, but also for support and encouragement. I see a clarity of focus on education, work, opportunity and equity. AAUW’s research, position papers, and information highlighted validate and inform my concerns, and it’s easy to share with others. Most immediately, I am reminded that I am/we are part of the significant work done by AAUW and so many other organizations. Together ,we do work that matters. This is what democracy looks like.

Working together builds hope and lifts spirits. The nominating committee will begin looking to fill the open Board positions soon. Please think about saying YES when contacted!

Defend Institutions.
“It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well… Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about… and take its side.” from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder, 2017.

“When we all help each other out, when we stand together, we are stronger together.”
– Hillary Clinton



A Hopeful New Year

by Andrea Hansen, AAUW Branch President
January 2024, from “The Current”

We are halfway through our 2023-24 program year and the mid-semester questions to my WGS100 students surfaced for me.

What do I know now that I didn’t know before?
What do I want to explore further?
What do I want to always remember?

Taking a moment to reflect on the knowledge gained, questions raised, and particularly meaningful experiences can equip us for what comes next. 2024will be a tough political year with a high stake presidential election in the U.S. and in many other countries. Defining what matters, affirming what we’ve learned, and celebrating accomplishments and gifts shared can help ground and center us. Here are my answers. I’d love to hear yours.

What I know now:

I know about the incidence of anti- HMoob violence and the biases in reporting (Sept), the labor involved in creating and promoting standards and evaluations of learning (Nov), and how learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion comes when we engage in unlearning what we’ve internalize about ourselves and others, as individuals and as a society (Dec).

What I want to explore further:

There is such expertise present in our membership and at work in our committees, programming and projects. I want to learn more about who’s here: your hopes and dreams, experiences and talents, interests and passions. Our recent BOD Work Session opened with: “Tell us something most people (here) don’t know about you.”

What I want to always remember:

Our December meeting stands out for me. The “Mix-It-Up” seating was a stroke of genius which also required some risk and openness. Judging from the buzz, folks embraced the opportunity and new conversations happened. Our common commitment to building education equity for women and girls brings us together. It is the strength of our relationships and the sense that our individual stories, interests and talents matter that make us effective, now and for the future. Plus – it was a lot of fun!

At the end of the program, Silvana read the letter she received from WI Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos. This, too, took some courage and willingness to be vulnerable. Speaker Vos presented his rationale for holding funding from the UW-System until diversity, equity, and inclusion programs are defunded. As she read this long letter, it was obvious that feelings of indignation were spreading through out the room. Silvana then shared what it meant to her, as an educator, community member and citizen, to read opinions from this powerful man dismissing the work she does and the commitments she holds. As the meeting ended, the conversations did not. Committee chairs and individuals were beginning to formulate their next actions and strategies for this moment and the coming year. At this writing, the AIA Committee has met and plans are being made.

One thing more I want to remember for 2024:

The AAUW-La Crosse Branch has more than 100 years of experience of advocating for equitable and inclusive education and opportunities. This is what we do. It
is our shared expertise and continuous learning that make us effective. With 22 branches in Wisconsin and over 1000 local branches nationally, AAUW was made for times like this.

Have a Hopeful New Year!



Stepping Up

by Andrea Hansen, AAUW Branch President
December 2023, from “The Current”

Here’s the short story of how I became the AAUW-La Crosse Branch president: Someone asked me. I said yes.

On one level, any story of stepping up is essentially that simple. Being asked is the most common reason for volunteer involvements, as I understand. I think my quick “yes” surprised the Branch’s nomination committee. In sharing these reflections, as unremarkable as they are, I want to encourage you to say “yes” when your AAUW colleague asks you to join a committee or help with a project.

At the point of the ask, I hadn’t been long a member nor had I been active in committees. In my position as SSP director, I had partnered with AAUW for three WINGS programs, an AAUW La Crosse community program for women interested in going to school. I also knew how to apply for SSP grants and encouraged SSP students to apply for scholarships. I didn’t know much beyond these activities. I certainly didn’t know how things were done in AAUW. I did know that things got done.

A year as President-elect was helpful in filling in some gaps. I showed up more regularly for our Saturday meetings. I stepped up my involvement at AIA committee meetings. My understanding and appreciation of our Branch’s mission, work and reach grew. My anxiety about taking on an expanded leadership role did, as well. This wasn’t “the best time” in my life to add anything to my very full plate.

Getting to know our members helped quiet some of my fears. Our membership represents a wide range of skills and experiences that contribute to the success of our projects. We have creative and productive committees. It appears that that most members have stepped
up to serve on committees and hold leadership positions at some point or another, too. I count at least 11 past presidents from the past 20 years currently involved in AAUW-La Crosse.

The many generous and kind promises of assistance and support took care of the remaining anxieties. Despite their work demands and caregiving responsibilities, health concerns, moves and other uncertainties, I saw individual members hold space for AAUW and leadership roles. They gave me the confidence to move forward, that I could ask for help and help would appear. That was the clincher! Maybe the key is saying “yes” first when it comes to stepping forward with AAUW. You may find your anxieties and fears being addressed and lessened, too.

We all know that there is never the “best time” for community care work, and especially work centered on equity and fairness. The hard edges of life and the inadequacies of our systems, can extract a price for many who step into the difficult work of making change.

What I know to be true is that working with others to make life better is a form of mutual assistance. What makes life more equitable and life-giving for others is better for everyone, for you and our community. I don’t have to explain how the work of AAUW has contributed to more equity in opportunity, remedies and recourse for discrimination based on gender and its intersections, amplified voices that are ignored or forgotten in dominant culture.
Everyone benefits.

The other lesson I have learned, is that while there may not be a “best time,” to step into this work, any time is the “right time.” Gains in civil and human rights, progress in building equity and just systems, creating and protecting more democratic practices and institutions always face skepticism, backlash, organized resistance and attempts to repress change efforts. Progress is not linear or even welcomed by everyone. We are certainly living in a time that proves this historical truism. What this means, is there will always be an opportunity for you to join others to create, improve, and protect more sustainable and just ways of being human together. After 100+ years in La Crosse, I can say with certainty, AAUW will always be here to welcome and support you!

Showing up. Stepping up. Taking on. Making space. Saying yes is the simplest way to find what fits and stretches you.



Inspiring Activism

by Andrea Hansen, AAUW Branch President
November 2023, from “The Current”

Like you, being part of AAUW-La Crosse Branch provides me with an important channel for activism and organizing. As a predominantly white AAUW Branch, the work we are doing to learn and grow into a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming Branch is one of the best things we can do. I share the following example of an encouraging and inspiring community project from IA.

Yesterday, Jane Robinette, a dear friend from my Iowa State University college days sent me a link for the book launch of Racism and Resistance in Iowa, published by Past Present Future Publishing, and crowd-sourced on Indiegogo. Awriter and artist, activist and attorney-by-training, white and middle-class woman, Jane initiated this project as a response to the racist legislation that bans the inclusion of racism and sexism in teaching the history of Iowa and the U.S. in public schools.

Geared for teens and young adults, the tag line of the book is, “It may be illegal to teach the true history of Iowa, but that won’t stop us from learning it.” With intersectional feminism and anti-racism as a practice in her life, Jane began to seek out academics, educators, and community activists to build a collaboration that could best tell the truth and encourage change. Rich in diversity of background and experience, this project was led by more than 25 BIPOC academics, educators, community activists, and artists. For 2 years Jane shared with me small snapshots of this dynamic, challenging and empowering endeavor. Jane, somehow, has the ability to turn outrage and sadness into principled and creative action. That she is an artist and self-described introvert adds such poignancy and power to Jane’s way of being in the world.


October 2023 Newsletter:
Non-Partisan But Not Value Neutral

by Andrea Hansen
AAUW Branch President

Since June, WI Assembly Speaker Vos has promised no funding for needed raises for UW employees unless UW System and campuses dismantle their DEI programs and positions. The attacks leveled against the staff, faculty, and
researchers are mean-spirited. They are devoid of content
reflecting any real knowledge of this dynamic field, programs and best practices. It is lost on Speaker Vos and others that DEI initiatives, services, and scholarship have evolved overtime in response to the demands of students, parents, communities, workers, and employers. Of course, understanding the role of DEI in students’ learning and success isn’t the goal. As Wisconsin is second only to Tennessee in extremely gerrymandered electoral maps, students and many others are finding it difficult to have their voices heard.

Writing this column has been difficult. It is deeply disturbing to write about the attacks on all levels of public education. The links to the rise of extremism, the scapegoating of targeted groups, the hollowing out of democratic institutions and the obscene concentration of wealth and power are obvious. Being the director of SSP in the Department of Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies helps me to see the manifestations of these large patterns up-close-and- personal. The harm to our present and future students is real. Dedicated faculty and staff are affected. There are consequences for the misrepresentation and disdain for DEI, the scholarship and practice, the values and experiences that inform it. There is no way to dismiss this conflicted situation as merely or acceptable “politics.” A snapshot of “real college” under these conditions: I feel tears coming when talking with a student who can’t wait to have their own classroom as a teacher while letting me know how bad it was for teachers back in their home district. I hear from SSP student parents who are amazed that “someone like me” could ever attend a university, while they share their worries about keeping their car in working condition and finding childcare. I think of the students who share, with considerable relief, that they’ve finally found a place of belonging at college.

Targeting DEI programming is calculated to protect the very systems House Leader Vos and other politicians deny exist. Many students understand this, especially the students from historically underrepresented groups. They know their race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, age, immigrant status, and/or other identities can and do shape the conditions of their families’ lives and their own. College provides the support, structure, conceptual tools, and practice to help deepen understanding of self and society. DEI services, programs, and activities are critical.

My question for Mr. Vos: Where is the downside in acknowledging the rich diversity in our communities and state, promoting inclusion and belonging, and working for equity and fairness in education and all areas of our common life?

AAUW has responded to the backlash to hard won progress and backsliding on core values in our 140 year of advocacy and organizing for equity and belonging. We know that democracy and a just system require constant work to maintain. I encourage you to contact Rep. Vos: or 608-266-3387, Toll-Free: (888) 534-0063 and your State Assembly representative (info in the back of the directory). If you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for AAUW’s Two Minute Activist:

AAUW and La Crosse Branch DEI resources:

To see the DEI programs, services, and initiatives at UWL:

Data Wonk: Wisconsin Ranks Among Four Least Democratic States

A study on the importance of “Belonging”

Responses of pre-service teachers:

Diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners push back on attempts to demonize their work