March 2011

March 2011

PAWs - Promoting Awareness and Wellness

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.

March 2011 - Women's History Month

The History of Women's History Month
March marks the annual celebration of Women's History Month. It is a time to reflect on the great accomplishments of women in our nation's past, a reminder of the struggles endured by a traditionally underrepresented population, and an opportunity for all women to feel empowered by the endless possibilities for achievement in their lives.

The celebration of Women's History Week, which eventually became Women's History Month, can be traced to the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women. In 1978, they initiated a celebration of the contributions of women in history during the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women's Day. By 1981, the United States Congress issued a Joint Congressional Resolution, identifying a Women's History Week. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Representative Barbara Mikulski of Maryland cosponsored the resolution.

In 1987, the National Women's History Project successfully petitioned Congress for the expansion of Women's History Week, and Women's History Month was officially recognized.

In celebration of Women's History Month this year, Ashford University focuses on the theme, Our History is Our Strength. As part of our celebration, we have highlighted Ashford University student Agaba Nassi Bisengo, whose story exemplifies this theme.

Women of Our Time
In their recognition of Women's History, the Smithsonian Institute presents a photo exhibition, Women of Our Time, which is comprised of photographs taken from the National Portrait Gallery. To view the online exhibit, click here. From Amelia Earhart to Rosa Parks, from Janis Joplin to Emma Goldman, these captivating images present a number of historical figures that have had a positive and far-reaching impact on the recognition and celebration of women in American history.

Many other women should be recognized for their significant accomplishments and contributions to our nation's history. Women like Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor, or Alice Paul, who fought as a leader in the Women's Suffrage Movement. Minnijean Brown Trickey was one of the Little Rock 9 who led the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. There's also Congresswoman Bella Azbug who worked as a leader in the Women's Movement of the 20th Century. These names represent only a few of the fascinating women in history. Challenge yourself to expand your knowledge of the accomplishments of women who may not be familiar to you!

Did You Know?

  • Harriet Tubman not only led the escape of more than 300 slaves, but also served as one of the most important spies for the Union Army during the Civil War.
  • As first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt traveled the country to address the concerns of American workers, as well as those of women, children, minorities, and the poor. She also wrote a regular newspaper column.
  • Rachel Carson is considered the Mother of the Environmental Movement. With the publication of her 1962 book, The Silent Spring, she raised awareness about the environmental effects of pesticide use.
  • In support of the child labor movement, Mary Harris Jones led a 125 mile march from the mills of Pennsylvania to Long Island, ending at the vacation home of President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Sally K. Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978; in 1983, she became the first woman in space.
  • The current Secretary of State of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has worked as an advocate, attorney, and senator, and has served as the First Lady. In total, she has spent over four decades in public service.
  • Melinda Gates, along with her husband Bill, started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote equality for all people. Every year, the foundation donates billions of dollars around the world.

Agaba Nassi Bisengo - Ashford University Student Success Story
Agaba Nassi Bisengo was born in Congo-Kinshasa and was raised by her grandmother in Ugandan refugee camps. "My grandmother and I had to move several times to survive the hardship of the refugee camp life." One such move brought the pair to Rwanda shortly after the Rwandan genocide. A year and a half later, in May 1996, thirteen-year-old Agaba moved from Rwanda to the United States. "Moving to the US not only marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, but also gave me a number of valuable opportunities. For the first time in my life, I was able to be a citizen of a country. I also had the stability to pursue an education."

Agaba's American education began in the seventh grade. She not only discovered a deep love of learning, but also found that she was quite successful in the academic environment. "I was able to finish my middle school and high school studies with honors." After high school, Agaba decided to continue her education, and in May 2006 she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a minor in Economics, from Messiah College.

With an undergraduate degree in hand, Agaba wanted earn a graduate degree, but she simply did not have the financial means to do so. She began researching scholarships and kept looking until she found the Project Working Mom Scholarship. "To win the scholarship, I had to write a one-page essay that described my past story, and my present and future goals. I submitted my application, and six months later I received an invitation to be on the Tyra Banks Show. On the show, I learned that I had won a full-tuition scholarship toward a Master's degree at Ashford University, including books. It was an amazing experience! I am forever grateful that I was chosen."

Like most adult and distance learners, Agaba initially struggled to balance school and her busy life, but she soon found her stride. "By the second class, I had organized myself and my priorities. I came to think of myself as a superwoman because before I thought I couldn't manage it all. Some credit goes to my husband because he helped around the house more often, and my son kept me inspired."

In October 2010, Agaba graduated with her MBA, Organizational Leadership specialization. Today, she lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and three-year-old son, Mihigo. She works part-time at Nyack College, and is applying for full-time jobs. She hopes to begin a career at an International Development Organization or in the field of US Foreign Affairs.

Upon reflection of her accomplishments, Agaba says simply, "It is possible to achieve the dream that has been burning in your heart. Education is the key to a better life."

Additional Resources
Additional readings on Women's History Month can be found through the National Women's History Project at and through the following websites:

2011: Our History is Our Strength. (2009). Retrieved February 3, 2011 from National Women's History Project website,

About the Foundation. (2011). Retrieved Febraury 3, 2011 from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website,

Biographical Data: Sally K. Ride. (July 2006). Retrieved February 3, 2011 from NASA website,

Secretary Clinton's Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2011 from US Department of State website,

Women of Our Time: Twentieth-Century Photographs from the National Portrait Gallery. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2011 from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website,

Women's History Month. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2011 from Library of Congress website,