Campus Program Associate, Vanessa Rivera, caught up with our first Chapter Leader of the NeW Year, Maria Teresa Fernandez, President of NeW at the University of Wisconsin at Madison!
How did you first hear about NeW?
I first heard about NeW through my mom when she came across the application for the Young Women’s Leadership Retreat. I was just about to go off to college and we thought it was the perfect way to strengthen my political beliefs before heading to such a liberal campus in the fall.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you became involved in NeW.
First off, I’m a Sophomore Nursing and Spanish student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (which just goes to show that no, you don’t have to be a Poli-Sci student to become involved in politics on campus!) and I am the President and Founder of the NeW chapter at UW. If you were to look for me on campus, you would probably find me hanging around the beautiful Lake Mendota or studying at a local café. Coming from a very conservative city, moving to Madison was a huge change of pace for me. When I first got here last fall, I definitely felt like I was alone in my beliefs, especially during the rush of the election. After attending the YWLR for the second time, I really gained the confidence that I needed to go ahead and create a chapter so that other girls wouldn’t feel the way I did.
What appeals to you about NeW?
I honestly love so many things about NeW, it’s really an incredible organization. What really sets it apart from other conservative groups is that it really stresses how strong and independent conservative women can also be empowered! NeW provides such a supportive web of amazing people who all share the desire to change the world, one woman at a time. They helped me feel empowered to step out of the closet and become more expressive of my own views instead of hiding out for the conversation to end.
What made you want to start a NeW chapter?
When I arrived on campus and I saw how much support liberal women received here and how different it was from the support that conservative women got, I really decided that something had to be done. I had a small group of conservative friends that I had just met one way or another around campus and together we established and began to cultivate our NeW chapter. It has already blossomed into such an amazing organization and I can’t wait to see what lies in the future for us!
Why is having a NeW chapter on campus so important to you?
Having a NeW chapter on campus is extremely important to me because conservative women have to realize that they aren’t alone on campus. It’s so easy to become caught up in the harsh opinions of your professors and other students and lose sight of the things that you believe in. There are so many more conservative women than we think, and NeW helps bring that concept to the forefront. It provides an incredible environment for us to come together and grow as both students and as individuals.
How do you benefit from being a part of NeW? What is the best part of being involved with NeW?
The biggest thing that new has given me is the confidence to speak up for what I believe in. Honestly, that is an incredible benefit of being in the organization. NeW really gives you countless opportunities to speak your mind and grow in your enlightenment. The best part about being involved with NeW is that they are constantly allowing me to further connect with other amazing conservative women on campus that I would have never met otherwise. These girls have really become close friends of mine and I am so grateful to NeW for them.
What makes you the most excited about being a part of NeW?
The future! We are a brand new chapter here at UW and are just starting out, there is so much more in store for us and every other chapter nationally. I am so excited to start growing our chapter and really getting the word out there because I believe that soon we will be a big presence on campus. I don’t know exactly what is in store for us, but I know that it will be big!