The Pine - Winter 2020

The Official Publication of AAUW MN

In this issue

  • Notes from the president, Mary Ann Lucas Houx
  • Where is the state directory?
  • Mark your calendar
  • AAUW funding update
  • MN State Public Policy and advocacy
  • Local branch public policy update - St. Cloud
  • Strategic Plan update
  • Meet your state board, part II
  • State board contact information
  • Next state board meeting
  • Nominations - Your state board needs you
  • National Conference for College Women Student Leaders update
  • Branches around the state

Notes from the State President Mary Ann Lucas Houx

The MN State Board officers, over the years, have a project called Board to Branch. State Officers call Branch Presidents and ask about the activities of the branches, what needs the branches have, and how the State Board could be of assistance. At our Fall board meeting, we spent time discussing the responses from the branches. One of the common requests was for assistance in programs or speakers which included sharing of programs and compiling a list of speakers, dates, and topics. Using zoom, many programs could be available to large and small branches. Our Board agreed that the sharing of programs was important and that it could be a good project to explore. At our January 30, 2021 Board meeting we will discuss how the State may be able to provide financial assistance for the sharing of programs and speakers available to all members. Our VP of Programs, Deanna Ensley, has been in contact with the Minneapolis Branch President, Diane Boruff as they identify the possibilities, advantages, and constraints of the program and speaker sharing.

We are fortunate to have three members from Minnesota serving on the national level who are familiar with the finances of AAUW.

Please read the information provided by Karen Kirkwood, Dave Kirkwood, and Jan Bensen. It is good information when an AAUW member asks, “What do we get for our dues?”

Where is our state directory?

The directory information is gathered by the state administrative assistant. The response to branch presidents, current or past, has not been very productive. If your branch has not send in your list of current officers, please do so immediately.

Please send your officers and contact information to Mychal Lucas at

Mark your calendar with this exciting news!

The Saint Cloud Area AAUW Branch will be celebrating 100 years in 2022! In honor of this milestone they will be hosting our next state convention on Friday, April 29 - Saturday, April 30, 2022! Look for more details coming in April 2021.

AAUW Funding Update

Submitted by Dave Kirkwood

What funds AAUW?

Over 91% of AAUW annual income is provided by past member contributions that have been invested, current member contributions, and dues. The remaining 9% is provided by a variety of sources including corporations and foundations.

The following graphic provides a breakdown of AAUW’s income budget for FY2021.

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Why was the “Greatest Needs” Fund established?

This fund allows AAUW to respond rapidly, in our communications and advocacy, to critical issues affecting women as they emerge — whether it’s a new threat to Title IX, an opportunity to partner with employers, or the dawn of a social justice movement like #MeToo. When donations are not restricted to fellowships or specific projects, we have the dollars we need to pivot as the national dialogue shifts. Our AAUW work is recognized by national media outlets such as the New York Times, CNN and Fortune.

Greatest Needs is also what fuels our groundbreaking research and effective advocacy work to pass fair-pay laws and other key equity legislation.

Giving to Greatest Needs is a great way to ensure AAUW’s continued visibility, relevance, and sustainability. On the donation form, please select “Use my gift where it’s needed most” to contribute to this important fund.

What do I, as a branch member, get for my dues?

Annual dues account for about 20 percent of AAUW’s annual income. They help to sustain and grow AAUW’s programs and work that advances equity for women and girls. A combination of dues, donations, and corporate and foundation funding is critical to supporting AAUW’s salary negotiation workshops, groundbreaking research, advocacy efforts for equity, STEM education, campus leadership programs, and so much more.

AAUW MN Public Policy and Advocacy

During a recent ZOOM call with state public policy VPs, individuals shared successes from the November 3rd election. (See below)

In many respects, we are lucky to live in a fairly progressive state. But we should be ever vigilant to the actions moving through our special sessions and leading to the next regular session in 2021.

When I send State Net Smart Searches, review the bills being circulated. If any signals a concern, contact me immediately. If there is proposed legislation from your district Representative or Senator you believe impacts women and girls, contact me immediately.

Often, we only see legislation when it is nearly too late. Thus, you should attempt to get to know your MN district legislator regardless of their party affiliation and especially before the 2021 regular session begins. Provide them AAUW Public Policy Priorities (see link below the article to read in full) and inform them they extend to state governance & legislation. Keep them vigilant to the issues that impact women and girls.

Below are successes seen in this national election. Let's take note!

  • Florida voted to raise the minimum wage to $15
  • Nevada is the first state to protect marriage equality in its state constitution
  • Washington’s proposition to establish comprehensive sexual health education passed (for the bill text, click here)
  • Colorado passed paid family & medical leave AND opposed a prohibitive abortion ban
  • Virginia ended gerrymandering
  • Puerto Rico voted for statehood
  • Pennsylvania saw several state advocates for paid leave and pay equality bills to win their races

Ideas for future initiatives and actions

As your VP of Public Policy, I have some ideas for future initiatives and actions to keep you informed. Using social networking and technology creates a strong channel for communicating AAUW Public Policy Priorities. Taking a cue from SPPC training sessions and the new national website, I envision an AAUW-MN Public Policy program that will invigorate members and promote advocacy through:

  • selected features on the Public Policy page of the state website; such as hotlinks to Public Policy webinars, video resources, and tools;
  • continued sharing of State Net Legislative tracking postings to branch chairs;
  • continued communication with AAUW MN branch public policy chairs/contacts;
  • creating & hosting AAUW-MN State Public Policy webinars; ZOOM meetings (or other online communication meeting formats) with branch chairs

What's next from AAUW National?

Robin Lucas, AAUW National Grassroots Advocacy Manager, provided some ‘post-election’ steps for states and state branches to pursue as Public Policy action and advocacy.

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Act - Take action on the most pressing policies

As we enter a long winter holiday season, Americans need help now. Quickly rising COVID-19 cases, the detrimental and disturbing impact on women’s ability to participate in the workforce, and the chilling silence from our elected officials has left this country in dire need of relief.

We must now hold our officials accountable. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act seven months ago without subsequent action in the Senate. Revisions to the bill this fall maintain key provisions from the original bill, including additional funding to bolster education and childcare, and offer a path forward to keep the country safe while stimulating economic recovery. Support our communities in need and take action for the HEROES Act today.

Learn - Dig deeper into the issues that matter

In spite of the pandemic, Americans showed up in record numbers at the polls—across race, gender, age, and zip code—to elect many diverse women to positions of power. Notably, Kamala Harris became the first woman, Black American and South Asian American elected to the second highest office in the land. Now is the time to shift our attention to advancing the rights of women and girls in the United States.

  • Reach out to newly elected officials and remind them of your priorities. Revisit the 2020 Voter Issue Guide to direct questions on health care, voter access, paid sick and family leave, equal pay, college affordability and campus sexual harassment and violence.
  • This year underscored the importance of investing in voter access to help every American cast their ballot in safe and accessible ways. Contribute your voice in support of passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which includes critical voter protections.

As we look to move policy issues forward in the coming year, quick action from our Action Network is crucial. Ask your friends and family if they’ll join you in engaging with policymakers by signing up for our Two-Minute Activist tool.

Engage - Share the important work we're doing

  • View the recorded webinar from AAUW CEO Kim Churches and Irasema Garza, the senior advisor to the AAUW Latina Policy Initiative, to hear about a new collaboration on the status of Latinas and the impact of the pandemic on their economic security and wellbeing.
  • The 2020 update to The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap is now available. It focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s economic security, the projected rate of change for the closing of the gender pay gap based on race, and the work that must be done by policymakers and employers to accelerate that narrowing.
  • AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund, created in 1981, has provided millions of dollars to balance the scales of justice for people working toward gender equity through the legal system. We recently streamlined our application and grant-making system to provide more timely and targeted support to plaintiffs facing sex discrimination in employment or education. We also launched a new opportunity: Clinic Campus Outreach Grants are available to law school clinical programs in California and New York that address legal claims regarding gender equity, particularly in the education and employment realms.

Local Branch Public Policy Spotlight

St. Cloud: At 98, the branch continues to work on mission-based projects

Submitted by Jan Benson

Saint Cloud: We are fortunate to be AAUW members, an organization that is 139 years old and still working to support policies of gender equity and economic security. The Saint Cloud Area (MN) Branch is 98 years old and continues to work on mission-based projects and support national objectives.

The AAUW public policy report given at branch board meetings will be shared with the general membership each month in the News Bulletin (which is also posted on the website). If you hear about national policies that match your interests or concerns, you will have the opportunity to become involved. An example is the Two-Minute Activist. In October alone, AAUW weighed-in six times on national policy issues. The website provides comprehensive sources of information that all members can access.

In order to make lasting policies or improvements, we have to include people from every political persuasion and build a working relationship with them. AAUW, at the national level, continues to work on the causes we believe in. AAUW is non-partisan and that advantages it in pursuing public policies for the benefit of all women and girls. Some ongoing issues that must be addressed are health care, economic security, and the economy.

The magazine, The Week reported on November 6, 2020, that in August and September alone, 865,000 women left the workforce, citing daycare center closings, and K-12 students attending online-only classes. The NY Daily News said in an editorial that the pandemic “may have erased a generation’s worth of hard-won progress in closing persistent gender disparities in pay.”

It takes funds to do effective policy work and operate the organization. AAUW has a

$16 million budget. Member dues pay only about 23% of the AAUW total annual budget. Contributions and donations to AAUW come in every year from members and partners; about 39.2% of the budget. Scholarships and stipends are funded by endowments restricted for that purpose.

Currently, members pay $59/year in national dues. In 2021, the national dues will increase by $3, in 2022 by $5, and in 2023 by $5. The increase is being done in small steps, to be sensitive to members on fixed incomes.

There will be changes recommended at the national level to allow more individuals and organizations to join AAUW in order to support our initiatives.

Jan Bensen serves on the Saint Cloud Area (MN) Branch, Board of Directors, Chair of Public Policy, and on the AAUW national finance committee.

AAUW MN Strategic Plan Update

Submitted by Lisa West

AAUW MN Board members are working on a draft Strategic Plan for the State of Minnesota. It took Board retirement for me to finally sit down and devote time to developing the draft document for Plan Committee and Board consideration!

Whereas a B.S. in Geography – Land Use (or Urban Planning) is my degree, I’ve written a wide variety of strategic plans for local governments and my current employer, Dakota County. I want AAUW MN members to know this, to be assured that I am qualified and have a solid education, background, and experience in writing strategic plans.

The best place to start, with this Plan, came from advice I received from Kim Churches, during one of her visits to Minnesota over a year ago while I was still State President. Kim recommended that we start with the National Strategic Plan and choose one or two focus areas from that plan to concentrate on in Minnesota.

I took Kim’s advice and Board members will discuss the outline of an AAUW MN Strategic Plan on January 23, 2020. Once we have a significant draft to share, we’ll release it to the State membership for Branch review and comment, likely within the first quarter of 2021. Following a specified review and comment period, the Board will consider approving the Plan, tentatively during the April annual meeting.

Please watch for your opportunity to comment on the AAUW MN Strategic Plan.

Get to know the state board a few members at a time

Dave Kirkwood

Retired male. While working at Unisys Corporation, led engineering and manufacturing groups with highly diverse, cultural backgrounds in Minnesota, Utah and California.

In the past, served on several national committees including Audit, Membership, Social Media, Branch Resources, Fundraising, Nominating and Executive. Currently serving as team lead on the AAUW National Advancement Committee.

Currently serving on the AAUW of Minnesota, Homeowner Association and Tech Savvy Saint Cloud Minnesota boards of directors.

Linda Blaisdell

Linda has been a member of the Minneapolis Branch of AAUW since 2008. She has served as branch Secretary, Program Development Assistant, and member of the Nominating Committee. She currently chairs the Bylaws Committee and is Secretary of the Scholarship Board.

Linda received her B.A. from Carleton College and M.A. from United Theological Seminary. Professionally, she has been a social studies teacher, legal secretary, paralegal, and church administrator. Prior to retirement, she served as secretary for the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Beth Nienow

  • Rochester branch
  • AAUW MN Treasurer
  • arts advocate
  • retired librarian

Contact Information for the State Board Members


The next Minnesota State Board meeting will be held on Saturday, January 30, 2021 on Zoom!

The AAUW of Minnesota Board Needs You!

Our vision -- Equity for all - Will you get on-Board?

Joining the AAUW of Minnesota State Board will connect you with terrific members from around the state who work to promote AAUW’s mission—Gender Equity and Economic Security. We are tenacious and trailblazing – advocating for women and girls since 1881 and into the future! It’s time for you to share your talents!

We are still seeking candidates to serve on the state board of directors for the VP Public Policy, Treasurer, and Nominating Committee positions:

· President-Elect 2021-2022 (Candidate is Jan Carey, Hibbing Branch)

· Vice President Program 2021-2023 (Candidate is Deanna Ensley, Grand Rapids)

· Vice President Public Policy 2021-2023 (Vacant)

· Treasurer 2021-2023 (Vacant)

· Nominating Committee, 2021-2022 for 2022 elections (3 members and 1 alternate) (Vacant)

The members of the Nominating Committee are Gail Glashan, Hastings Branch; David Kirkwood, St. Cloud Branch; Beth Nienow, Rochester Branch, and AAUW MN Treasurer; and Teresa Sagen, Ely Branch. If you have questions, please contact a member of the Nominating Committee.

All you need to apply is a strong belief in the mission of AAUW and a willingness to learn and grow. Rewards for state service include leadership development, camaraderie, and teamwork with other leaders. An applicant may be self-nominated, nominated by your branch or branch board of directors, or any individual.

The nominating committee will present a slate of candidates to the membership by email no later than 60 days prior to the AAUW MN annual meeting.

Please give serious consideration to applying for one of these state board positions. These leadership positions provide a great opportunity for you to share your talents with AAUW of Minnesota. We need you. Together we can make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

Thank you!

Contact any Nominating Committee member to express your interest in a position as soon as possible.

Gail Glashan 651.253.3578

David Kirkwood 952.891.2876

Beth Nienow 507.287.8647

Teresa Sagen, Chair 218.235.8349

National Conference for College Women Student Leaders aka NCCWSL is pronounced Nick-Whistle

Submitted by -

Gail Glashan

AAUW of Minnesota, NCCWSL Chair

The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders is sponsored by AAUW.

Each year, AAUW invites hundreds of college women from around the country for three days of leadership training, inspiration, and networking at NCCWSL. With more than 10,000 attendees over the conference’s history, it is the premier leadership event for college women. Skill-building workshops, expert lead panel sessions, Women of Distinction speaker awards, and endless networking opportunities make NCCWSL a life-changing conference. NCCWSL is scheduled for May 26–29, 2021, College Park, MD.

In light of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, plans are at the mercy of public health recommendations for our health and safety. Perhaps it will be a virtual convention, but for now, it’s a wait and see during these challenging times.

Wait-and-see…meanwhile enjoy this video of a NCCWSL experience, from beginning to end, by college student attendee Britta Johnson.

Britta Johnson NCCWSL 2019

Branches around the state...

St. Cloud has been busy

Savvy Teens - Seminars for Career Success

The Saint Cloud Area (MN) Branch is developing an initiative to help area high school girls make important decisions about their future education, training, and skills development. It's called,

Savvy Teens - Seminars for Career Success. There will be six seminars currently scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, June 7-8, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. The seminars will be 45 minutes long and professional presenters will engage the students through interactive activities. Students who

attend all six seminars will be given a password to the branch website where they can access

the Savvy Teens page for pragmatic tools, tips, links, samples of resumes, college application letters, and more. This page will provide useful information whenever they need it.

The cost per student is $5 and registration will begin May 1, 2021. There will be a snack

and beverage break and each student will be given a Savvy Teens T-shirt. The Saint Cloud

Area (MN) Branch has been offering a day-long STEM event (TechSavvy) for middle school girls and scholarships for area college women students to attend a national conference (NCCWSL). Savvy Teens closes this age gap and will provide valuable resources for all area, high school girls, whether they chose post-high school trade, community, technical schools, or four-year colleges.

The American Association of University Women - Diversity Policy

In principle and in practice, AAUW values and seeks an inclusive membership, workforce, leadership team, and board of directors. There shall be no barriers to full participation in this organization on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, geographical location, national origin, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

For additional information contact: Linda MacLeod

Saint Cloud Program and the context of it

Hellen Lotara was supposed to be the speaker at the Saint Cloud Area (MN) Branch program, January 9, 2021. However, all programs and in-person meetings and activities were canceled due to the pandemic. The development and grant writing for Savvy Teens - Seminars for Career Success continues. The initiative will be scheduled based on health guidelines. Members have the chance to bring the mission to life by doing preliminary research online or by phone, now through January.

Hellen, affectionally known as "Mama Hellen", is attending St. Cloud State University to

complete her graduate studies. She works at a local travel lodge part-time and tells her

heartwarming and compelling story to numerous groups in the St. Cloud Area. She attended the branch program on Title IX in September and introduced herself to some of our members. Hellen has led the effort locally to raise funds for projects at her school.

Mama Hellen's School in South Sudan is making a profound difference in the lives of students, their families, and teachers. The toilet project at the school is finished and has benefited the entire community infusing a great sense of pride. Mama Hellen's School received the TOP SCHOOL AWARD in South Sudan when the students achieved the highest scores in the country based on standardized test scores!

Teacher Appreciation and Morale: Hellen Lotara traveled to South Sudan on November 25, 2020, to address three key priorities: The first priority was to express appreciation to the teachers and staff for their dedication and commitment. Many have been working without pay during the COVID-19 pandemic. The South Sudanese government shut down all schools in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Students had to resort to "distance learning." Lessons were broadcast on the radio, but Mama Hellen's School is in a very remote area where radio reception is weak and spotty. Teachers made home visits to assist students with their studies. Parents were not required to pay tuition when the school was closed which reduced the school's finances and strained the budget.

Prioritizing Needs: Mama Hellen's School administration decided to continue distance learning with the younger students. The older students, called "finalists," were allowed to continue to prepare for their exams, necessary to progress to higher education. They will live at the school until they complete their exams in March or April 2021. The administration has also identified the need for a number of important school projects including the purchase of solar-powered batteries, laptop computers for teachers and staff, funds for teacher salaries, and food and supplies for the live-in teachers and students.

Library for Mama Hellen's School: In 2012, Hellen met Rob Reukl, a Canadian businessman, who expressed an interest in building and stocking a library for Mama Hellen's School. Rob hopes to move forward with the library building soon. Hellen's previous experience as a senior official in South Sudan makes her suited to help Rob facilitate the project. Having a library would be a huge improvement for the school. We are very hopeful that Rob's project will succeed!

For more information about Hellen Lotara, see her biography.

Younger students participating in a graduation ceremony at Mama Hellen's School

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Ely has been very busy as well

Ely branch to improve the community to honor MLK Day

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18, 2021, is the 26th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

The MLK Day of Service inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to come together to serve their community. Individuals in all 50 states deliver meals, refurbish schools and community centers, and collect food and clothing. Volunteers also recruit mentors, support job-seekers, build homes and provide other services for veterans and military families, and help citizens improve their financial literacy skills.

Our community food shelf provides food to Ely and the surrounding community on the third week of the month. Perhaps the observance of this holiday is a good time to consider volunteering. Pam Ransom, AAUW member, and Food Shelf Board member can answer any questions you might have (

Ely Legal Advocacy Update

The Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’)

On November 10, 2020 the US Supreme Court heard two hours of oral argument over the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the fate of the Affordable Care Act. It is difficult to predict the outcome of a case based on the oral arguments alone, and the Court could rule in any number of ways. But the Justices’ comments and questions (particularly those of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh) about ‘severability’— whether the ACA can be upheld, if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional and thus severed from the rest of the Act—gave hope to the proponents of the ACA that the Act might survive. Whether a family has access to medical insurance is a crucial concern for American women. If the entire ACA is found unconstitutional, the result would be that 20 million people would lose their health insurance in the midst of a pandemic. A decision is expected before the end of the current term in the summer of 2021.

US Supreme Court Declines to Rule on Trump’s Census Order Excluding Undocumented Immigrants

On December 14, the US Supreme Court declined to rule on a case examining the constitutionality of President Trump’s order that excluded undocumented immigrants from the decennial census count. The unsigned opinion from the six conservative justices declared it ‘premature’ to decide the case ‘since it is riddled with contingencies and speculation that impedes judicial review’. Three justices declared President Trump’s proposed policy unconstitutional in a dissenting opinion penned by Justice Breyer.

While the Court’s ruling technically allows Trump to continue his plans, its practical impact may be limited since it is very unlikely that the Census Bureau officials will be able to identify and remove all unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment calculations before the incoming Biden administration takes office.

Excluding undocumented immigrants from the ten-year census has never been done before in American history. Never before has a census count required citizenship to be counted.

The decennial census determines how much federal aid goes to states—how many dollars a district is allotted in the federal budget. The census also determines congressional representation based on the number of people living in the state, and it affects the electoral college. Many worry that purging who is undocumented from the census this year will not be based on adequate, verifiable data, but on guesswork.

This census case is important to AAUW and to American women since it impacts our representation in DC and the financial aid our districts get. Stay tuned! Valerie Myntti, Legal Advocacy Chair