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Charrise Alexander

Charrise Alexander currently works as a lawyer, litigating in DC as an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, but long before attaining this position, Alexander was a student in GWST at UMBC and involved in the WILL Program. Alexander recalls, “One of my favorite experiences was in my first few weeks at UMBC – sitting in a meeting room filled with women that would become the first members of WILL.” WILL is now a long-established program at UMBC, through the hard work of Alexander and her peers. “I remember learning advocacy, civil disobedience, and learning real sisterhood. I am still friends with many of those women that were in that room.” Frankly, the coursework is relevant and critical. It not only helps you in any career field, but it also helps you grow as a person. The courses I took in the GWST program, and the relationships I formed with other members of WILL, helped me breakdown in to tiny pieces all of the ways I viewed the world, and myself, and allowed me to examine each one. I graduated with the confidence, and the ability, to think critically about myself in the structures of society. I gained the knowledge, resources, and network to continue to be an agitator for change and an ally for others.

Her first job after graduation was for a large commercial real estate trust. It might not seem immediately clear how GWST coursework would be relevant, but for Alexander, it was. “Because I leaned about community organizing in the GWST program, I was able to run the company’s first ever tenant rent relief program when the market crashed. I met one-on-one with tenants. I helped them organize into business improvement committees to better address their needs. In turn, I took their concerns to the president of the company to see how we could retain those tenants and get them what they need.” Concepts learned in classes and practical organizing skills learned in WILL helped prepare her to make a real difference in that first job.

In law school, Alexander continued to see her work shaped by GWST. “I wrote journal articles about black women’s natural hair as protected form of expression under the First Amendment and why congress needed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as a critical step in protecting womyn and our trans and non-binary family,” she remembers.  Alexander continues: “In my current position, I helped found the firms first Employee Resources Group, focused on LGBT+ employees and staff, and I have taught webinars about diversity in the workplace.” Alexander’s work continues to echo beyond the organizing rooms at UMBC and into the wider community.

When asked why students should consider a major or minor in GWST, Alexander was clear: “Frankly, the coursework is relevant and critical. It not only helps you in any career field, but it also helps you grow as a person.” Regardless of career plans, GWST teaches the critical thinking, writing, and doing skills necessary to make a real difference. “The courses I took in the GWST program, and the relationships I formed with other members of WILL, helped me breakdown in to tiny pieces all of the ways I viewed the world, and myself, and allowed me to examine each one,” Alexander says. “I graduated with the confidence, and the ability, to think critically about myself in the structures of society. I gained the knowledge, resources, and network to continue to be an agitator for change and an ally for others.” And we are so glad she did!