Each year on March 8, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on women’s accomplishments throughout history while knowing there is still progress to be made in creating a more equitable and inclusive world. On Cumberland’s campus, the Lady Birds student organization is a women’s empowerment group that celebrates female students’ successes and provides peer support for women as they navigate college.
In the fall of 2021, students Joely Ford and Clarissa Gadsey saw the need to create a safe and supportive atmosphere for women through nonreligious bonds of friendship.
“Lady Birds was born out of genuine advocacy for other young women on campus,” said Lady Birds President Joely Ford. “To fight and stand up for each other, to have each other’s back and to empower other women.”
As an active group, Lady Birds plan events both on campus and off campus as a way to keep their members engaged. This past year, Lady Birds hosted a Galentine’s Day party, a Christmas bake sale that raised over $100 for CU’s Student Life toy drive, a pumpkin patch excursion with pumpkin carving, homecoming activities, and trips to places like the Frist Art Museum in Nashville.
“My favorite memory is our Galentine’s event because seeing the smiles and laughter just sparked a warm feeling in my heart,” said Vice President Gadsey.
President Joely Ford remembers the first Lady Birds event which was held at the Women’s Health March in October 2021.
“Out of my whole college experience, going downtown with the girls to that [event] is going to forever remain one of my greatest memories,” said Ford.
In addition to having members of Lady Birds as a resource and a safe space for students to talk, Cumberland students now have access to several female counselors.
“It’s important that all of our students feel comfortable going to counseling,” said Dean of Students Stephanie Davis. “This is why Cumberland prioritized increasing diversity in our counseling office by adding several virtual female counselors.”
Girl Talk is a virtual group counseling session that takes place bi-weekly with counselor Sandra Fields. Both Ford and Gadsey are recurring faces and encourage their club members to attend as a way to promote personal growth and friendship. Students can also schedule individual sessions with a counselor.
“One of the most rewarding experiences of starting this amazing and powerful club with these women is seeing each of them grow and connect with one another and their smiles while doing so,” said Gadsey. “I believe other women would benefit in joining our club because, not only would they have Joely and I supporting and fighting for them in any way possible, but a whole group of strong women.”
Members of Lady Birds benefit, not only emotionally, but in tangible ways too.
On March 17, the Lady Birds will co-host a free self-defense class with the Lebanon Police Department in Baird Chapel from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Students can sign up here.
“It’s one thing to be a powerful woman, but it’s another thing to be a powerful and empowered woman, and that’s who the Lady Birds are,” said Ford. “We love and accept everyone and will always be voices for all of the women on campus!”
Lady Birds meet weekly in the LCC lobby every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon and can contact Clarissa Gadsey at 615-587-3518 or Joely Ford at 615-582-3259.
To schedule a counseling session with one of Cumberland’s counselors, please visit https://www.cumberland.edu/office-of-counseling-services/meet-our-counselors/.