We all have role models. Whether it’s your parents, an older colleague or a prominent person in the community, there’s always someone we look up to in one way or another.
College of Public Health and Human Sciences ’14 MPH alumna Elba Moise is working to become just that person – and she’s doing so by positioning herself in various leadership roles and advocating for gender and racial equality.
“Our lives are continuously impacted by decisions being made,” Elba says. “I strive to become an influential force in helping to make decisions that promote the advancement of women from all identities.”
While an MPH student focusing on International Health, Elba served as president of the International Health Club, a Graduate Student Council representative and a guest lecturer in Public Health classes. She interned in Haiti, attended conferences and a was a National Student Advisory Council member for the American Association for University Women (AAUW) – a community that participates in projects related to gender equity and women’s advancement on campus.
With interests in equalizing access to education, increasing the number of women leaders among students, faculty and staff, and reducing or eliminating sexual harassment and discrimination based on intersecting identities – such as race, class, gender and ability – Elba says she aspires to create a more inclusive and equitable climate in the workplace and on university campuses.
“There are not enough women leaders who look like me or come from my same ethnic/racial/cultural background,” says Elba, who identifies as an Afro-Latin@ Haitian and Salvadorean American.
A highlight of her experience at Oregon State was the opportunity to interview Chelsea Clinton during a National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. She was one of 10 AAUW members selected from across the nation to attend the conference and asked Chelsea questions related to women in leadership, global leaders, women working together, education and overcoming challenges and obstacles such as media scrutiny.
“Every single question and response resonated with me,” she says.
One of those responses particularly stood out. When asked what challenges she sees that prevent women and girls from reaching leadership roles, Elba says that Chelsea responded that it is hard to imagine what we can’t see, so it’s important for those who are leaders to continue because we will never know who we will inspire one day, and that we’re limited be a ceiling of imagination.
“The ceiling of imagination resonated with me,” Elba says. “I felt my experiences were validated by hearing her responses. It meant the world to me. It empowered me. It made me think about how we need to continue to stand in solidarity with one another to thrive. All women, all girls.”
“I strive to become an influential force in helping to make decisions that promote the advancement of women from all identities.”
To continue her efforts, Elba recently visited the Dominican Republic to expand on the work she began during an internship in college. She’s working with the undocumented Haitian community, particularly women, children and youth, and plans to return again this summer.
“Having done work abroad in the Dominican Republic and working not just on health sustainability projects, but also anti-oppression and empowerment work with the community, helped me realize the power of our voices and activism,” she says. “It also gave me a different perspective of leadership in other communities, as well as challenges one may face. I realize how crucial it is to continuously recognize my positionality and the power dynamics and how it needs to be part of the dialogue we have when working with others.”
Expanding on her mission to become a prominent woman leader, Elba recently began her first year as a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Washington (UW) where she’s focusing on multicultural education and educational policy/higher education. She works in UW’s Center for Teaching and Learning and serves as a facilitator for the Pipeline Project Teaching the Movement in Seattle – a class that aims to provide opportunities for students to understand their own social memberships related to power and privilege and analyze their own positionality to the civil rights movement.
“I think all of my experiences throughout life have been stepping stones and have helped me get where I am at,” she says. “All of the women in my life have helped me get to where I am at now, and I hope to continue to be in solidarity with other women and continue to pay forward the support I’ve been given.”