Skip to main content

Search NYU Steinhardt

Community Spotlight: Women's History Month


Women from across NYU Steinhardt share their advice, their hopes, and what Women’s History Month means to them.

Rebeca Higareda

Student, Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Rebeca Higareda smiles in the NYU bookstore.

Tell us about yourself! What is your connection to NYU Steinhardt?

My name is Rebeca; I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico. My family and I moved to the US in 1993. I was a 12-year-old Spanish native speaker. I was an undocumented immigrant until I turned 29, when I was able to qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival). I graduated from high school, attended community college, and had to take a long hiatus to move on to higher education. I received my BA from San Diego State University in 2017, while holding two jobs and commuting over 50 miles. I did not qualify for any financial aid and had to live at home. I was also taking care of my elderly parents. My BA was a labor of love, focus, and persistence. I not only received my diploma, but graduated debt-free. I worked a few years as a Speech and Language Pathology Assistant before I applied to graduate school. I am now a graduate student in the program of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt. I am 41 years old, and looking forward to receiving my Master’s degree, so I can fulfill the growing need of bilingual and bicultural Speech Language Pathologists in the US. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month means that us women are finally receiving the recognition we deserve for the contributions to science, arts, politics, and so many other fields in which women often get pushed to the side. I’m proud to be an immigrant woman of color and be part of a group that will contribute to fields, like Speech and Language Pathology, where we are minimally represented.  

What is one hope or plan that you have for the future?

One hope I have for the future after I graduate from NYU Steinhardt is to influence my students to know they have what it takes to be successful. I want them to know that the past doesn’t dictate your future. I want to be a visible reminder that when some cards may be stacked against you, such as your gender, your race, your accent, your legal status and age, goals are still reachable. I want my experience to show specifically to the women behind me and around me that we are just as capable as anyone else, that we need to support and challenge each other, and that the risk is worth taking even for the smallest of opportunities.

What advice do you have for young girls or women today?

If I could give my young self a piece of advice it would be to stop comparing myself to others. As a young immigrant of color, I was extremely insecure about myself. I often doubted that I was good or smart enough to achieve anything, and felt that the resources available to me were much more limiting than for some of my friends. Through the years, while sharing my story with friends and colleagues in the field, which is female-dominated, I have had the fortune of being the recipient of their enthusiasm, support, and guidance. There have been many women in my path that allowed me to complete my Master’s. I want to continue giving back to other women the fuel that helped me to achieve my goals. 

Justine Kelly-Fierro

Associate Director of Student Leadership and Engagement

A selfie of Justine Kelly-Fiero, posing with the NYU bobcat mascot.

Tell us about yourself! What is your connection to NYU Steinhardt?

I'm Justine Kelly-Fierro (she/her), and I currently serve as the Associate Director for Student Leadership and Engagement where I develop our online orientation, plan welcome events and activities for new students, mentor our Undergraduate Student Government, and more. I'm a proud double violet (Gallatin '07, Wagner '10), held work study roles at the LGBTQ Center and the Bronfman Center, and was a Resident Assistant at Third North.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Recognized on March 8th, International Women's Day was organized by the Socialist Party of America in honor of the 1908 garment workers' strike here in NYC, and so for me, Women's History Month is a time when I can examine how I find meaning in my work, in my relationships, in my communities, and where I can recommit to volunteering in solidarity with causes that I believe in.

What is one hope or plan that you have for the future?

This Women's History Month, I'm learning about ways I can take more action against the violent anti-trans and anti-drag legislation that is being introduced across the US. I believe that all people, of all genders, deserve to have their basic needs met, access to healthcare and housing, and take part in the opportunities that are meaningful to them. Misogyny and sexism impact all of us, women, men, and non-binary people, trans and cis alike, and my advice is to build relationships and power against oppression in all forms, knowing that our struggles are intertwined. We are stronger together in making the world a better place where everyone can thrive.

A headshot of  Sarah Fitri, a smiling Indonesian woman in a headscarf.

Tell us about yourself! What is your connection to NYU Steinhardt? 

My name is Sarah Fitri. I am a proud Indonesian, a woman, a daughter, and an educator. I currently work for the Peace Corps in Indonesia as a Program Specialist in TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language. My biggest passion has always been education, technology, and people's welfare. I am passionate about helping every kid to receive a quality education and every teacher to be the best version of their professional selves. I am a big fan of chocolate everything, and I love comics (I built a small library at home dedicated to my comics collection). I like to travel, cook traditional food, swim, and interact with neighbors in my spare time. I've got three lovely cats: Koko, Kakak, and Kutem, and a small garden at home which I am trying to keep alive. I am an NYU Steinhardt alumni (Class of 2017) and a founding member of Steinhardt's International Programming and Advocacy Committee (IPAC).

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women's History Month for me means a celebration, a reminder, and an opportunity. It is a celebration of the greats and the contribution of women in history, society, and life at large. It is a reminder of the pride, the joy, the struggle, and the life I have, identifying as a woman. And it is an opportunity to raise awareness, spread information and opportunities for girls, and educate society about the important roles women have played throughout history, and the respect and equality women deserve for all that we have contributed to mankind.

What is one hope or plan that you have for the future?  

Believing that education has all the power to empower society and inspire changes in people, I have been joining and contributing to different education, social, and youth initiatives. It is my big dream and hope that every child receives equal opportunities for quality education. I want to see a world where every child can go to school and be able to dream of what they want to be with ease.

What advice do you have for young girls or women today? 

That you can be what you want to be and do what you want to do. No one is able to stop you from dreaming, achieving, and being YOU. So, go at it and do whatever you strive to do. Coming from a highly patriarchal society, I used to be conditioned that my role is simply to be in the kitchen and be a mother to my children. But I was fortunate that my mother kept encouraging and supporting me to go and get my education as high as I want; to achieve anything as much as I can. I hope that every young girl and woman finds that inspiration and that ally who supports them in their journey to live the life that they dream.

Rahil Briggs 

Alum, Counseling Psychology (PsyD '04)

A headshot of Rahil Briggs.

Tell us about yourself! What is your connection to NYU Steinhardt? 

I completed my graduate degree (PsyD in Child Clinical/School Psychology) at NYU Steinhardt; I graduated 2004.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?  

Women’s History Month is a celebration and commemoration of women’s contributions to family, community and society. It is also a time for reflection. As it comes on the heels of Black History Month, we are reminded that we historically – and often still – relegate some groups to the “other,” even when they’re half the global population (as women are), and that we need to be much more intentional about how we support those who have often been neglected or suppressed, so we can help all people realize their potential.

What is one hope or plan that you have for the future? 

That we value women in all the ways they choose to express themselves. That women have equal rights, equal pay, equal medical coverage, EQUALITY. I know that’s more than one hope, but they run deep! As far as a plan, at my organization, HealthySteps, we plan to reach over 1,000,000 babies, toddlers, and their families annually by 2032, and for women who choose to be mothers, this plan helps ensure that we’re creating a world where all families with young children thrive.

What advice do you have for young girls or women today?

Know your worth.

Rachel Northrop

Alum, Teaching English, Grades 7–12 (BS '10)

Rachel Northrop, holding a mug, smiles in front of a bookshelf full of books.

Tell us about yourself! What is your connection to NYU Steinhardt?

I'm a Steinhardt Teaching and Learning alum; I graduated with a BS in Secondary English Education in 2010. I taught in NYC's District 79 for several years, completed a BA in English at City College in 2016, and worked as a freelance reporter for the coffee industry from 2012 through 2020. I am currently working on a PhD in English at the University of Miami, where my research focuses on narratives of value transfer in 1970s US literature and where I teach Writing Studies.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Because I study literature, whenever I consider history I turn first to what people were writing and reading. To me Women's History Month means reading works by women, whether that's Pauline Hopkins' novel Contending Forces from 1900 or Lucille Clifton's 1972 poetry collection Good News About the Earth. Literature offers a time capsule of what was on people's minds and what they were working through, and the more I read and reread works by women writers, the more I find perspectives that look back to traditions and ancestral knowledge and forward to propose creative ways out of systemic oppression, violence, and extraction. This is especially true of Black Feminist writers of the US 1970s – Lucille Clifton, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, and many more – who wrote across genres of poetry, drama, essay, and fiction to map possible paths towards liberation. Women's History Month, I think, is a time to sit with these notes our foremothers left us – their poems, their music, their dances, their gardens – and think about how we, as women right here right now, want to shape the history of our time and place. 

Women's History Month is also a time to show gratitude for the dance teachers with whom I've studied, women who embody stories, histories, rhythms, and memories and transmit these through performance and classes. Dance is an art form where the body is the medium and the message, and the women I've had the privilege of dancing with hold an immense amount of history in their bodies. Kat Wildish, Quenia Ribeiro, Karen Arceneaux, Brigid Baker, and Marisol Blanco are all living embodiments of cultural traditions that span the globe.

What is one hope or plan that you have for the future?

I recently had my first child, and my dearest hope for the future is to be a fearless mother who will help my son navigate the world as it is as well as guide him to be part of changing it for the better. My lifelong hobby and passion is dance, and one ongoing plan is to continue learning from master teachers to one day be able to pass these movements and meanings on to the next generation.

What advice do you have for young girls or women today?

Listen to the stories your mothers, aunts, and grandmothers tell; read, write, dance, and plant things! I suggest those activities because they are what I love to do, and over the years I realized how much time I've spent doing what other people or institutions wanted or expected, rather than being confident in what came naturally and pursuing what called me. To young women and girls, I would say that it is only you who can hear your persistent inner voice, only you who knows what grounds your soul, and so you must keep listening to and trusting what you feel and know deep down. (And I think reading works of literature, like those by the authors mentioned above, can only bolster and nurture that confidence!)

Related Articles

An Entrepreneur Markets a Smarter, Safer World for Women

Net Supatravanij (BS ’16) designed an app to help women experiencing domestic or street violence find safety.

NYU Female Founders Fellowship Launches with Four Steinhardt Fellows

A launchpad for female founders, the program provides participants with training, mentorship, and grants of up to $50,000.

Alumni Spotlight: Jade Kearney (MA ’20)

For Learning Technology and Experience Design alum Jade Kearney (MA ’20), design is a vital tool in the quest for diversity.