Tulane staffer heads LA women's group

June 29, 2000

Judith Zwolak

As a biologist, Eileen deHaro, medical research specialist at the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center, knows what it takes to succeed in the competitive arena of scientific research. As incoming president of the Louisiana State American Association of University Women, deHaro says she hopes to help other women and girls achieve their academic and professional goals.

"I'm very interested in promoting math and science education for girls," deHaro says. "It is one of many goals shared with Girl Scouting. After eight years as a Girl Scout leader, I switched to activism with AAUW. I guess I became a more mature Girl Scout."

The association is a national organization that promotes education and equity for all women and girls. It also comprises two important organizational units: the AAUW Educational Foundation, which funds research on girls and education as well as community action projects, and the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund, which provides funds and a support system for women seeking judicial redress for sex discrimination in higher education.

Founded in 1881 as the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, the association welcomes members of either gender who have a four-year degree from an accredited university or students who are working toward a degree. Tulane is an institutional member of the AAUW, and Beth Rubin, associate professor of sociology, is the university's representative to the organization.

deHaro is not the only Tulane staffer to hold the statewide president's position. Annette Doskey-Williamson, also a medical research technician at the primate center, was a previous president of the association. deHaro, who takes her post at the beginning of this month, has been active in the organization for more than five years and has served as president of the Covington-Mandeville branch of the AAUW.

Her activities over the years include organizing a local "Sister-to-Sister Summit," where teen-age girls from St. Tammany Parish gathered to talk about everything from sex to schoolwork. Data collected from the Louisiana summit appeared in a national research report published by the organization's educational foundation. Through the association, deHaro has worked in voter education and assisted with the update of the sexual harassment policy for St. Tammany schools.

This fall, the Covington-Mandeville branch of the association also is planning a "Transitions Workshop" to help women with ambitions of attending college or finishing degrees. This branch also was one of only 14 nationwide awarded funds to start a pilot program aimed at encouraging more young professionals to join AAUW.

As state president, deHaro says she wants to increase the number of AAUW scholarships and grants to Louisiana residents and institutions. These programs include professional development grants and Eleanor Roosevelt teaching fellowships.

"Last year," says deHaro, "no grant or scholarship was awarded to Louisiana. If there is one thing I do as state president, it will be getting more grant applications from Louisiana."

Some of these grants are targeted toward higher education, such as an award that honors progress in equity and a university scholar-in-residence program.

"I'd like to see Tulane apply for some of these grants," deHaro says. As she starts her new position, deHaro continues lobbying the Mattel Corp. to offer a balanced mix of games and educational, math and science software with their "Hot Wheels" and "Barbie" computers geared towards young boys and girls.

She says the company offers more educationally oriented software for computers marketed to boys and more fanciful, entertainment-oriented software for those marketed to girls.

"The girls' computer has five fewer educational software programs and two fewer math programs than the boys' computer," she says. "I've already written letters, but I'm going to continue pursuing this through AAUW channels."

The quintessential volunteer, deHaro has been representing the primate center on the Tulane Staff Advisory Council and is currently the Staff Advisory Council election secretary. deHaro says her AAUW activities take up much of her spare time. To attend national and regional meetings, which she rarely misses, she uses vacation days from her Tulane job.

But it's all worthwhile to deHaro, who says her work to help advance the achievements of women and girls is self-affirming. "It gives me a lot of positive self-esteem," she says.

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