One student’s inspiring story of how she brought the Miss Representation movement home…
Liesel Schmader, a Junior at Miami University in Ohio, is a young person who gives us hope. Smart and extremely motivated, she carries the self-confidence and talent of a woman poised to do big things in this world.
Last fall she organized a hugely successful Miss Representation event at her school, and we recently had the chance to ask her how she managed to find the time and resources (in between classes) to make it all happen.
Miss Representation: We were so impressed by your ability to organize and raise the funds for a screening at Miami University of Ohio, primarily through your own volition. What inspired you to take on this project?
Liesel: I saw the trailer last year, and that’s what sparked my interest. I was really empowered by the trailer, and watched it over and over. After seeing it I wanted to spread that message to others so that they would have the same feelings I did.
MR: What was the first step?
Liesel: I just went on missrepresentation.org, found the education section and then contacted the production company ro*co films to discover how I could become involved. We discussed the option of hosting a screening and they also brought up the opportunity to bring Ms. Newsom to campus.
MR: So once you realized the cost and logistics, how did you go about making it happen? Have you done anything like this before?
Liesel: I had never organized anything this large before. I loved doing it. I started by thinking of organizations and departments on campus that would be related to and interested in supporting Miss Representation. I contacted places like The Women’s Center, Women’s Business Department and Women’s Gender and Sexuality studies, and sent everyone the trailer.
I was able to garner some interest and kept corresponding with them – eventually some of these groups signed on. We were fortunate enough to get plenty of support for bringing Ms. Newsom to campus. I continued to meet with quite a few people, sending e-mails to chairs of departments, presidents of organizations – telling them about Miss Rep, explaining how it was relative and why it was important/significant to bring to campus. I stressed why our University needed exposure to this.
All total I spent about two months getting sponsors for the event.
MR: Once you had this interest, what was your strategy for actually planning such a large event?
Liesel: First thing I did, which I thought was really important, was having a representative from each sponsor be on a planning committee. It was seven individuals, including myself, and from there I would distribute tasks on a weekly basis. A lot of the tasks were promotion based.
For instance the Panhellenic Council (Greek Life office) had representatives attend all the chapter meetings to make connections with the presidents. Women in Business, which was another sponsor, made the event mandatory for their women. They also took charge in making promotional materials – posters, flyers and postcards. We used the design provided by Miss Representation and modified it with our own information and posted those around campus.
MR: What else did you do to spread the word in the weeks leading up to the February 7th event?
Liesel: In early January we started online marketing – we made a Twitter account (@MissRepMiami) and a Facebook event, and I was really active in maintaining those. The planning committee needed some more time to design and create the posters, and there are some campus regulations around flyers, but we started putting posters up about two weeks in advance of the event. We also ordered a large poster to be framed throughout campus.
We appeared in a lot of newspapers and blogs before and after the event, as well as on the local television station. I was either contacted or I contacted newspapers directly to get this press.
MR: Tell us about the event itself. How did it go?
Liesel: It was a fantastic turnout. The room seats about 300 and it was at full capacity – and this was a public event – and actually we had to turn people away. I’m hoping to have another screening in the fall for those that didn’t get to see it, and a lot of people have already contacted me about co-sponsoring that, which is wonderful.
There was a moderated discussion and Q+A in addition to the film screening. I led the discussion – came up with most of the questions ahead of time, and asked the planning committee for some too.
MR: What was it like seeing the film amongst all of your peers at an event you had put together?
Liesel: Being around others who were affected by the film changed the way that I viewed it. There were gasps in the audience. And that definitely affected me – made me feel even stronger than I did when watching it alone. I also felt more inspired and I was really pleased that others saw what I saw the first time. It made me love what I was seeing more.
Has this experience changed you in anyway? The message of Miss Representation resonates with me now more than I thought it would. I think every single day I’m fully conscious of things going on in the media and society. I now unconsciously notice things in the media all the time and I’m always using my media literacy skills. I think it impacts me in my classes, in my decisions – even my personal decisions.
I think that the more exposed to all of the things Miss Representation points out I am, the more I realize how much society needs to change. I would like to be a catalyst for that change. Because it’s really scary to see peers of mine buy into that culture – it’s dangerous. I’ve tried to maintain being a good influence and representation of the message of the film.
Personally, just leading the whole event, I developed as a leader. In leading the planning committee I had to make a lot of big decisions on my own – not always having an advisor to run it by. Miss Representation really encouraged me to not have any doubts in my dreams and all the things I’ve desired, and to just go after it.
MR: Are there specific dreams or goals that you now feel more empowered to pursue?
Liesel: Like I always wanted to go into law and have a desire to go into politics, and I think because I have this awareness from Miss Representation now, I’m very confident about doing those things.
MR: What was the number one thing that helped you pull this off?
Liesel: I think just the support and diversity of support from all of our sponsors, female peers, and female administrators at the University really helped make this a success. Because Miss Representation has such a strong message and because the film is so appealing, it really took off with my peers and the administrators and from their it just grew. So I really give a lot of credit to them.
Follow Liesel on Twitter @lieselmschmader, and @MissRepMiami
While she is uniquely skilled, Liesel’s story is one that is being replicated by Miss Representation advocates at universities and schools across the country.
You can organize your own event today! If you’re at an educational institution like Liesel, contact kristin@rocofilms and visit this page for more information. If you’re hoping to hold a broader community event, just fill out this form to get started!