Self-described as the “quirky, passionate, social work graduate student you never knew you needed until now,” Marissa Wollard will represent Cal State San Bernardino at the world’s largest “Feminist Camp” in New York City in January 2017.

Wollard, a graduate assistant in the Santos Manuel Student Union Women’s Resource Center, was one of four student assistants from across the country offered a scholarship to attend and lead the Soapbox Inc. feminist speakers’ bureau.

Growing up in what she herself has called “a bigoted household,” Wollard did not become knowledgeable about feminism until she began working at the WRC. “I always knew I wanted to be involved in activism because it was always something I was passionate about,” said Wollard. “That’s what led me into the master’s of social work program; I wanted to be an activist.”

Wollard was in class when she first learned about the Soapbox scholarship, and could not believe what had happened. “I’ve been wanting to go there for years!” Wollard said. “I honestly can’t believe it; I never win anything. It really shows all the love and support I have around me. I get to network with people and I hope it will help expand my career.”

Rosemary Zometa, associate director for programs and communications at the Santos Manuel Student Union, recalled an earlier conversation she had with Wollard. “I asked her what would be her top choice conference if the Santos Manuel Student Union could send her to one. She shared that for many years she had her eyes set on the Feminist Camp.

“I encouraged her to look into it, do some research and we would later determine if she could attend,” Zometa said. “Marissa applied for an internship that sponsors her registration and lodging expenses. We at the SMSU and the Women’s Resource Center are fortunate to have such a great advocate be part of our team. Marissa is dedicated to women’s issues and empowering all females. We are honored to have Marissa represent CSUSB at the Feminist Camp.”

Wollard also aims to create change within the Lesbian, Gay, Queer, Transgender community. “I want to be a therapist, especially for the LGBT community, because a lot of therapists are not qualified,” said Wollard. “I just feel that I have a lot of insight on that, and I have other LGBT people in my family. [It] grew from my personal experience of being queer and (experiencing) sexism; it was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that this is real!’ Everyone has their own experience.”

“Marissa works hard to advocate for women and ensure that the programs coming from the WRC are intersectional in nature,” said Raul Maldonado, an SMSU Pride Center graduate student assistant. “She is by far one of my favorite co-workers, and it isn’t just because she’s my best friend.”

Scheduled to graduate in June, Wollard is an inspiration to those around her. “I’ve been hearing from my cohort that I’m a fire starter. One of my professors in my undergrad said that nothing is going to stop me and that I’m resilient, and I am. I hope to bring a lot back from Soapbox and integrate it into everything.”

“As long as I’ve known Marissa, she’s always had her focus on feminism throughout her grad career and I’m not surprised she won,” said Emily Erwin, an SMSU Women’s Resource Center student assistant. “She’s going to flourish in NYC.”

Currently interning at a local rehabilitation center, Wollard has implemented what she has learned into program planning for the student union. “Next quarter we will host Coyotes for Recovery, a Narcotic Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous event,” she said. “We’ve never had that before and there’s a large population for that. There are lots of stigmas involving substance abuse; I feel passionate about that. I didn’t know that until I interned there.”

Guided by her many mentors at CSUSB, Wollard has grown and created a legacy on campus. “Don’t discount your accomplishments or passions because that’s what is going to make you successful in life,” she said.

Since 2006, Soapbox has produced Feminist Camp, an immersive conference dedicated to deepening understanding of feminism as both a theory and a practice. Former campers have gone on to establish careers as midwives, lawyers, human rights activists, writers, and more — many crediting Feminist Camp as a turning point.

The SMSU Women’s Resource Center provides a supportive place for women at CSUSB, where diversity is respected and celebrated. Its purpose is to encourage women by providing services and programs that enhance their college experience and help them achieve their fullest potential. The WRC is committed to addressing sexism and discrimination in all its forms to create a more just environment.