Skirt! scholarship recipient wants to give voice to unheard stories

Cora Webb intended on majoring in public health at the College of Charleston, but her sophomore year, she took an intro to women’s and gender studies class and decided to double-major.

The senior — a recipient of the skirt! magazine endowed scholarship that was established by our founder Nikki Hardin in 2012 — said she found women’s and gender studies intriguing because it called her to critique and analyze “stuff we are supposed to accept.”

She found that gender and women’s studies frequently intersects with public health because the questions of who gets access and resources and who has power to make decisions are all issues being debated in the public health system.

Cora, who is from Columbia, is energetic and inquisitive, and she seems to be involved in just about everything. The most important thing Cora says she’s learned in college is not to accept all the information that is given to her and “how to uncover the narratives that have been hidden.” She wants to give voice to the unheard stories. “That’s what really motivates me.”

She’s a member of the Women’s Health Research Team, which is presenting research on illegal abortions from the 1930s to the 1960s at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference at Clemson this month. She’s on a Gender and Sexuality Equity Center committee that is planning programming for Gender Equity Week, also in March. And, later this month, she’s leading students from the Center for Civic Engagement on an alternative spring break to New York, where they are partnering with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center to study disparities in public health that affect marginalized communities.

This semester, Cora is co-facilitating a freshman course on social justice dialogue, where she’s helping teach students to dissect their beliefs and have conversations about difficult topics. And she’s a resident assistant at the Stern Center, the campus’ student hub.

Two days after Cora graduates on May 12, she’s leaving on a college-led trip to Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, where she’ll study the Holocaust, and in particular Nazi Germany attempts to control reproduction.

She graduates at a time when society is re-examining some narratives, especially those related to gender, that have been kept quiet for a long time.

“We are fighting back about the devaluing of women’s knowledge. We are working with uplifting women’s voices and addressing a redistribution of power,” she says. “It’s uplighting that you get to be a part of it, but it’s also tiring.”

Kris De Welde, the director of women’s and gender studies at College of Charleston, says she met Cora when she visited the campus to interview, and that Cora and students like her were part of the reason she chose to accept the job.

“If these are the students that I get to teach, that they will be in my life, and I will be in their lives, then I am sold,” Kris says she thought. “Where do I sign?”

“She is wicked smart. She is engaged. She stands in her power, and it is refreshing,” Kris says. “It’s inspiring and I’m going to be sad to see her go, but I know she is going to continue to do amazing work and make change happen in everything that she touches.”

Cora is still trying to identify exactly “where her puzzle piece goes” in life after college. She might run for office some day. She’d like to be in a position to change policies. “The thing I know is true is no matter where I go, there needs to be more women.”