With her diploma all but in hand, master of arts in interdisciplinary studies student Valencia Long continually uses the academic and personal support provided by her women and gender studies concentration to advance her career and pay her success forward through a nonprofit for young women.
Long transferred to George Mason University with a background in the fashion and beauty industries. She says the Women and Gender Studies Program is not a discipline she found, but one that found her. The program offered multi-track learning opportunities that have had a strong influence on Miss FancyPants, the nonprofit organization that Long has run since 2010, and even encouraged her to apply for a career position she would not have previously considered.
The company, Long explains, was primarily interested in someone with a human resources background. After studying the job description, she says she recognized it as an opportunity for her to sell the company on her skills, her passion, and what she would be able to offer.
“The Women and Gender Studies Program allows me to celebrate things that I’ve done and to not be afraid about the spaces that I’m entering into,” she says. With this instilled confidence, Long says she explained during her job interview that her multifaceted background brought many skills to the table, ones the company may not have even realized it needed.
Long was hired soon after her interview and now works as an instructor relations manager at Management Concepts, a workforce development company. Her primary responsibility is to track the company’s pool of more than 300 workforce development instructors and maintain a high standard of performance. She reviews instructor evaluations, manages policy, and follows up with any coaching or training necessary for instructors experiencing issues in or out of the classroom.
Long believes that her work in women and gender studies has enhanced her skills in understanding other people, respecting their values, and seeing where their opinions and positions stem from.
“I love understanding people,” she says. “I’m not always successful, but the Women and Gender Studies Program helps me explore that.”
Women and Gender Studies also influences Long’s work outside of Management Concepts. In 2010, she launched a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit called MissFancyPants, a self-esteem building program for girls ages 8 to 18. Inspired by Long’s own experiences in fashion and modeling, the program aims to help young girls celebrate their natural selves, see their natural beauty, and shed light on messages and images often seen in the media. Her goal is to teach young women that there is beauty in being brave. She wants all women to trust themselves.
“The Women and Gender Studies Program is 100 percent embedded into what I do,” Long says. “They celebrate everything I believe and provide a space to think about things differently.” She adds that her studies of feminist theory greatly influence her organization’s workshops and summer camps. Her peers in the program often provide timely and constructive feedback.
“It is important to believe that you are important. The Women and Gender Studies Program has transformative power. I will never be the same; my degree has already proven to be much more than a piece of paper. I am a change agent,” she says.
To learn more about Long’s nonprofit and its mission, visit missfancypants.org.
July 18, 2017