March 5, 2020
Amber Shaverdi Huston
Executive Director, NACA
Forty-two years ago, a group of women developed an idea – an idea to celebrate the power of women and the bold women who paved the way. Two years later, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed a national week to be observed in March and, seven years later, Congress passed a law denoting March as National Women’s History Month. In 2020, we celebrate Valiant Women of the Vote. Reflecting upon this year’s theme, I think about what that means to me – the act to vote, the choice to vote, the use of one’s voice, making the decision to be active.
Civic engagement was instilled in me by the women of my family. I was raised by my mother and surrounded by driven women who modeled community involvement. As a kid, I followed along to fundraisers, school events, humane society programs – you name it; I was the kid running around in the background. I assumed everyone helped out and everyone chipped in; it wasn’t until I was older that I realized not everyone had someone to guide them as my mother did me. There was no question of not registering to vote and no question about using my voice. As I matured, I also learned to appreciate the challenges the women in my family overcame (not unique to them) that I haven’t had. My family didn’t have plentiful resources, but man oh man, did they have grit. You could describe my grandmother as a pull-herself-up-by-her-bootstraps kind of woman – one of the first women to enlist in the US Marines! Life seemed to always hand her a new challenge; yet I never heard her or my mother complain about what they didn’t have or wished they would have had. As a mother, I hope to emulate my mother’s work ethic, determination and no-nonsense-and-make-it-happen attitude so my daughter feels confident.
I am appreciative of their grit. I am also incredibly grateful for all the other women who I don’t know and will never meet – the women who helped give me the right to vote, the women who created the equality platform (we have more work to do, but they’ve given us something to stand on), and the women who fought for education and human rights. Upon becoming NACA’s Executive Director, I learned I was the first woman in the role. I found that somewhat surprising, but it’s often easy to take a path for granted when it’s been paved by others. Most of my professional career, I’ve been the first woman or the only woman in the room and, in those situations, I channel the no-nonsense attitude of the women from whom I descend.
As we celebrate the trailblazers before us, our peers, ourselves, and the young women we hope will continue to make the world a better place, I ask that you join me in supporting each other’s growth, own your confidence, state your non-negotiables in life, and own who you are.
Purple is the internationally recognized color to symbolize women, while the combination of the colors green, purple and white is meant to represent women's equality. Wear these colors with pride and use them to shine a light on the work before us that needs our grit and determination.
Be bold, be brave, and break barriers,
Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE is the first female executive director of the National Association for Campus Activities. Shaverdi Huston has over a decade of association management experience focusing on transforming operations and people through project management, process design, strategy and assessment.