Affiliate Group of the Week #13: George Washington University Secular Society
February 22, 2013
Julie Mankowski, president of the George Washington Secular Society, is a student leader to watch! In just a few months as leader, she's helped build an active and engaged student group on the GWU campus. Julie is a regular blogger for CFI On Campus' The Course of Reason, and her group will be hosting Nate Phelps, ex-member of the Westboro Baptist Church and currently works for CFI–Canada.
First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What’s your “atheist/secular conversion story,” if you have one?
My name is Julie Mankowski and I am a sophomore at the George Washington University studying Political Communication. I was never raised with a religion and have lived my life as a stout atheist.
How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you to create the organization?
I am the founder and president of the George Washington University Secular Society, which was officially founded in September of 2012. Upon my arrival to GW and discovering that there was no secular student organization of any kind, I was set on establishing one as soon as I could.
What is your group’s name? How did you decide on that name?
We are the GW Secular Society. We chose the word "secular" as opposed to "atheist" "freethinkers" or "agnostics" because we wanted to be able to include Humanist Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or even Christians who also believe in the separation of church and state and tolerance towards people with different beliefs.
How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
We currently have about 130 members. We hold many speaking events, ranging from paleoanthropologists, to Catholic Friars, to authors, to speak to our group members. We also have awareness events such as Ask An Atheist day and Darwin Day.
As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you’re most proud of in the past year?
We are most proud of being able to book the renowned Nate Phelps to speak at GW despite the fact that our group is so new. We also are proud to have accumulated well over 100 members with only a few months of existence.
How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
CFI on Campus has by far been our closest ally since getting started. They send us incredible resources and the staff is so friendly and helpful. I am also honored to be permitted to submit blog posts to update the secular community on what GWSS has been up to. I fully intend to continue our relationship with them in the future, particularly with co-hosting speakers and events.
Do you have anything else you'd like to add? What is your vision for the secular movement?
I greatly look forward to continuing to find the best ways to expand the secular movement on a college campus. This has been a learning experience for us all and already, we have made an impact. There is so much more to be done and so much we are excited to accomplish.
About the Author: Sarah Kaiser
Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.
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