Empowered, Together

This year, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Poway-Peñasquitos Branch is celebrating 45 years of supporting and empowering fellow women. The organization brings awareness to critical issues such as unequal pay, violence, sexual assault, healthcare access, and work-life balance, encouraging women to break down these barriers in pursuit of equality. The branch also strives to further unify women, whether it be by financially supporting the education of local women and girls or offering a variety of interest groups and clubs for members. Read along to learn more about how the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch comes together in their mission to support women and girls in the local community.


Q&A with the AAUW Poway-Peñasquitos Branch

What does AAUW stand for?
American Association of University Women.

Is AAUW a nationwide organization?
Yes, AAUW is a national organization with approximately 170,000 members that span virtual and local communities worldwide. The national website is www.aauw.org.

Can you give us some of the history behind the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch?
The Rancho Bernardo Branch had already been formed at the time, but there was a cadre of women who saw the need to have another branch in Poway. They added Peñasquitos to widen the area so they could look for women in those communities. The branch is celebrating its 45th birthday this year!

How has the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch developed over the years?
When the branch started in 1971, we were all in our late twenties and had just graduated from college with new families and new jobs. All of us saw the value of getting together once a month to hear different speakers and socialize with other women who had bright ideas and the desire to do something for the community. We started out giving a small scholarship to graduating seniors at the high schools in the Poway Unified School District. Now each year we give three Re-Entry Women’s Scholarships to women who have decided to go back to college and finish their degree.

What is AAUW’s overall mission?
AAUW’s mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

Which communities does the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch serve?
The Poway-Peñasquitos Branch serves Poway and Rancho Peñasquitos, however, we welcome members from the surrounding communities.


What programs and services does the branch provide?
Our branch has a general meeting once a month with speakers discussing current politics, social change, education, and various stimulating topics. We have had programs over the years that reach out to the community to help the working woman learn about new job opportunities and find ways to balance her busy life. Our branch also has many interest groups that cater to the needs of the members of the branch. We have three book clubs, a hiking group, and a gardening group, as well as a bridge and a travel group. This year we are starting a new group called Great Decisions, which is a nationwide discussion group addressing the social and political problems of the world.

Do you hold events throughout the year?
Our branch will be holding its 20th Annual Cover to Cover fundraiser May 13, 2017 at the Maderas Golf Club. Guests listen to authors share about their books and their writing processes, and take part in a silent auction and opportunity basket drawing. The money raised from this event helps sponsor sixth to eighth grade girls for Tech Trek and three Re-entry Women’s Scholarships.

What communities do your members hail from?
One third of our 117 members are from Poway, a third from Peñasquitos, and the rest from the surrounding communities of Scripps Ranch, Escondido, Valley Center, Ramona, Carmel Valley, Rancho Bernardo, and Santaluz.


Does the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch have any exciting new projects?
An exciting new development for our branch is the AAUW partnership with San Diego Miramar College. AAUW has partnerships with many campuses across San Diego County, and San Diego Miramar College is the most recent addition. The Poway-Peñasquitos Branch recently held a voter registration event on campus and is planning future events to benefit the students at San Diego Miramar College.

How can someone go about joining the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch?
Membership is open to anyone holding an associate’s (or equivalent, e.g. RN), bachelor’s, or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university. The annual dues include membership to the national AAUW organization, AAUW California, and the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch. Any person can join for a discounted price when attending a general program. Membership is also open to undergraduate students enrolled in a two-year or four-year accredited educational institution. Students who attend a university or college that is a partner of AAUW (such as Miramar College) can join AAUW National and receive a free e-student membership. Upon graduation, e-student affiliates receive a free one-year membership to AAUW as a graduation gift. Undergraduates can also join the Poway-

Peñasquitos Branch and AAUW California. Graduate students receive a discounted national rate for the first year only and can also join California AAUW and the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch.

When and where does the branch meet? Are meetings open to the public?
Our branch meets at the Ranch Bernardo Swim and Tennis Club on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public. To find out about the program for the month go to our website: www.powayarea-ca.aauw.net.

Why are organizations like AAUW important for their communities?
Mission-based organizations like AAUW help educate the public and contribute to the community. AAUW local programs benefit Tech Trek sponsorships and scholarships for local students. AAUW nationally brings awareness of issues such as unequal pay for women, violence against women, sexual assault in the military, work-life balance, and access to healthcare. AAUW programs encourage women to aim for roles in student government, boardrooms, U.S. Congress, and the White House. AAUW has research and online tools to advocate for work-life balance, urge members of Congress to protect fair pay, or teach recent grads to negotiate their first salaries in programs such as Work Smart and Start Smart.


Tech Trek: “A STEM Camp Built for Girls, by Women”
Tech Trek is a camp specifically designed to help middle school girls develop interest and confidence in math and science, with middle school teachers and female STEM professionals serving as instructors. AAUW California has hosted Tech Trek camps since 1998, with 10 camps held on college campuses across the state every summer.

How can someone contribute to the mission of the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch?
The best way to contribute is to join us in our mission to advance equity for women and girls. You can join the branch and participate in our mission-based activities and interest groups or make a financial contribution directly to AAUW. The AAUW email address is connect@aauw.org. The phone number is 800-326-2289. AAUW is also on Facebook and Twitter @AAUW. The national website is www.aauw.org. You can contact the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch by emailing aauwboard@gmail.com. The branch website is www.powayarea-ca.aauw.net. We also seek corporate sponsorship for our Tech Trek and scholarship programs.

What are the branch’s short-term and long-term goals?
The Poway-Peñasquitos Branch goals this 2016-2017 year are to raise funds to support sending six girls to Tech Trek, to offer three Re-Entry Women’s Scholarships, and to contribute to AAUW Funds for national support of grants, research, and developmental programs. Long-term, our goal is to continue to grow our membership and look for new ways to contribute to the local community.

If you could grant one wish to the Poway-Peñasquitos Branch, what would it be?
Our wish is to expand membership and for the branch to be a local resource for everyone who wishes to support the AAUW mission.


What do you enjoy most about being a part of AAUW?
Not only do we work hard but we have fun too!

Is there anything else that you’d like 92129 Magazine readers to know about AAUW?
Not only are we involved with local branch and community activities but our members work with other AAUW branches in San Diego through the San Diego Interbranch Council of AAUW. Two of our members currently hold IBC leadership positions: Kris Downey is IBC President and Pam Meyer is IBC Vice President.

At-A-Glance President

Name: Harriet Gerza
Community: Rancho Peñasquitos for 30 years
Education: Liberal arts degree from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Family: Husband, two adult sons that attended PUSD schools, granddaughter, and Jackson Brown the dog
Interests: Reading and travel; recently visited Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Tanzania, China, and more
Favorite Aspect of AAUW: Most memorable part in being president of the branch is representing our branch in the community and at state and national events. I have loved working on branch projects like Tech Trek and Re-Entry Women’s Scholarships. I also have loved the social activities and friends made through AAUW.


AAUW Poway-Penasquitos Branch

President: Harriet Gerza
Email: aauwboard@gmail.com
Website: www.powayarea-ca.aauw.net
Meeting time: Second Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Meeting location: Rancho Bernardo Swim and Tennis Club

Interest Groups

Three book clubs
Hiking group
Gardening group
Bridge club
Travel group
Great Decisions (New)

AAUW Poway-Peñasquitos Branch By the Numbers

Founded in 1971
117 current branch members
Poway women make up 1/3 of branch
8 interest groups, including 3 book clubs
Branch meets once a month