A Boise State University student started her own scholarship for women pursuing engineering, law and medicine studies after a professor made derogatory comments about independent women.
Ally Orr, a Vancouver, Wash., native set to graduate from BSU in May 2022 with a degree in marketing, says it was “beyond hurtful” to hear Scott Yenor, a professor of political science at BSU, dismiss women like herself while speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“Our independent women seek their purpose in life in mid-level bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection and marketing,” Yenor said at the November 2021 event. “They’re more medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome than women need to be.”
To Orr, who has spent the last four years of her collegiate career studying marketing, Yenor’s words cut like a knife.
“It was shocking to hear such a sexist message come out of a professor’s mouth that teaches at my university,” she told In The Know. “It is always a shock to hear limiting words from those you believe are supposed to be cheering you on. Each time he negatively said ‘independent women,’ I flinched because my whole life I was taught to be independent and go after anything I wanted to.”
When the initial sting of sadness subsided, Orr says she replayed footage of Yenor’s speech multiple times to ensure she hadn’t misinterpreted him. Eventually concluding that she heard him correctly, Orr says her sadness turned to anger, which she channeled into a plan of action.
Eagar to meet with the BSU advancement services office to start the formal process of creating a scholarship, Orr says she was initially met with apprehension by school officials.
“I was excited and thought I would be accepted with open arms, but I was met with uncertainty because of my age and the university’s odd position in this matter,” she shared. “Boise State doesn’t often have 22-year-old donors walk into their office eager to open a scholarship, so I was not taken seriously at first.”
Orr then began fundraising for her “Women in STEM, Medicine, and Law Scholarship” in order to reach the $25,000 minimum threshold to open an endowed scholarship at her university.
After sending out over 600 emails to staff and faculty members on the evening of Dec. 2, Orr says she woke up to a slew of donations and supportive messages. By 10 a.m. on Dec. 3, Orr estimates she’d already raised $2,000. By the end of that same day, the amount raised was over $10,000.
“Many staff and faculty used the GoFundMe fundraiser to leave comments after they donated about their frustrations with Yenor and express their support for women students at BSU,” Orr recalled. “I remember crying a couple [of] times that day out of pure joy and realizing how important this scholarship truly is.”
Three days later, on Dec. 5, Orr had raised the prerequisite $25,000. But donations only picked up from there.
At the time of publication, Orr’s GoFundMe has raised $169,250 and counting, including generous support from the Boise community, plus hundreds of other individuals all over the U.S. and even some from other countries.
Orr has since created a line of “Meddlesome Merch,” through which she has sold an estimated 150 items, emblazoned with the saying that started it all, and raised about $700 for the scholarship fund.
And while she may not have gotten the support of Yenor, her university certainly sees Orr’s independence in a different light. In a statement to Good Morning America, BSU spokesperson Mike Sharp applauded the student’s efforts.
“Boise State supports student scholarships and is grateful for Ally’s efforts to coordinate and promote women in STEM through the creation of the newly established scholarship,” he told the outlet. “The university is thrilled with the outpouring of support from our community, including Ally, and the financial commitment of our donors who have given to such an important and critical effort.”
Orr told In The Know she ultimately hopes that her scholarship — and the widespread support it has received — will show women who feel daunted to enter a STEM field due to gender-based discrimination that they are not alone.
“There are over 900 donors who have invested in my ‘Women in STEM, Medicine, and Law’ scholarship, which means there are 900 people rooting for you to succeed,” she said. “I want women everywhere to know that they belong in every place they choose to be.”
“Women are needed in every career, trade and profession, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” she added.
Yenor, who has not contacted Orr amid media coverage of her scholarship, did not return In The Know’s request for comment.
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