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Alumni Spotlight: Danielle Muscato

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In our Alumni Spotlight series, we highlight alumni of our affiliate groups and the awesome things they have been doing since they graduated. Are you a Secular Student Alliance alum? Tell us how you've been doing! We'd love to spotlight you!

This month's featured alumna is Danielle Muscato. Danielle is an alumna of the University of Missouri-Columbia, class of 2013, where she was a member of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics (MU SASHA). When she started college at 25, she learned about an atheist group on campus but at that time it only had five people in the group. However, she quickly felt welcome and, for the first time, at home. At first she just attended meetings, then she started giving presentations about topics that had led to her "de-conversion" to atheism until she eventually became the Vice President.

She spent a summer as one of the interns for the national SSA office in Ohio. The next year, she left school without graduating because she was offered a full-time position as the PR Director for American Atheists, and relocated to New Jersey to take that job. She’s currently a freelance activist, writer, public speaker, and pundit, and looking for another full-time opportunity as an activist in the secular community. 

When asked what she remembered most fondly about her SSA experience, she said that her first SSA Annual Conference in 2011 was one of the best experiences of her life.

"It is incredibly important for student leaders to attend the national conference. I simply can't overstate this. The conference is where you learn how to be an effective leader, grow your group, and accomplish activism goals, not to mention that it's the best place to meet other student leaders and professional activists in the secular community."

MU SASHA is Outstanding!

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Every year, the National Secular Student Alliance hears about amazing things that our students, affiliate groups, Secular Safe Zone Allies, and advisors are doing. When we hear of an individual or group doing something especially awesome, we present them with an Award for Outstanding Activism for their exemplary work. 

Students are some of the most powerful voices for social and political change, and the University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics (MU SASHA) are an outstanding reflection of that!

The University of Missouri is located in Boone County, and the Boone County Commission took comments from the community on August 6, 2015 on whether or not to relocate a Desert Storm (Gulf War) monument. The Desert Storm monument was installed bearing an ichthus, or "Jesus Fish," symbol.

MU SASHA asserted that the enshrinement of the "Jesus Fish" on state property violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, and that the Desert Storm monument should be moved off the Boone County Courthouse lawn. To combat this violation, members of MU SASHA spoke at the event and encouraged the public to help raise awareness and participate in the process. Their participation in this event earned them coverage in the Columbia Tribune, as well as coverage and a letter to the editor in the Missourian

Mark

"This sealed the case about what to do with the monument and showed grassroots support for the secular cause that was severely lacking before (very few, if any, people spoke in favor of removing it before)," said Mark Schierbecker, Director of Public Relations for MU SASHA. "Our group countered the one-sided depiction of the issue that the media portrayed prior to our involvement."

The Boone County Commission did vote to move the monument from the Boone County Courthouse lawn, largely thanks to the awesome presence from MU SASHA! We are exceptionally proud to present you with an Award for Outstanding Activism!

RELEASE: Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation

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8/24/2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelley Freeman, (614) 441-9588 x101
kelley.freeman@secularstudents.org

Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation

LAS VEGAS and COLUMBUS, Ohio - Student Daniel Little from the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Southern Nevada confronted presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 20, 2015, asking her current opinion on the separation of church and state. 

“We love to see our students involved in the political process,” said August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. “It’s great that they are raising awareness of the issues that are important to them and we’re extremely proud of Daniel for doing so.”

Little’s question referenced the seven states whose constitutions still bar atheists from holding public office, an issue that has been raised by Openly Secular, a coalition of which the Secular Student Alliance is a partner.

“I was really nervous about asking my question, but none of the political candidates really talk about us [atheists, agnostics, secular Americans]. I don’t really hear any representation or coverage that pertains to issues we care about, which is why I wanted to ask that to a potential president,” said Little. 

According to a recent Pew Study, 53% of the country would be less likely to vote for a candidate if the candidate was an open atheist.

“It’s important for non-religious Americans to be out and visible. We live in a religious and socially pluralistic nation. Politicians have to pay attention to secular Americans as much as anyone else,” Brunsman continued.

The Secular Student Alliance is an organization that empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values, and set a course for lifelong activism. Its support for grassroots organizing enables students to shape a future in which they thrive as valued members of society and provide visionary leadership committed to humanistic ideals and critical inquiry. The Secular Student Alliance is a 501(c)(3) and does not support or oppose candidates for public office. More information can be found at http://secularstudents.org and @SecularStudents on Twitter and Facebook.com/SecularStudents. 

The clip in question can be listened to at http://bit.ly/ClintonSOCAS.

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For more information contact:

Kelley Freeman
Communications Associate, Secular Student Alliance
kelley.freeman@secularstudents.org
(614) 441-9588 x101

Alumni Spotlight: Stef McGraw

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In our Alumni Spotlight series, we highlight alumni of our affiliate groups and the awesome things they have been doing since they graduated. Are you a Secular Student Alliance alum? Tell us how you've been doing! We'd love to spotlight you!

This month's featured alumna is Stef McGraw. Stef is an alumna of the University of Northern Iowa, class of 2014, where she was a member of UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers. She found the UNIFI table during freshman orientation with her parents and signed up because the group looked cool. She was hooked ever since her first event!

Since graduating, Stef has become a Campus and Community Organizer for the Center for Inquiry. She’s very thankful to be in a position where her work is so important, and as a plus she gets to collaborate with “some super bright people.” 

When asked what she considered the most influential experience from her student activism, she said her first International Blasphemy Rights Day.

"Regardless of my current thoughts on how IBRD is best celebrated, chalking blasphemous quotations all over campus and having the entire University buzzing about it the next day was pretty surreal. A huge discussion broke out in the middle of campus about whether or not it was okay to write things like "Mary Lied" or "Imagine No Religion" with a drawing of the Twin Towers. Some conversations got pretty heated, but overall it was just a really open and honest debate on the nature of free expression and blasphemy. 

I think it was so influential because it was the first time I participated in something that controversial; I came away from the day knowing full well that I could lose friends over my involvement, and yet I felt like I would do it again if I could. It really solidified just how important I found many of the values of the freethought movement to be."

Any advice for current secular students, Stef? 

"Leading a good group now that lasts five years after you graduate is far more important than leading an amazing group now and having it fizzle out as soon as you leave. Don't let personal ambition trump the longevity of your group; you impact so many more people by focusing on succession planning."

We're very proud of Stef and the work she continues to do for the Center for Inquiry! It's awesome to have another Secular Student Alliance Alumni doing her activism as a professional. We are happy to count you among our alumni, Stef!

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