Schoenike is appreciative of the honor and called it “incredibly validating.”
Schoenike is chair of the UW System Student Representatives, a student governance body that represents students from each campus and promotes shared governance, represents student interests and advocates for student rights.
Schoenike, who identifies as nonbinary transgender, is the first openly transgender chair of the group and was the first inclusivity director of the UW System Student Representatives.
Schoenike openly spoke against the Freedom of Expression policy adopted in October 2017 by the Board of Regents. The policy makes students subject to expulsion if they repeatedly “materially and substantially” disrupt the speech of others.
Dissent is patriotic, and Schoenike believes in the importance of challenging systems in place, something Schoenike plans to continue despite growing up and hearing all the things transgender people could not do.
“I’m going to keep fighting, and I hope others will too,” Schoenike said. “The biggest thing I can do is be there and exist as my true self. It’s OK to be me.”
At UW-Stout, Barfield was a member of the Black Student Union and a research assistant with the Hegemony Project.
“At first I was very surprised, and I didn’t feel like I deserved the award,” Barfield said, noting she later realized she was deserving.
“The UW System has a long-standing commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at our institutions. This award honors women of color whose advocacy, activism and scholarship has resulted in the positive transformation of our UW System campuses and surrounding communities,” Cross stated. “Through the efforts of this year’s award recipients, our campuses and communities have become more welcoming and equitable places to learn, work and live.”
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.