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Erica Borggren, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, will deliver the Western Illinois Women’s History Month keynote address at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28 in the Multicultural Center Multipurpose Room.
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Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director to Speak at Western Thursday, March 28

March 25, 2013

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MACOMB, IL - Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, will deliver the Western Illinois Women's History Month keynote address at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28 in the Multicultural Center Multipurpose Room.

WIU Women's Center Director Janine Cavicchia said Borggren's presentation, "Changing Roles of Women in the Military and Issues Facing Female Service Members and Veterans" ties-in with the 2012-2013 University Theme, "War and Peace: From Personal Conflict to Global Resolution" and the Women's Center's 2012-2013 theme, "Women, War and Peace."

According to Kathy Meyers, assistant director of Western's Veterans Resource Center, WIU has more than 700 veterans and service members on the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses, of which approximately 100 are women.

One of those women veterans is Angela Bahr, a senior biological science major. Bahr, who was in the U.S. Air Force and is married to a service member, knows from her own experience in the military that women service members and veterans too often have to deal with such issues as sexual harassment and sexual assault by male superiors, employment discrimination based on gender and assumptions by campus personnel that women are military spouses and not themselves service members or veterans.

"Once I got out of the military, I tried finding work and was asked by the veterans representative if I was interested in secretary or sales positions," Bahr said. "I was qualified for neither. I was a satellite operator, trained in computer systems.

"When I met my husband and made the choice to come to college 13 years later, it was difficult to get those in charge of veterans financing to understand that although I was a military spouse, I was also prior service," Bahr said. "There were many phone calls before I was approved for financing.

"My time in the Air Force really challenged me as a person. It gave me the self-esteem to stand up for what I believe in, no matter the cost. I have faced much adversity, learned to overcome it, and continue to grow as a person from all I have experienced. As a veteran coming to college, I have a unique perspective on life, focusing more on the relevance of what is taught as it applies to the outside world."

Borggren was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs by Governor Pat Quinn on Aug. 5, 2011. An Illinois native and Army veteran, Borggren previously served as a senior staff member for Army Gen. David H. Petraeus during his time as Commanding General of multi-national forces in Iraq and as head of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) throughout the Middle East. For her service in these assignments, Borggren was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star, as well as the Joint Service Achievement and Iraq Campaign Medals.

Prior to her service in CENTCOM, she served in the Army's Medical Service Corps in the 18th Medical Command as a Company Commander at the 121st Combat Support Hospital, Yongsan, South Korea, where she was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Following her graduation as valedictorian from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, she was designated as a Rhodes Scholar and the recipient of a Truman Scholarship. She later earned postgraduate degrees in comparative social policy and theology from Oxford University. Borggren returned home to Illinois in 2009 and currently live with her husband Erik, a West Point graduate, and their children in Chicago.

In addition to the Women's Center, this year's Women's History Month keynote speaker presentation is sponsored by University Libraries, University Women, the Veterans Resource Center, Western Organization for Women (WOW) and the Department of Women's Studies.

"WOW is very excited to co-sponsor this event," said Caryn Morgan, WOW co-president. "WIU has many resources for veterans and service members on campus, and we think it is important to draw attention to issues that affect women in the military."

"We especially encourage students and faculty from the Department of Military Science; ROTC; the Veterans Club; the Feminist Action Alliance student organization; Women's Studies Student Association; OASIS (WIU's non-traditional student organization), as well as community members from our local VFW, American Legion and National Guard Armory; and other interested organizations and individuals to attend," added Cavicchia.

Phyllis Self, dean of Libraries and member of WOW and University Women, who proposed this collaborative program, is delighted to have the opportunity to support and promote women veterans through the collaboration of WIU's women's organizations.

The presentation and reception are open free to the public. Faculty members wishing to offer credit for student attendance are encouraged to contact the Women's Center.

For additional information, contact the Women's Center at 309/298-2242 or visit

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