Students passing by the Shalala Student Center one Wednesday evening could hear the sound of salsa music wafting from Moss Terrace above. What they were hearing: the lively backdrop to “Meet the First Lady,” an event where students could meet and discuss initiatives with UM’s first lady, Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul.
SalsaCraze hosted dance lessons at the annual forum, accompanied by a live band and fiesta-inspired refreshments. Sebastian the Ibis even made an appearance, ready to salsa alongside the students.
The central event, however, was Knaul’s speech on her upcoming initiatives, including the Women’s Leadership Forum, which invites influential women to speak to students.
A few speakers that are in the works for the forum include former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.
Most of all, Knaul said she wants to know who UM students want to hear from.
“Please send me your ideas if you want other people to speak or other women that you’d like to hear,” Knaul said. “It really is your budget, your fun, so tell us how you’d like us to spend it on all of you.”
Many students said they were delighted to have an unexpected opportunity to speak to Knaul.
“I came from a Student Government meeting and stopped by because it looked fun,” junior Katarzyna Pasternak said. “I got to say hi to the First Lady which was cool. She was really nice.”
Daniel Borges, a student leader of SalsaCraze, said he was thrilled when Knaul’s team asked the organization to participate.
“I was incredibly delighted to meet First Lady Dr. Knaul and honored to teach a dance lesson at her event,” said Borges, a senior. “We spoke briefly after the lesson, and she was very excited to learn about how involved our students are. She is very charming and it was great to see her dancing with everyone.”
Students can expect to hear announcements about similar upcoming events with Knaul sometime in the near future.