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Amethyst and Aspen

Carly Cahoon portrait

A Master of Arts in Community Leadership capstone project evolves into a platform to help women overcome objectification

by Dariia Miroshnikova (’18)

Growing up, Carly Cahoon (MACL ’17) was taught that she was only as good as her body looked. She felt empowered when she was running marathons and was physically fit, but felt like she was not enough when her body changed during different seasons of life.

By talking about body issues and connecting with nature, Carly was able to change her own attitude and think more positively. Her passion for art and sharing stories inspired her to create a healing community for women called Amethyst and Aspen. This community began as Carly’s capstone project for her Master of Arts in Community Leadership degree at Westminster and evolved into an online forum and body-image-resilience workshop series where women discover a positive connection to their own bodies, creative arts, and the power of connecting to something bigger than themselves.

Healing process

“I wanted to create a healing community for women to be able to talk about their stories, use their voice, and have a way to connect with one another that was different from what was previously out there. I aimed to bring an in-person connection and learning-by-doing component that also involves connecting to nature. If you can learn to connect with something bigger than yourself, it teaches you that you are part of something bigger, and you start to change that self-view that you are only the singular entity.”

Amethyst and Aspen

“Women are taught that they are their bodies, therefore believing that they are only as good as their bodies look. This is called objectification. Amethyst and Aspen is a combination of all these different components of my life, everything that I’ve done and worked toward: it is my heart and soul. The name Amethyst and Aspen comes from the ideas that amethysts are healing stones, and aspen trees are the largest living organisms; they live off of one rooting system. This idea of healing and being sustained by one rooting system formed into this beautiful way of being able to create conversations and ways for women to connect.”

Westminster Influence

“The Master of Arts in Community Leadership program was a really unique program to be able to allow people to come up with ideas that were important to them, but then give them the parameters and support to get the project done. Without the master’s program, I maybe still would be floating in being like, ‘this feels right, this feels good, this feels important, but I don’t know what I’m doing.’”

Three Steps

“There are several things we can do right now in our everyday lives to build body-image resilience. Through my research, the overarching and blatant finding was how important the idea of connection is in the process of overcoming objectification. The first thing is to connect in person with others, especially with other women who are also learning and working on overcoming the harmful effects of objectification. Take time to disconnect from the media and start connecting with each other, support other women, and celebrate your differences. The next is to connect with nature. Find a way that’s meaningful to you. Is that getting one plant and taking care of it? Is it learning more about environmental awareness? Or is it finding more outdoor adventures? Find that intuitive connection for you and the power that comes with creation and taking care of the earth. The third step is to connect with your story. Start to do the work of understanding who you are. Do you feel like you’re living authentically? What can you offer your world (your family, your community, our society) that is unique to you? Your experiences and ideas matter, so the more you practice sharing them, the more comfortable you become in owning them.”

Favorite blog to read

Things to collect

Rocks to use in building cairns

Favorite nature spots

Grand Teton, Brighton, and Jackson

Ideal day for self-care

Gardening, taking care of chickens, and watching Netflix



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.