Getting to know a familiar resource

The Women’s Resource Center has been on Virginia Wesleyan’s campus since the early 1990s. It was meant to be a place for women to feel more included on campus and have a safe space on campus. In the years that it’s been on campus, it is often overlooked and unnoticed. This year, the director of the Women’s Resource Center decided that it was time to turn a new leaf and make the center more noticeable.

With the creation of the Women’s Resource Center, a few members of the faculty and staff believed that it was important for women on the faculty and staff to have their own outlet on campus to share their ideas and opinions on women’s issues. Virginia Wesleyan’s Women’s Forum was that outlet. The forum’s meetings started in 2003 and still continues to meet every month each academic year. While the Women’s Forum was becoming popular, many professors thought about teaching courses that focused on women. From there the women’s and gender studies program was made. Women’s and gender studies started as a minor but today it is a very popular major among students on campus.

Although the Women’s Resource Center has been around for years, a lot of students on campus don’t know it exists. English and women’s and gender studies professor Jennifer Slivka is currently the director of the Women’s Resource Center. She felt that it would be a good idea to make the center more accessible to students and student leaders. “Before the Women’s Resource Center offered programing as a center but now we want to open it up and partner with other organizations and student groups.” Slivka said.

At an open house a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Slivka met with a couple of students to give her ideas about future programs as well as get feedback from students on ways that students on campus can get more involved with the center. Some students who attended were familiar with the center and others were not. One thing that she mentioned about the center was that she wanted it to be more visible and inclusive to everyone.

Part of that inclusiveness has to do with the location of the center. The center is located in the Allen Village lounge near the Social Science lab. Although the space is not specifically exclusive to the Women’s Resource Center, Slivka had many ideas on how the center could make that shared space its own. “I want to get a bulletin board for the space so different groups can showcase different events,” she said. The idea of decorating the board for different history or awareness months was also brought up at the open house.

One thing that was apparent with the open house was the opportunity for students to make the center their own. Normally, the Women’s Resource Center would have events with guest speakers that would go unnoticed. Slivka approach of letting students choose the events came from the fact that faculty are not always as up-to-date about what is going on around campus.

Another suggestion that Dr. Slivka made at the open house was the possibility of having a monthly town hall where students on campus could come build community and talk about issues on campus as well as issues going on around the country.

It’s important to know that although it is called the Women’s Resource Center, the center is not exclusive to female students. Male students are always welcome to come to events and have a say in what events the Women’s Resource Center puts on. “Anyone can be a feminist, and we always need allies.” Slivka said. To go along with the town halls she proposed at the open house, Dr. Slivka stated that cross dialogue between men and women is very productive, so it is important for male students, staff and faculty are included. So if students create the events, together with the help of the Women’s Resource Center the center can get more attention and become more of a part of campus life like it was originally created to be years ago.

Cynthia Griffin