The Past, Present, and Future of the Women’s Center

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Published on November 7, 2014

Tucked away on the third floor of Beacon Hall, the Women’s Center is an often overlooked part of the HCC community. The Women’s Center as it is today was re-established in 1999 after a committee of staff, faculty, students, and alumnae worked together to make it happen. The Women’s Center has changed a lot over the years, but the core objective has remained the same. “We wanted a safe space for women to come to be supported by other women,” Linda Wolfson, the coordinator of the Women’s Center, said. The Women’s Center offers services such as HIV testing, women’s health fairs, educational events, and support groups.

However, the Women’s Center is not exclusive to females. Men are encouraged to come in if they want to talk about anything related to women’s issues.

This year’s health fair was held on October 16. “We had a successful health fair,” said Katherine Williams, who has been a work study student for the Women’s center for two years. “We talked about everything from HIV status to dental care.  We even had a free masseuse for the student body!”

A regular event put on by the Women’s Center is a support group called S.O.F.A, which stands for sharing our feelings aloud. The group- ranging from five to twenty people- meets every Wednesday and it’s considered a safe space for students to express various stresses and struggles that they are dealing with in their lives.

“We sit down in a safe, closed environment,”  Williams explained. “Topics range from domestic abuse to financial aid issues. Everything that is said in SOFA stays here.”

The Women’s Center has started new events this year, including the Women of Wisdom (WOW) series. This is a lunchtime lecture series that will meet about once a month and have HCC faculty discuss extraordinary women in their respective fields. Long time volunteer and HCC alumnus Beth Lazar explained that this lecture series is a way for the Women’s Center to educate the community about women’s contributions to the arts, sciences, medicine, and society as a whole.

The first lecture occurred earlier this semester on October 1, with Tonya Rondinone, a psychology professor, who discussed successful women in the field of psychology.

“We had a conversation about why women’s research is undervalued in the field,” Rondinone explained. “I think women often are underrepresented in many fields, I shouldn’t say I think, I know they are… [WOW] will help women understand there are successful women in these fields.”

Both male and female students attended the event. “It went over really well,” said Janice Schaeffler, Director of Institutional Research, an adjunct instructor at HCC, and a volunteer at the Women’s Center. “Students didn’t want to leave at the end.”

Williams, who was at the event, raved, “it was a really great experience. I can’t wait for the next one!”

The more recent speaker was Edwena Chance, an English professor at HCC, who discussed women in literature on November 5.

The biggest undertaking that the Women’s Center has been working on is the development of a liberal arts major with a focus on Women’s Studies, which will tentatively start in fall of 2015. Schaeffler and Linda Wolfson both wrote proposals about instituting a Women’s Studies degree. However, they needed a department to take it on, so they asked Rondinone to spearhead the program.

“They asked me because I taught at a women’s college, St. Joe’s, for 15 years,” Rondinone said. “I had an inside look at what it was like.”

The program will offer classes such as Women in Literature, Sociology of Women, and History of Women in the United States.

“This is a program we encourage males and females to take,” Rondinone said,.“If men dictate policies they should understand women.”

Currently the Women’s Center is run by volunteers who work tirelessly to keep it running. However, Wolfson said, “We are hoping in the future, we have a full-time, paid director to take the Center to where it should be.”