Women’s Center celebrates decade

In a room in the back of the Women’s Resource Center, there is a bulletin board on the wall with the heading “Leading a Vibrant Life,” under which women have written their personal definitions of the phrase on Post-it notes. One note reads “equal rights.” Others read “to build lasting friendships,” “make God proud of me,” “travel the world” and “laugh every day.” Across the room, there are three shelves packed with books on every row. Also in the WRC are couches, a conference room, a table of pamphlets and the offices of the Director of the WRC and the Program Coordinator. It is no wonder, with so much comfort and access to leaders, information and other women’s thoughts, that a Tech alumna and 2003 Women’s Leadership Conference Chair, Melissa Oellerich, would say of the WRC: “I felt right at home and included.”

Ten years ago, several faculty members and students strove to create this space for women on campus, an idea which former President Clough supported and financed. Thus, the Women’s Resource Center was born in 1998 for the purposes of advocacy, support and giving women at Tech a unified voice.

On October 24, the WRC held its 10th Anniversary High Tea and Silent Auction to raise funds for its ongoing endeavors and celebrate its past. Colleen Riggle, Program Coordinator, describes the WRC’s aims as “a little bit of everything; any type of academic or personal support, resources, advocacy, programs to meet other people.”

She adds that the most successful or beneficial programs the WRC directs are the annual Women’s Leadership Conference, held this year on November 7 and 8, and Women’s Awareness Month, an annual month-long celebration of women with events about women’s issues, culminating with Take Back the Night, an event to promote awareness of sexual violence, incorporating survivor stories, poetry reading and a candle lighting ceremony. Last year, Take Back the Night had over 700 attendees.

WAM will include Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues next spring in its calendar of events, despite a 2006 lawsuit against Tech that stemmed in part from two students’ being asked to paint over part of their written protest against the play. Cast audition applications are due November 10 and are available online at cyberbuzz.gatech.edu/wam.

As a Tech alumna, Shannon Scott, a training specialist in the Office of Organization Development and member of the 10th anniversary event planning committee, remembers a time when in “a class of 150 people, there might have been two women.” Riggle states, almost in reply, that the WRC is there for situations like those, to “fill in any gaps we might have on campus.”

Dan Morrison, director of Residence Life and 10th anniversary event attendee, remarks that Residence Life partners with the WRC in part because the “vast majority of women students live on campus.” Residence Life utilizes the WRC in training Peer Leaders and Community Advisors to handle specific women’s issues like harassment, stalking and—“not just the high-profile things”—women in male-dominated majors.

Riggle seconds Morrison’s statement: the WRC not only exists for women’s crises, but also “for the good things going on in women’s lives.” Scott said that women can come “to get involved, meet people, make a difference and plug in.”

The 10th anniversary event showed a video called “Ten Years Is Only the Beginning” that reinforced that the WRC is “a place for action, healing, acceptance, a place to gather and to work together” for women at Tech. There are no fees to join the WRC, nor is it something one joins like she does a club or sorority, as Riggle maintains that the WRC is “not trying to compete with anything else.” Morrison describes the WRC as a “support network”; Yvette Upton, assistant dean of students and director of The Women’s Resource Center, calls it a “small office, a small building, but a mighty heart,” open to all women “regardless of major, background or political beliefs.”

As Upton wrapped up her speech of humble thanks to all those involved in making the last ten years successful, Laura Stiltz, a fourth-year MATH major and 2008 WLC Chair, walked up with a plaque for “Outstanding Leadership and Passionate Support” and bouquet, and said, “And you thought you could thank everyone else and not have us thank you.”

Upton replied, as if she hadn’t served in the office for eight years and overseen those who have attended WRC programs, “I was trying!”