Women’s Resource Center fosters diversity

Photo by Chetna Kewalramani

The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) is one of Tech’s organizations that, for some, remains shrouded in mystery. What exactly do they do? What is the Flag Building? Women go to Tech?

It does, in fact, exist. The WRC is part of the Division of Student Life in a cluster called Inclusion, Advocacy and Support programs. They work closely with other programs in this area, such as the LGBTQIA Resource Center and Student Diversity Programs.

“The way I describe our mission is to create an inclusive environment for women on campus,” said Colleen Riggle, assistant dean of Students and director of the WRC. “We do that through programs, services, meeting one-on-one and creating a space where people can come hang out, study, eat or even take a nap.”

The Center was founded in 1998 by graduate women in order to create a space to come together and support each other. Since then, the reach of the center has expanded, and they have a larger presence on campus.

This space is multi-purpose, allowing student organizations to use several rooms for meetings. Several staff members are always in the office, providing an understanding and helpful ear to students who seek advice on a variety of issues or just want to discuss something they heard in the news.

“It could be things going on nationally or in the media that people just want to talk about,” Riggle said. “Sometimes they’ll be in crisis, so we will connect them to the Counseling Center, but sometimes it’s just wanting to come in and have a conversation about a social justice issue.”

Two full time staff members, including Riggle, work in the office every day, ready to listen to issues or concerns students might have. This semester, one graduate intern has joined the staff, and four student assistants help out anyone that walks in the office.

“One time, we had a student who was job interviewing and wanted assistance on things like, ‘How do I negotiate?’ ‘Is this outfit okay to wear?’” Riggle said.

In addition to one-on-one conversations, the WRC puts out programming focused around the physical and emotional well-being of women several times each month. The Body Image Committee organizes a beginner’s “Yoga for EveryBody” twice a month, and the SpeakEasy series is a biweekly student facilitated time for conversations between black women.

Body image is clearly a subject of concern for the Women’s Resource Center, so during the last week of February, the Center and Health Promotion partnered to sponsor the annual Georgia Tech Campaign for EveryBody Week.

In addition to regularly scheduled yoga, there will be events like film screenings, discussions and special GIT classes to help in honor of the week.

Special events are also held occasionally. One of the Center’s signature events is the Women’s Leadership Conference, which falls on April 1 this year.

A team of students works all year to plan this event, which uses seminars and workshops to train female leaders in the Tech community. This year is the seventeenth year of the conference with the theme “Still I Rise.”

“If there is an issue on campus or something that [students] think we could address, they can let us know, and we would be happy to work with them on that,” Riggle said. “We are always looking to collaborate and work with other students or faculty on campus.”

The WRC participates in large-scale initiatives as well.

March is widely regarded as Women’s History Month, and the Center will put on a variety of programs in collaboration with other organizations on campus that focus on women’s issues.

April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness month, which is a cause that Tech women can support through Teal Ribbon Day, which supports the VOICE initiative for preventing sexual violence.

In association with “Take Back the Night,” a candlelight vigil is held every year to support the survivors of sexual assault and educate the campus community about rape and sexual violence.

“We’re trying to broaden some of our programming,” Riggle said. “Not every program may be attractive to a student, but hopefully there will be something throughout the semester that will be of interest to them.”

Apart from the programming they do, there is even a space in the WRC for students to come in at any time to relax, chat with friends or study. Couches, tables and snacks make the space cozy and welcoming for every student.

“There is just open space where people of all gender can come and hang out and come to our programs. You don’t have to be in crisis or have an issue to come in and spend time here,” Riggle said.

The Women’s Resource Center is located in the Flag (Smithgall/Student Services) Building in Suite 131. More information can be found at womenscenter.