Women's Center

History/Her-story

The SCSU Women’s Center opened in October 1989 after several years of activism by students, faculty and staff who had identified the unique issues facing women on campus.  The need for greater safety and the demand for equal educational opportunities were at the center of documented gender inequities that necessitated a Women’s Center on campus.  In addition, an increasing number of non-traditional women were finding their way to campus for the purpose of obtaining degrees for gainful employment and economic independence.  Many were single parents, some had left abusive or unhealthy relationships, and all needed the benefits of a college degree to secure quality futures.

During the 1980s, Pat Samuel, Director of the Women’s Studies Program, served as a catalyst and facilitator of formal, repeated requests to the administration to allocate funding for a center, including a full-time director.  Samuel told impassioned stories about rape survivors coming to the Women’s Studies Program because they didn’t know where else to go, or women students suffering in silence due to sexual harassment by faculty or staff.  Other key advocates for a Women’s Center were Dr. Nancy Brennan, Dr. Julie Andrzejewski and many other faculty and staff.  Students were particularly involved in organizing for a campus-based Women’s Center.  They researched the issues, traveled to visit other Midwest Women’s Centers and wrote numerous proposals to document the concerns and needs of women to present to administrators.

In 1988, a committee of campus and community members led by Vice President Dorothy Simpson, and Special Assistant to the President, Annette Wilson, drafted SCSU’s first sexual assault policy.  One of the victim-centered decisions made by the committee was to designate the Women’s Center as the department on campus to collect and analyze reports of rape and sexual assault within the campus community.  This policy decision influenced the long-term role of the Center to advocate, educate and support transformation on the problem of sexual assault and other forms of violence against women.  The need for services, coupled with innovative program development, grew into the Sexual Violence Prevention Program in 1992 (now the Gender Violence Prevention Program). Visit the Gender Violence Prevention Program for more information about the services offered.

From a programming point of view, the Women’s Center actively organized events, presentations and trainings from its inception, including collaborations with multiple on and off campus groups.  The first Women on Wednesday presentation was held six weeks after the Women’s Center opened in the form of a brown bag lunch series.  Until the program outgrew the space, it was located in the program room in the lower level of the former Women’s Center at the now-demolished Colbert House North, a century-old home overlooking the Mississippi River. Women on Wednesday has become a signature educational initiative at SCSU with a rich twenty-three year history. Visit the Women's Center programming information. For a list of our current events, see our home page

Throughout our history, the Women’s Center has worked to address some of the most destructive problems facing women, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex discrimination and abusive relationships, joined with the multiple oppressions experienced by women because of race/ethnicity, disability, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, religion, size, and age.  In addition, the Women’s Center has organized activities and programs that highlight the talent, accomplishments and perspectives of a diversity of women.  From an in-house women’s leadership development program and mentoring initiative, to keynote speakers including bell hooks, Lani Guinier, Cecelia Fire Thunder and Cheryl Reeve, the Women’s Center has engaged, supported and advanced women since 1989. Over the years, hundreds of collaborations and more allies than we can name on campus and in the community have been key to our successes.  As the Women’s Center celebrates 25 years of education, advocacy and empowerment, we acknowledge and thank our foremothers and current supporters!