Women’s Center aims to help students

The+Women%E2%80%99s+Center+is+located+on+North+Wood+Ave.+The+Center%E2%80%99s+mission+is+to+educate%2C+support+and+reach+out+to+women+on+UNA%E2%80%99s+campus+in+the+context+of+a+global+community.+

Emma Wright | Staff Photographer

The Women’s Center is located on North Wood Ave. The Center’s mission is to educate, support and reach out to women on UNA’s campus in the context of a global community.

Alex Hopper, News Editor

The Center for Women’s Studies occupies a unique and supportive role for all UNA students. 

According to their website, The center seeks to “educate, support, and reach out to women on our campus in the context of a global community.” 

The center, located in front of Wesleyan Hall, provides unique resources for UNA students. 

Those resources include a lactation room for nursing mothers, Pride’s pantry, and much more.

Nicole Powell, the coordinator of the center, speaks to those resources. 

“Should any of our students, faculty or staff need to access those resources, we provide a centralized location for them,” said Powell. 

Pride’s Pantry is newly merged with the center. The pantry provides necessities to UNA students such as personal care items and food. 

In addition to this, the center also provides programming on a variety of issues that affect women, such as sexual assault support and salary negotiations. 

“[We provide] programming to the larger UNA community…aim[ing] to raise awareness about a variety of issues that affect women,” said Powell. 

The center has partnered with Safeplace and is currently partnering with One Place of the Shoals, two non-profit organizations that provide support for victims of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault. 

“We also partnered earlier this Spring with the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force to offer training that raised awareness about human trafficking in the region,” said Powell. 

The center focuses on collaborative efforts with other organizations on campus.

Past collaborations include body positivity programming with Student Counseling Services for “Feel Good Naked Week,” The Women of Action series with the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion to highlight pivotal contributions from women in the Shoals community, and salary negotiation workshops with the Women in Business RSO. 

Currently, the center is working with UNA Police to offer self-defense courses. 

One pivotal aspect of the center is the interdisciplinary minor program in Women’s Studies. 

The Women’s Studies minor places women at the center of knowledge production, encouraging students to critically think about the experiences of women. 

The courses also highlight the contributions of women in all fields of study.  

“Women’s Studies allows students to view issues through a gendered lens,” said Powell. “I think that understanding issues through a variety of different lenses, gender being one of them, is an important way to account for the complexity of those various issues.”

Another aspect of the Center for Women studies is the two women’s organizations on campus – The American Association of University Women and WGSA. 

AAUW is a national organization that advocates for gender equity in education and in the workplace. 

The AAUW RSO “seeks to encourage, support, and advocate for women’s interests through research, campus leadership, STEM education, policy, legal advocacy, and educational funding and awards.”

“Women’s leadership opportunities, STEM education, and policies that advance gender equity are focuses of the AAUW,” said Powell. 

WGSA has a similar mission to AAUW.

“WGSA provides a safe space for people of all genders to educate themselves about feminism, gender and gender inequities,” said Powell. 

Bonnie Smith serves as the President for both RSOs.

Smith explains that AAUW supports women while they are in college and provides them with training on workplace skills such as wage negotiation. 

“Just helping women move from their baccalaureate area into their careers,” said Smith.  “Being aware of how they can better navigate their roles in the workplace and in life.”

Women in STEM are a primary focus of AAUW. 

“We just did a women in STEM  panel,” said Smith. “Professors at UNA [talked] about their experiences as women in STEM, and to encourage young women in the university to continue pursuing their interest in STEM.”

For Smith, women’s issues have always been of vital importance.

“I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. I think it’s very important to play for your own team,” said Smith. 

Smith notes the inconsistencies between men and women she has felt in her life.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in a household, that even though some of those consistencies are apparent, I could do anything that a man could do,” said Smith.  

“I think it’s important to facilitate those conversations and important to tell people that feminism is for everyone,” said Smith.  “The patriarchy in our society hurts everyone.”

Smith speaks to the importance of the Women’s center in her work with the RSOs. 

“We have really important outreach,” said Smith.  “The Women’s Center is a really safe place on campus.”

Both AAUW and WGSA are holding officer elections on March 11th and 12th.

In order to participate in the election, as both a voter and a candidate, one must first be a member of AAUW or WGSA. 

“One can become a member by emailing Bonnie at [email protected],” said Powell. “[For officer nominations] one may nominate themselves or someone else.”

The women’s RSOs, as well as the Women’s Center, occupy a space on campus that seeks to provide inclusive support to the students of UNA.