Duke Women’s Center marks 25 years

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 05:47 PM

The Duke University Women’s Center held a celebration Friday to mark the 25th annivesary of the organization that provides advocacy, education and outreach on gender equity and issues affecting women.

Stephanie Helms Pickett, center director, said the celebration will be the first of a series of events held to mark the center’s anniversary.
During the spring semester, Helms Pickett hopes to draw previous center directors and students back to the campus for a panel discussion. She said she also plans to launch an effort to gather documents and photos from the Duke University Archives to chronicle the experience of women on campus.
According to Duke Today, the center got its start in 1989 in a few cubicles in the Bryan Center. In 1991, it moved to its current location in the Few Federation building on West Campus.
There was a year of planning before the initial allocation of funding and space was made to launch the center. There had been previous attempts to launch a center after the school became co-educational in 1972.
The center now holds monthly discussion groups, it offers an internship program, and provides support for victims of sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, as well as stalking.
It hosts a training program known as “P.A.C.T.,” which stands for Prevent Act Challenge Teach. The P.A.C.T. program aims to reduce sexual and relationship violence on campus by training students to intervene to prevent gender violence rather than to stand by passively, according to the website for the program.
“We have a collective responsibility for each other,” Helms Pickett said of the role of the program.
In general, Helms Pickett said the center aims to empower women, to help women for life after Duke University, and to provide affirmation for all students, faculty and staff who identify as women.
Pickett said there continue to be advocacy issues for women today, including pay inequity, access to leadership positions, and work-life balance issues.
The celebration Friday included food and music. Among those attending the celebration was Martina J. Bryant, a former associate dean for Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences from 1977 to 2008. She said she would sometimes hear from students who were served by the center while working with them on academic issues. It was an inviting, inclusive place where they could feel comfortable bringing sensitive issues.
“The women here were always career-conscious,” she also said. “Many of them, but not all, dealt with issues of career versus family. But for the most part, they felt invincible. They could do it all.”
Mazella Fuller, clinical associate and social worker at Duke Counseling & Psychological Services, said she was a former liaison to the center for the department. She said she believes the need for women are still the same: supporting them, helping them find a voice, empowering them to leadership positions, and supporting equality.
“I think it’s expanding,” she said of the role of the center to be more inclusive and more diverse.