Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First-ever New England Women's Centers Conference (NEWCC2010)

The first annual New England Women's Centers Conference 2010 took place on Friday, Nov. 5th and Saturday, Nov. 6th in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The event was hosted by Harvard College Women's Center in Boylston Hall, Harvard Yard. The conference gave participants an opportunity for networking, cross institutional collaboration, peer support, and professional development. Over sixty of us gathered on Harvard's epic main campus and quickly got down to work.

Gina Helfrich PhD, Assistant Director for HWC, was instrumental in inspiring and mobilizing the steering committee, which included Lesley's Daphne Strassmann, coordinator of the Women's Center.

Click here to read the Harvard Crimson's report.

Here is a brief overview of our two days:

Conference Schedule

Friday - Nov. 5th
4:00-5:30pm - Check-in and Welcome Reception
5:30-6:30pm - Roundtable Discussion: Women's Centers Best Practices
6:30-7:30pm - Dinner
7:30-9:30pm - Performance of "We All Will Be Received" and post-show talk-back

The performance was incredibly moving and charged with provocative questions about gender and identity. There was some Elvis, even some Dolly Parton, and great cast and premise to tell a story. No messy endings here. The questions were left open but the story resolved. With the multimedia backdrop of the play was both clever and particularly effective in combining all of the themes of this performance. We will try to bring "We will all be received" to our Lesley campus very soon.

Saturday - Nov. 6th

Before breakfast we got a tour of the Harvard Women's Center. This was a great opportunity to see first-hand how other centers operate. We came away inspired by the great work HWC does. The center does a great job with mentoring programs and community outreach whiting the campus. The center is staffed by 12 interns, a director and an assistant director. The HWC also has volunteers and many on-campus groups use the space for meetings, including the weekends. The space itself is welcoming and warm, which is located on the main campus an affiliated with the student life department of Harvard. We poked around the space while the director, Susan Marine PhD, gave us some important background on the center's history and different incarnations.
This was also an important time to ask operational questions about budget, funding, hours and specific events which the center hosts as part of regular programming and also for fund-raising opportunities.

The center frequently showcases artwork of students. The main sitting section is accessible to the kitchen and lounge television area.

Susan Marine shows us a time line which explains the history and different incarnations of the Women's Center in Harvard.

The main kitchen area is open to students during open hours and available for groups to meet and use the space to tailor needs of groups or individuals.

Interns post articles of interest to those who use the center or visit the center on a regular basis.

The main hallway of the center leads to a conference room, the reception desk and offices.

One of the offices

Conference room

Reception area staffed by 12 interns

9:00am-12:00pm - Breakfast, Break-Out Session 1, and Keynote

The Keynote presentation centered around a discussion of inter-generational feminism. Turning on its head the conventional idea of a Keynote speaker, the organizers decided instead to showcase our students. A conversation which directly addressed the recent controversial article American Electra: Feminism's ritual matricide, by Susan Faludi, was the centerpiece of the discussion.

Alice (Ali) Underwood a student intern of the Harvard Women's Center was the first speaker.

Bradley Craig, also a Harvard student intern for the Women's Center continued the discussion.

Bonnie Bryant of Lesley University, Third Wave Feminism club president, and member of the W.C steering committee, wraps up the session.

Break-Out Session 1

1a. Let’s Talk About Space – Why Women’s Centers and Women’s Studies programs are important to the college environment

1b. Programmatic Focus: Inclusive Communities – Why Women’s Centers are not just for women

12:00-1:00pm - Lunch

As we grabbed lunch and found places to seat, members from the T.O.P (Theological Opportunities Program) Lecture series, sat down with us for in-depth discussion of Waves of Feminism. T.O.P members are long-time feminists, who were in the forefront of the movement.

1:00-3:30pm - Break-Out Sessions 2 and 3

Break-Out Session 2

2a. Reaching Across Campuses – The necessity of collaboration and how we go about doing it

This session was moderated by our own Daphne Strassmann and Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley. We had a lively and helpful discussion about cross collaboration within our campuses, outside of them with other institutions as well as collaborations with community organizations.

2b. Programmatic Focus: Preventing violence in our communities and how to raise awareness of the problem

Break-Out Session 3

3a. Going for the Green – Best practices for fundraising and connecting/working with donors

3b. Programmatic Focus: Engaging our Communities – getting students active in the local community

3:30-4:30pm - Conclusion

The conclusion intake was also productive. We provided feedback to Gina Helfrich and Susan Marine and talked about different ways in which to keep in touch. We have plans to work in cross collaboration by maintaining a blog to use as a central communication area for centers to use in publicizing events and staying in touch. Lesley's Women's Center and BU's Women's Center volunteered to head this initiative. We also envision the blog as a place to plan for getting together for the upcoming NEWSA conference in April 2011.

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