Thursday, November 17, 2011

The New England Women's Centers Conference: An Energizing Gathering

Badges ready for check in! Waiting for attendees to register

On November 4 and 5 Lesley University hosted the New England Women’s Centers Conference (NEWCC2011). This was the second conference of its kind. The first one, hosted by Harvard University was a productive and energetic venue to explore issues shared by Women’s Centers, and brainstorm about ideas and solutions for existing and future programming and collaborations.

Administrators, faculty, and students from twenty institutions from the New England region were represented this year. The programming of the conference centered around issues unique to the needs of individual centers, but also touched on wider issues outside the centers, such as community-based collaborations, sexual assault, mentoring and contemporary feminism.

Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley addresses attendees

The Co-Director of the Women’s Center, Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley, welcomed the group and reiterated the importance of learning from each other and the exciting opportunity to share in the collective knowledge from all of the centers represented.

Dinner at the Atrium was a nice time to mingle after the first session.

Lesley Women's Center Co-Director Daphne Strassmann checks in with staff during dinner.

The first session took place Friday afternoon and was presented by Naomi Mann and Amy Hunter, two attorneys from the Office for Civil Rights, who went through guidelines addressed in Title IX and how these protections apply to instances of sexual assault. After dinner attendees were treated to a screening of initial cut from the documentary, Left on Pearl. After the screening five members of the film project, which included Lesley’s Eleanor Roffman, Professor and Director of Field Training, Division of Counseling and Psychology addressed questions from the audience. Professor Roffman was interviewed on the documentary about the 1971 takeover of a Harvard University building on 888 Memorial Drive to be the site for a community Women’s Center. This is the same center which stands today on Pleasant St. in Cambridge, and is home to crucial programming for the empowerment of women. The Director of the Cambridge Women's Center Ming Chang, a Lesley alumna, also help lead a discussion about collaborations between community based centers and university- based centers. In celebrating the 4oth year of the takeover of the Harvard building, the panelists brought a piece of important history to life in the documentary, and spoke candidly about what it meant to be a woman during such gender- segregated times.

The first session the following morning was a round table discussion in which all centers describe individual best practices and challenges. This proved to be one of the most helpful aspects of the conference last year. Attendees got a good sense of the wide range of services different centers offer, how each center is structured staffing and funding wise, and how they exist in connection to departments within each institution. The centers also brought along promotional materials to share and exchange, which were available throughout the conference to all participants.

As the conference progressed, attendees immersed themselves in session topics such as: How to work with small budgets ways in which to assess the effectiveness of funded programs, Mentoring models, How to address inclusion of gender in Women’s Centers, and how to collaborate with Community Women’s Centers. Lesley’s Marianne Galvin led the group in a thoughtful and helpful session on how to apply for grants in a session titled: Grant Writing workshop: Proposal Writing Made Easy.

Lesley's Marianne Galvin talked to the group about effective ways in which to write grants.

Discussing the role of Gender in Women's Centers. Nino Testa, a graduate student from Tufts University led the session.

One of the most popular parts of the conference was the plenary in which students are the Keynote Speakers. Lesley’s Professor Arlene Dallalfar, introduced the plenary and Lesley students engaged the audience in a show and tell trivia game of guessing feminist iconic images.

The keynote speakers were asked to respond to the topic of Contemporary Feminism based on a TED talk given by blogger and activist Courtney Martin, titled Reinventing Feminism. In her introduction, Professor Dallalfar spoke about the waves of feminism and drew connections to the Third Wave generation students who were in the audience and those presenting. Students from Harvard University, Lesley University and Tufts University gave thoughtful engaging talks about Race and feminism, Humor in Feminism.

Rachael Cina talking discusses the production of the Vagina Monologues.

Lesley’s Sophomore Rachael Cina recounted her experiences in putting together a sold-out production of the Vagina Monologues last February at the Marran Theater.

At the concluding session of the conference participants expressed gratitude to Lesley for hosting and providing another opportunity to go back energized and filled with ideas to implement in their respective centers.

The new buttons for Lesley Women's Center read: "Celebrate Equality- Live Diversity."

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