With representation from almost 15 different groups on Grounds, the first Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center Student Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 10 was a strong example of collaboration and a rare opportunity for the Center to receive direct input from those they serve most – students.

About 20 U.Va. students attended the inaugural meeting, with about 10 additional students who have agreed to be on the board, but were unable to attend this meeting due to a class schedule conflict.

Some students were directly connected to the Center, such as former or current interns in the Body Positive program and Gender Violence and Social Change. Others hold leadership positions in a U.Va. student organization. The following is the full list of students and organizations that were in attendance at this meeting:

The working lunch session was buzzing with energy, as students gathered around the conference room table in the Upstairs Library of the Center. Women’s Center Director Sharon Davie welcomed the students with introductions of herself and Tricia Crawford, Business Manager at the Women’s Center, as well as the creator and organizer of the SAB.

Tricia Crawford stated that, “The suggestion of creating a Student Advisory Board came from the Women’s Center Mission Retreat at Morven Farms in October of last year.”

After addressing a few logistical issues of the board, Sharon Davie introduced the recently revised mission statement of the Center, the range in the Center’s programs, and the milestone of the Center’s 25th anniversary year. Davie then concluded with a list of short/long-term objectives for the SAB:

  1. Participate in the celebration of the Women’s Center 25th anniversary year by promoting events and planning student events.
  2. Create a vision statement for the Women’s Center.
  3. Generate ideas on increasing the awareness of the Women’s Center mission.
  4. Facilitate conversation from the student perspective on what the needs are for first years, etc., that are not already met.
  5. Provide additional insight into what areas the Women’s Center can focus on for the advancement of women.
  6. Be a focus group by listening to new ideas and providing your thoughts.
  7. Advise on how to engage and serve male students.
  8. Determine a three-year strategic plan for the Women’s Center Student Advisory Board.

The majority of the meeting dedicated time to hearing initial questions and thoughts from the students.

Sara Surface, President of the Sexual Assault Leadership Council, asked if students could lobby for more funding from the University to increase resources and counselors at the Center. In response, Davie suggested that we need to get a copy of a recent proposal from the Director of Counseling at the Center, Charlotte Chapman, for more information and said that a “letter of support” with their signatures would be helpful in showing need and impact.

Sandra Menendez, former GVSC intern, was concerned about those who have “felt rejected by the internship” because they were not able to be part of the program.” She expressed a desire to develop and utilize a volunteer base so that there would be more “student power” at the Center. Menendez suggested that these volunteers could feel useful by fulfilling weekly requests from Women’s Center program interns and other program needs, such as preparing folders for a Survivor Support Network Training session.

Julia Pedrick, President of the Inter-Sorority Council, mentioned that student leaders can help get the word out about the Women’s Center within their individual organizations. Individual organizations could even create a Women’s Center Committee within their organization. In this way, more students would feel involved and connected, even if they were not able to be an intern or a regular volunteer at the Center, or even be a part of the SAB.

Tricia Crawford stated that, “It was exciting to see the board members wanting to be involved and make a difference. I am really looking forward to the future with an active Student Advisory Board.”

The next SAB meeting will be in February 2015.

Story and photo by Agnes Filipowski