27 03, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Steele

By |March 27th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Sarah Steele holds the keys to the Women’s Center’s heart – and its doors and filing cabinets and every administrative undertaking. The first face you see when you walk in the Center (or at least that’s when Sarah’s receptionist desk faced the front door at the Corner location, before we had to move for an office overhaul), Sarah is the essence of calm, caring friendliness and impeccable professionalism. What’s more, she’s wicked smart and could run circles ‘round us in Russian and other subjects. She also has something in common with Elizabeth Taylor (but you have to read more to find out). We give you our very own Grace Slick, Sarah.


1. Tell us about your path to UVA, to where you are now and the work you’re currently doing for the Women’s Center.

After applying to a few schools and getting into some of them, I chose UVA because it was the only school that offered to pay my tuition. Well, I use the word “chose” loosely because the decision was basically made when my dad saw the scholarship offer and said, “That’s where you should go. It’s a great school, too.” After completing undergrad with a degree in Russian and Linguistics, I stayed on for grad school to continue my studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures because they offered me a fellowship (again, finances were a motivator).

After grad school and a few years living in Moscow teaching English, I lost my once diehard desire to become a professor of Russian and decided to work in education in a different way.

Back in Charlottesville, I woke up one morning to a hand-written note from my roommate shoved under my bedroom door with some scribble on it about a receptionist position at the UVA Women’s Center. It said something about “30 hours a week,” and I immediately thought, “That means no benefits” and almost didn’t call. (Side note: I’m apparently whimsical enough to take off to Russia for a couple years and spend my entire twenties “finding myself,” but practical enough to narrow my job search to include jobs with health insurance.) However, I did call that morning and am so glad I did.

My position at the Women’s Center has expanded far beyond receptionist, and I have learned so much that has prepared me for whatever my future holds. I work as an assistant to our Director, Abby Palko; hone my interpersonal skills as office coordinator and front desk manager; and even supervise the Legal Clinic interns. No matter what I’m doing, I’m usually helping someone, which is what I’ve always wanted to do, even if I didn’t always know how specifically during my long and winding path here.


2. Who would you most like to meet (living or dead) for coffee?
Richard Simmons! He’s such a positive and accepting person – a true role model for anyone who’s ever doubted what they can achieve.

21 03, 2017

Student Spotlight: Carrie Bohmer

By |March 21st, 2017|Blog, Gender Violence and Social Change, Interns|0 Comments|

Get to know Gender Violence & Social Change intern, Carrie Bohmer!

Year: 4th
Major: Psychology and Women, Gender, and , Sexuality
Hometown: Richmond, VA

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?
​​I think that gender based violence is 100% preventable and so it’s really important for me to try to end it. Too many people are hurt by it and I wanna be a part of fixing this. I want to be a sexual assault therapist after college and so I think also working in prevention and awareness will help me to have a well-rounded understanding of the field and topic of sexual assault.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?
​​I loved the traditions that it practices and the feel of sophistication that it expels. It epitomizes what a college should feel like to me and I absolutely love it, despite any flaws it may have.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?
​​The lack of diversity really surprised me when I first came here. My high school was very diverse and interesting and I definitely took that mixing of cultures and backgrounds for granted and UVA is definitely lacking in that department.

17 03, 2017

Attorney Spotlight: Brittani Lemonds

By |March 17th, 2017|Blog, Legal Clinic|0 Comments|

UVA students have the opportunity to learn about the legal process by working closely with local attorneys in our Legal Clinic. The commitment from our local attorneys and student interns has allowed our clinic to grow and meet a greater need in the community. Since 2013, we have added a summer legal clinic and increased the frequency of our clinics from once a month, to twice a month, allowing us to meet the needs of more clients all year long. While you can get to know our hard-working interns through our student spotlight series, we want to shine light on the dedicated attorneys who donate their time to our legal clinic.


Get to know Brittani Lemonds of MichieHamlett Attorneys at Law!

A recent graduate from the University of Richmond School of Law, Brittani now works at MichieHamlett Attorneys at Law in Charlottesville and has been a gracious volunteer at the Women’s Center’s Free Legal Clinic since the summer of 2016.

What was your concentration in law school and why does that interest you today?

I didn’t have a specific concentration at the beginning, which I think is the best way to approach law school.  However, once I started getting acquainted with the class offerings and tried a few things out, I ultimately focused my course work on classes specifically dealing with domestic relations, children and the law, and collaborative law.  My interest in this practice area really started during my second year of law school when I took “Family Law” with Professor Meredith Harbach.  Professor Harbach is a real powerhouse of a woman and served as an invaluable mentor to me throughout law school.  I think I felt drawn to family law because of the inherently personalized nature of the practice.

Currently, an area of the law that I find particularly interesting deals with the legal regulation of reproductive medicine.  Most of my research during the third year of law school focused on Assisted Reproductive Technology (or “ART”).  ART encompasses an industry in which modern advances in reproductive technology are constantly creating new ways for couples and individuals to achieve pregnancy and birth.  While much of ART is currently based in contract law, it intersects with family law in a way that is particularly relevant with the changing legal landscape of marriage equality and reproductive freedom.  It probably goes without saying, but I feel like it is an exciting and important time to be practicing family law.  Like many other areas of the law, reproductive technology is evolving at a much faster pace than the legal framework that supports it.  Similar to general family law practice, I find the personalized nature of ART particularly appealing.  ART is an ever-changing area of the law that I soon hope to incorporate into my domestic practice.

16 03, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Jenkins

By |March 16th, 2017|Blog, Young Women Leaders Program|0 Comments|

As Mentoring Coordinator for the Women’s Center Young Women Leaders Program, Sarah Jenkins has helped shaped the professional and personal lives of women in the UVA, Charlottesville, and around the world. She’s funny and stylish and quick and curious. And she owes it all (not really ALL) to the impact of – which musical artist? To find out, read more about our wonderful Sarah Jenkins:

Tell us about your path to UVA, to where you are now and the work you’re currently doing for the Women’s Center.
I was born and raised in Florida, and from a relatively young age I was interested in feminism and women’s issues. I went to UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad where I majored in Women’s and Gender Studies. I graduated in 2008, at the beginning of the recession, so meaningful work was scarce. I worked some odd jobs for a few years but finally decided I wanted to go back to school. I got my masters in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Florida Atlantic University. Almost immediately after that I was offered the position of Program Coordinator at the Ohio University Women’s Center, where I worked for three years before joining UVA’s WC last May as the YWLP Mentoring Coordinator.

Whose work (musical, artistic, professional, or personal) inspires you to work harder or think differently?
OK, many authors, including Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, and Henry Giroux. During this time of uncertainty, many comedians are helping me feeling grounded. The Daily Show, Steven Colbert, and Samantha Bee make me laugh and keep me from hiding in a pillow fort all day.

14 03, 2017

Student Spotlight: Meghan Grumbling-McKenna

By |March 14th, 2017|Blog, Gender Violence and Social Change, Interns|0 Comments|

Get to know Gender Violence & Social Change intern, Meghan Grumbling-McKenna!

Year: 3rd
Major: American Government and Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Hometown: Smithfield, Virginia

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?
For years, I have been fighting against sexual and gender-based violence. Last year, I was an intern for the Women’s Center Legal Aic Clinic, and it was incredibly moving to see the impact these free clinics had within the Charlottesville community. However I wanted to engage more with the community and fight for an issue for which I care deeply. So I applied to the Gender Violence and Social Justice in hopes that I could work to eliminate, or at least decrease, sexual violence in the Charlottesville community. Sexual violence is such a pervasive issue, and has never been more relevant. I want to fight back against the notion that grabbing women by their genitals is harmless, or that it is simply locker room talk. Now, more than ever, the work of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center is imperative to ensuring the safety of marginalized people.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?
I chose UVA because of the rigorous academics, financial aid offered to me, and the opportunities attending UVA would afford me. However, I continue to attend UVA because of the level of activism I see on grounds, and the wonderful people I have met who are fighting for justice every day. I am proud to attend a university surrounded by people who are so passionate about social justice.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?
I have been pleasantly surprised to find so many people at UVA with whom I can relate, and who passionate about creating sustainable change. I have found so many organizations and groups that are constantly working to make the University and the world a better place, and that’s incredibly heartwarming to me.

2 03, 2017

Alum Spotlight: Kiana Williams

By |March 2nd, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Former Women’s Center (Iris) intern Kiana Williams graduated in 2015 with a double-major in anthropology and women, gender, and sexuality, with a minor in film studies. For the past two years she has worked with the Virginia College Advising Corps, and this fall she begins a doctoral program in Cultural Anthropology, with a focus on “how neocolonialism influences Filipina identity, especially in context to popular culture, conceptions of beauty, and performativity.” We are so grateful to have worked with Kiana, and can’t wait to see her scholarly work evolve – and change the world for the better.

Tell us about how your cultural background has shaped your academic and professional work:
As a second-generation immigrant from the Philippines, I did not begin to seriously explore my cultural heritage until I transferred to the University of Virginia. I began to notice how much race and class impacted my daily experiences, which propelled me to get more involved in organizations that let me explore these issues. I became a facilitator for the Women’s Asian American Leadership Initiative and a member of the Organization of Young Filipino Americans. While writing for Iris Magazine, I also served as a literary editor for Inkstone Magazine, a student-run publication that focuses on the narratives of Asian American students. My undergraduate research largely focused on issues facing Asian and Asian Americans, and my interest in building on this research at a doctoral level came about quite naturally. The complexities that surround the Philippines as an independent nation in the face of globalization, paired with the tumultuous political climate both there and in America, has propelled me to take action in the best way I know how: forming human connections with others, then translating these experiences into research, in efforts to provide a catalyst for important, much-needed discussions.

I plan to utilize my PhD in Cultural Anthropology to teach and continue conducting research in the Philippines. I very much enjoy the nature of college classroom settings, wherein difficult conversations are broken down by participants from all very different walks of life. More importantly, I wish to increase visibility of women of color in academia. During my undergraduate career, I only had three professors of color, none of which were women. I wish to be a mode of support for other minority college students, especially those who are low-income and first-generation like myself, while simultaneously producing new knowledges concerning the lived experiences of Filipina women.

Tell us about the professional path that’s brought you where you are – completely planned, surprisingly organic or somewhere in between?
My very first internship was through the Women’s Center with Iris Magazine. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do! I had just transferred from New York University, and the majority of my credits transferred in as Anthropology courses, a field I knew absolutely nothing about. Since I was already close to enough credits for a minor, I decided to try it out. My positive experiences at the Women’s Center – especially the creative environment and our ability to interview faculty and members of my community –  had a tremendous influence on the rest of my academic career.

2 03, 2017
  • Festival of the Book 2017
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    Festival Brings 5 Days of Author Events and Many Months of Must-Reads

Festival Brings 5 Days of Author Events and Many Months of Must-Reads

By |March 2nd, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

The Virginia Festival of the Book is quintessentially Charlottesvillian in the embarrassment of educational and cultural riches it consistently brings us each year. It fits right in with the bustling local food and beverage scene, the stunning beauty of our natural and built environments, and our ample opportunities to take in elite athletics and vibrant arts offerings. But we’re pleased to point out that this celebration of the written word is one blessing we can extend to you wherever you are.


Our picks for this year’s festival are here in date order for you locals along with our insistence that you make time to soak up the abundant insights and inspirations these authors and moderator will be serving up in person. And we’re equally excited to share the heart of the festival – its books – with all of you regardless of where in the country or world your favorite comfy chair is situated. With the festival’s tradition of convening more than 400 authors and moderators for over 250 programs, the options can be overwhelming so our staff has crafted a short list of some of the events we find most intriguing this year.


Happy listening and reading! And special thanks to Abby Palko, Wynne Stuart, Mary Esselman, Claire Kaplan and Alison Kuhn for their contributions to our list.


Wednesday, March 22

Frances Curtis Barnhart (The Beauty of Impermanence) and Beatrix Ost (More than Everything and The Philosopher’s Style) share the stories of their lives and their art.


Authors Marie Benedict (The Other Einstein), Carrie Brown (The Stargazer’s Sister), and Stephen O’Connor (Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings) share their novels featuring characters with intimate connections to historic figures.


Our own Abby Palko has in past years taught a course called Jane’s Heirs, in which students read Jane Eyre and a variety of 20th and 21st century adaptations. She describes Patricia Park’s Re Jane as a very smart, modern retelling of Brontë’s novel transposed to the contemporary U.S. with a lesbian protagonist. At this event, Park and rare book curator Barbara Heritage will discuss the enduring influence of Charlotte Brontë’s nineteenth-century novel. The discussion will be held in the Dome Room of the renovated Rotunda, and will conclude with a book signing and an opportunity to examine and handle some of the rare artifacts displayed in the accompanying exhibition, “Shaping Eyre: Charlotte Brontë’s Classic Novel in 200 Objects.”


Hugh Byrne (The Here-and-Now Habit: How Mindfulness Can Help You Break Unhealthy Habits Once and for All) and Emily Esfahani Smith (The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters) offer powerful practices for incorporating mindfulness and meaning into our lives.
28 02, 2017

Tips for a fun and healthy spring break

By |February 28th, 2017|Blog, Counseling|0 Comments|

Spring break and vacations are a time to relax, rejuvenate, travel, and enjoy time with family and friends. Being safe during this time will ensure that you do have fun and that you bring back good memories of your experience. Here are some tips to make sure that your travel experience is great!

Travel Safety Tips

  • Travel with someone you know and trust, and preferably with a group.
  • Even if you are with a group, you do not have to go along with something if it does not feel safe to you. Follow your own instincts. Listen to your gut.
  • Part of the fun of traveling is to meet new people. At the same time, this can be done in a way that does not cause problems. Don’t go off alone with someone you have just met. Also don’t allow a member of your group to leave alone with someone they do not know.
  • Don’t give out information about your hotel room or let someone you just met into your room. Agree to meet people in public places like restaurants and not isolated locations.
  • Lock your hotel/motel room door (keep your keycard in a safe place) and when someone knocks, always look through the peephole before opening the door.

These may sound like common sense ideas, but it is easy to forget when you’re caught up in the excitement of travel, new experiences, and you are out of your familiar environment.

28 02, 2017

The Palko POV: We Move, Therefore We Are

By |February 28th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

We Move, Therefore We Are

Story by Abby Palko

Abby QuoteIn the days and weeks following the women’s marches, #whyIMarch proliferated around social media as women felt compelled to explain their individual reasons for supporting the marches. Inherent in these reflective pieces was a sense that life in 2017 still poses gendered challenges to women. My educational and professional background has prepared me to see these moments in which we all (re)awaken to this reality coming so I’m often spared the shock felt by many. But in looking back on February’s events here at UVA and in Charlottesville, I did find that I was surprised by a common theme in remarks I crafted for two different events at which I recently spoke: the movement of the body in and through the public sphere.

At first glance, these two events had little to nothing in common. First, I offered the opening remarks at UVA’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day, at which we honored the athletic achievements of Leah Smith, UVA’s gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer. A couple of weeks later, I spoke at Charlottesville’s first annual One Billion Rising event. One Billion Rising, an off-shoot of the V-Day campaign associated with the Vagina Monologues, is an awareness campaign designed to draw attention to the fact that one in three women and girls experience sexual assault and personal violence. While both focused on women and girls, the former event was a celebration of progress and the latter a reckoning of how far we still have to go.

At One Billion Rising, I reflected on Emma Goldman’s insistence that her personal dedication to political activism in service of social justice did not have to preclude having fun. Her biographer, Alix Kates Shulman, shares Emma’s story from her early years as an activist of being pulled aside at a dance by a young man anxious to impress upon her that “it did not behoove an agitator to dance” because her “frivolity would only hurt the Cause.” Emma Goldman was not impressed:

“I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.”

And Emma danced.

28 02, 2017

Student Spotlight: Nick Rupert

By |February 28th, 2017|Blog, Men's Leadership Project|0 Comments|

Get to know Men’s Leadership Project Big Brother, Nick Rupert!

Year: Second Year
Major: Pre-Comm, and Music
Hometown: Clifton, VA

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?

The Men’s Leadership Project (MLP) gives me hope for the future. As a big brother in MLP I get to work with my little brother and the other seventh graders in MLP in order for all of us to grow and become better leaders. A lot of these kids have never had a consistent male role model in their lives and it’s been such a rewarding experience being there for them throughout the year. I’ve honestly had so much fun teaching them about life, and learning alongside them as the year has progressed. Throughout the year we cover topics ranging from bullying, to sportsmanship, to what it means to be a man, and we even do some community service. I highly recommend applying for the Men’s Leadership Project if you’re looking to give back to the community, and develop a mentoring relationship that is extremely fulfilling.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?

I came here for the food.

Just kidding. UVA was close enough to home that I could go home whenever I wanted to, but far away enough that my parents weren’t going to visit every weekend. I knew that I would receive a high quality education here regardless of what I studied, and on top of that I think that Charlottesville is absolutely beautiful. I wanted to study music and business, and UVA just so happened to have an excellent music department, and a renowned undergraduate business program. I love it here.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t been ousted yet for not being preppy. I don’t own anything that’s vineyard vines, or a pair of sperrys. I also don’t know how to tie a bow tie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯