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How and Why You Should Get Involved with the Women's Center

The following has been re-printed from Iris with permission from the author.

Story by: Sophia Socarras

Although my first year at U.Va. was full of fun and exciting new experiences, my hectic schedule kept me from exploring various volunteer opportunities that the community had to offer. This summer in Charlottesville, I decided to use my spare time to volunteer at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at U.Va., and have loved the experience so far. The friendly atmosphere and supportive staff at the Women’s Center have made this both a rewarding and fun learning experience. Volunteering has allowed me to become a part of the Women’s Center team while giving me the flexibility to work around my busy schedule. The overall process for getting involved at the Center is fairly straightforward. If you’re interested in getting involved, you should email Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Steele or call her at (434) 982-2361. Once you talk to Sarah, you’ll receive an email with more information about volunteering and applying to be an intern if you’re a third year student or younger. You will then fill out a volunteer form either in person at the Women’s Center or via email. The form is then passed along to the various program directors. If a program is in need of volunteers, he or she will be contacted by one of the program directors. To encourage more students to get involved, I asked some of the program directors about how other U.Va. students can get involved.

Young Women Leaders Program

Julie Trevett-Smith, Mentoring Coordinator Melissa Levy, Assistant Director Program Mission: The program pairs university student mentors with middle school girls in the Charlottesville community and provides a safe, fun environment to encourage and develop important leadership skills. Program Duties: University student mentors make a yearlong commitment to the program. Mentors spend approximately nine hours a week at a class, Big Sister meeting, a two-hour mentoring group meeting and a minimum of four hours a month with her Little Sister. Volunteer Opportunity: No Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students intern with this program? Trevett-Smith emphasized the dedication and passion of all the people involved in the program. “I am always just blown away by how committed the college students are to the program. They are very passionate and they see the positive impact it has on the girls and that is very clear.”

Men’s Leadership Program

Claire Kaplan, Program Director Program Mission: The program pairs seventh grade boys from the Charlottesville community with undergraduate university men and works to develop their leadership qualities. Program Duties: Big Brothers commit to the yearlong program and participate in weekly group activities and their Big-Little pairs. Volunteer Opportunity: Not usually Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students work with this program? “MLP is especially committed to understanding a wide range of masculinities, fostering a gender-aware perspective on leadership development and mentoring, and encouraging active participation in respectful, healthy, pro-social and anti-violent community roles for those who identify as men and boys,” according to the MLP webpage.

Women, Girls and Global Justice

Program Mission: This program works in the local, national and international community to promote and advance social justice and gender equality through research, teaching and service. Program Duties:

  • Academic courses offered at U.Va., study abroad programs, faculty workshops, lecture series and other global teaching programs work to educate students on “social justice in relation to individual responsibility and in the context of gender on a local and global scale,” according to the WGGJ webpage.
  • University students and staff also work in the local and global community to research and develop programs “for the benefit of the entire global community.”
  • The program encourages community engagement and public service through programs such as YWLP.

Volunteer Opportunity: Not usually Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students work with this program? Interns who participate in the program are able to take advantage of study abroad opportunities, research opportunities and engage in both the local and global community.

Gender Violence and Social Change

Claire Kaplan, Program Director Program Mission: Formerly called the Sexual and Domestic Violence Services program, the Gender Violence and Social Change program works within the U.Va. community to end violence and abuse through education and outreach programs. Program Duties: The program organizes Post-Assault Advocacy, training workshops, Take Back the Night, the Gender Violence and Social Justice academic course and Rape Aggression Defense Training. The program also works with the Men’s Leadership Project program to teach adolescent boys to be “agents of change.” Volunteer Opportunity: Not usually Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students work with this program? Interns who participate in the program can help survivors of gender violence, encourage a supportive environment within the U.Va. community, help train University employees and promote independent studies and student research.

Counseling Services

Charlotte Chapman, Program Director Program Mission: The program provides confidential and free “individual, couples and group counseling services to [U.Va.] students, faculty and staff, as well as to members of the Charlottesville community,” according to the Counseling webpage. Program Duties: “We offer clients an empowerment-based counseling model through which we integrate evidence-based practice with a person-centered approach. We support survivors of all genders who have experienced rape; sexual assault; stalking; domestic violence; emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse; as well as other concerns. Additionally, we are available to support survivors’ friends, family members, and significant others,” Chapman said. Volunteer Opportunity: No Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students intern with this program? Chapman said that her favorite part of the program is that “we are part of a continuum of much needed services at U.Va. […] Many of our students do not have the resources to see a private counselor and they are very grateful that we are here.”

Body Positive/Eating Disorders Education Program

Amy Chestnutt, Coordinator of the Body Positive/Eating Disorders Education Program Program Mission: The program “works to reduce the incidence and prevalence of eating disorders, disordered eating, and exercise and body image concerns on Grounds by using current scientific evidence and translating this research into practice.” Program Duties:

  • The Reflections program, co-led by staff and undergraduate interns, has been proven to improve the “internalization of the ‘thin ideal’ and body dissatisfaction.”
  • Body Positive also collaborates with the U.Va. Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns in working on Grounds to address important issues and coordinate events. In addition, EDEP’s own events Perfect Illusions and Celebrate Every Body Week raise awareness of eating disorders and educate the U.Va. community.

Volunteer Opportunity: No Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students intern with the program? Interns are “trained on how to discuss these issues with others and to provide our programing”. They are able to become a part of students’ self-discovery and make a difference in the local community.

Legal Clinic

Sarah Steele, Free Legal Clinic Supervisor (also Volunteer Coordinator and Assistant to the Director of the Women’s Center) Program Mission: The Free Legal Clinic “serves the community by offering free legal advice” from local lawyers to members of the Charlottesville community. Program Duties: The clinic is held the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Women’s Center. Volunteer Opportunity: Yes Intern Opportunity: Yes Why should students intern or volunteer with the program? Interns “gain experience in understanding how the legal system works, how to best market for a service like this, and can improve their communication skills in learning how to speak with attorneys and clients.” Steele said that students looking to get involved should be “passionate about helping others, can work well in a team, can identity his/her strengths, and weakness within that team, and is interested in learning about how to run a Legal Clinic.”

Iris Magazine

Agnes Filipowski, Communications Assistant and Iris Editor Program Mission: Showcase women’s achievements at the University and within Charlottesville, in support of the women’s community and in conjunction with the Center’s mission to creating change, but to also underscore the relevance of women’s issues. Program Duties:

  • Iris is focused on blogging, as well as organizing events that support women at U.Va. such as “Bad-A** Women” speaker series and “Lean In,” an event at Darden’s iLab from last spring that sought to “recognize women in a field in which they are usually the minority.”

Volunteer opportunity: Yes – always in need Intern opportunity: Yes Why should students volunteer or intern with this program? “If you are looking to go into a career that is journalism-based, social media-based, PR-based or even nonprofit based, this is a really good stepping stone because you get the idea of what it’s like to be in a production cycle, working with a team and writing for deadlines […] It’s a really awesome learning experience to be a volunteer here. Anybody is able to work here if they really want to,” Filipowski said.

Social Media Marketing Team

Program Duties:

  • Maintain, expand and analyze the effectiveness of the Women’s Center’s social media presence.
  • Curate relevant content from around Grounds, the Charlottesville area and the Web as well as implementing publicity campaigns for Women’s Center events and initiatives.

Intern opportunity: Yes

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