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What's Changed and What Remains

Calendar pages keep flipping, moving us closer to the end of 2020. The trees have released all but the most tenacious leaves, and one morning soon, we will wake up to winter, the fourth season of our coronavirus world. One thing I know for sure is that 2020 will not end the way we might have imagined when it began. When I recall the giddiness of planning for a new decade in January, and contrast it with the more sober approach to assessing needs guiding us now, I’m struck by the ways that resilience is both a daily choice and highly dependent on social, systemic, and structural support. 

“We’re here for you” is not just a tagline on our marketing materials. Every day, I have the great joy of working alongside the dedicated members of the Women’s Center and our student interns. A lump forms in my throat in that moment when my laptop screen populates with their Zoom boxes… Like the rest of the University, we transitioned most of our services to online platforms in March, providing our services (like counseling) and programs (like the mentoring programs and our trainings) remotely as our contribution to bringing the pandemic under control. For work that is, at its deepest core, about relationships and building human connections, this has challenged us to think about what is lost – but also to embrace what is gained. 

 

Our engagement with the next generation of leaders helps us hold in balance the demands of racial, economic, health, and environmental justice in our work for gender equity.

 

Some of our counseling clients have found that their healing work has benefited from the opportunity to undertake it from a personal setting. Programs teams are experimenting with new events, including an over-subscribed book club discussion. I do not mean to minimize the pain, grief, and suffering that too many people are enduring. We are called to work to rebalance the deep inequities that 2020 has highlighted. The social justice ethos we champion at the Women’s Center reminds us that careful attention to both negative and positive outcomes in a crisis prepares us to advocate for a more equitable rebuilding post-crisis.

In this work, we lean on mentorship, the third of our guiding values, as an indispensable tool: for us, mentorship can only ever be a multi-directional relationship. We learn as much – if not more! – from our students as we aspire to offer them. Over the past nine months, they have consistently impressed us with their commitment to working alongside us to provide support to the entire university. They share their observations with us, they pick up projects and run with them, they remind us on a daily basis of what the future can look like, if we dare to dream. 

Above I referenced the pandemic, but that is only one element of the multi-faceted challenge facing our country right now. The path ahead will place heavy demands on us all, and we, the staff of the Women’s Center, are deeply grateful to be walking it with our students. In a profound way, our engagement with the next generation of leaders helps us hold in balance the demands of racial, economic, health, and environmental justice in our work for gender equity. We thank them – and you – for joining us in our work.

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