celebrating 50 years of the UConn Women's Center

Throughout 2022, we are proudly celebrating 50 years of educating, advocating, and providing support services for the achievement of women’s equity at the university and within the community at large. The Women’s Center was formally established in 1972, although our existence is clearly thanks to the dedication and activism of the feminist community which was well established before that. Throughout this page, find a portion of the story, but we know this could not reflect the diversity of perspectives and voices of all of those who were involved.

Bolstered by the national climate of the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement, a group of students, faculty, and community members began organizing in the late 1960’s in an effort to raise awareness of the issues facing women on campus. This led to the formation of the Free Women’s Collective in 1972, which had established a Women’s Center as a primary goal. In March of 1972, Elizabeth (Betty) Roper, the Director of the Continuing Education for Women program provided temporary space in the Bishop Center building for the Center. She also was responsible for overseeing the hiring of the first full-time Director.

Since then, the UConn Women's Center has remained dedicated to its mission, challenging the power structure that reinforces inequality based on the intersection of race and gender through events, programs, coalitions, and support services that fight for the rights of all women to control their bodies and destinies, to live their lives free of violence and abuse, to receive equal protection under the law and equal access to education, employment, and power.

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Women’s Center Herstory

Our story shows what can happen when we build alliances and support networks in the name of social justice. Below, explore a timeline of key UConn Women's Center events over the past half-century, as well as a selection of alumni testimonials.

Historical Timeline

  • 1972

    Women’s Center is established. It includes a library, counseling services, referral services, and rape crisis support and advocacy.

  • 1975

    Created 15 collectives serving needs of gay students, divorced women, rape survivors and black students.

  • 1976

    Establishment of literary magazine. Center is recognized as a state resource for women.

  • 1977

    Publications of several topic specific booklets and general newsletter. Establishment of Information Clearing House and Brown Bag Rap.

  • 1978

    Expanded affiliation with state and national organizations. Involvement in National ERA March.

  • 1979

    Chairing a Day of Metanoia after a brutal assault on campus. Rape Crisis Collective leaves the Women’s Center to become a community rape crisis center serving the Northeast region.

  • 1980

    Launched pornographic awareness program. Instituted a series of sexual harassment workshops.

  • 1981

    Rape Education Program established.

  • 1985

    Started Women’s WHUS Radio Collective. Offered career counseling series.

  • 1986

    Publication of CT Peer Project on Teen Pregnancy, Education, Attrition. Involvement with Project on Women and Technology and CT Women’s Network. Major advocacy efforts to improve child care on campus.

  • 1987

    Co-sponsored two national conferences, “Global Perspectives: Local Action, Equality, Development, and Peace” and “Women, Work, and Technology.”

  • 1988

    Publication of “Inching Toward Equality” and “Small Indignities/Large Affront: A Qualitative Study of Graduate Life.” Establishment of Vocational Equity Research Training Evaluation Center with School of Education.

  • 1989

    Publication of three research reports (Double Jeopardy – The Precarious Status of Women of Color, Child Care – Everyone’s Concern, and Traditional Dreams in a Changing World: Balancing Work and Family).

  • 1990

    Publishing of “It’s Our Shop Too!” Chairing a campus Day of Metanoia committee.

  • 1992

    Establishment of Mandatory Orientation Training for all incoming students on sexual assault and acquaintance rape. Expanded support groups for students, services for women of color, and advocacy services.

  • 2000

    Publication of three research reports (Double Jeopardy – The Precarious Status of Women of Color, Child Care – Everyone’s Concern, and Traditional Dreams in a Changing World: Balancing Work and Family). Planning Participant for the 100 Years of Women Celebration. Initiated ongoing sexual assault training for athletes. Involvement in “We Won’t Go Back” rally in Washington, DC.

  • 2001

    Helped organize the first Cultural Explosion and Love Your Body Day.

  • 2002

    Awarded the “Advancing the Status of Women” award from the Soroptimist International of Willimantic, CT and recognized at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund’s 15th Annual Hosted the 16th Annual Women’s Health Conference with the School of Nursing.

  • 2003-04

  • Focused on staff development for full-time and student staff. Decision is made not to host Take Our daughters To Work Day due to the change by the national sponsors to include taking sons to work on that day as well.
  • 2004-05

Many staff and students from the UConn Community participate in the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C.

  • 2005-06

Women’s Center creates several new programming initiatives including “Creating Real Community”, “Celebrate Women Brown Bag Lunch Series”, “Support Staff Brown Bag Lunch”, and “Among Women”.

  • 2006-07

    Moves to the 4th floor of the Student Union. Launches “Don’t Cancel Your Class” program that allows faculty to work with Women’s Center staff to provide guest lectures when a faculty member is unavailable to teach.

  • 2007-08

Ariel Levy, author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the rise of Raunch Culture”, comes to speak to the University of Connecticut.

  • 2008-09

The Women’s Center focuses on a Civic Engagement Project that attempts to enhance political interests of young women across campus and beyond for the Presidential election.

  • 2009-10

The Women’s Center sponsored a lecture by Sheryl WuDunn, best-selling co-author of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”.

  • 2010-11

    The Women’s Center is the primary organizer for the University’s Constitution Day program, which recognized the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

  • 2011-12

The Women’s Center, along with the other Cultural Centers, becomes a part of the Division of Student Affairs.

  • 2012-13

    The Women’s Center celebrates their 40th Anniversary by inviting Gloria Steinem to the campus.

  • 2013-14

Center served on the writing team for the University’s proposal, Next Generation Strategies for Advancing Gender Equity (Next Gen/SAGE), which was led by the Provost’s Office.  Served on the President’s Task Force on Civility and Campus Culture.

  • 2014-15

Served on the Mandatory Sexual Assault Education/Prevention On-line Program Development Committee.  Co-sponsored 15th Annual International Human Rights Conference UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights - Human Trafficking, Forced Labor and Exploitation.

  • 2015-16

  • 2016-17

  • 2017-18

  • 2018-19

  • 2019-20

  • 2020-21

  • 2021-22

  • Today

Alumni Spotlight
Nicole Graf

Nicole Graf 2004

School Counselor

Apponequet Regional High School

I worked at the Center for my 4 years at UConn and to say that experience impacts my day-to-day would be a grand understatement. My experience at the Women’s Center has taught me to continue learning with an open mind, to be protective of and confident in my progressive worldview, and to lead an authentic, visible, proud life personally and professionally.

Victoria Flagg

Victoria Flagg 2011

Surgical Nurse

Middlesex Hospital

I have been able to use my experiences and education to more fully care for the each patient and their unique experiences by viewing them through an intersectional lens. I have taught about how preconceived notions impact trans individuals and create barriers in their ability to receive quality, compassionate care.

Nellie Stagg

Nellie Stagg 2013

Director of Rural Programs

Statewide Capacity Building Nonprofit

The Women’s Center helped me find my voice – I’ve been using it ever since and working to help others to find theirs. The respect, trust, and community of the Women’s Center set the standard for me of the kind of office and team I wanted to work for.

Greta Kenney

Greta Kenney 2006

Director of the Women’s Resource Center
Associate Dean of Students

Cornell University

The Women’s Center has been embedded in every job I’ve ever had—from being a case manager at a domestic violence/sexual assault non-profit to a diversity and inclusion practitioner in higher education. More than anything though—what I’m most grateful for is how the Women’s Center shaped the way I think, view, and experience the world.

Rachel Stewart

Rachel Stewart 2014

Director of Sexual Violence Prevention & Advocacy

Connecticut College

Being hired as a VAWPP facilitator completely changed my career path. Since graduation I have been working on college campuses supporting LGBTQ students and/or doing sexual violence prevention work.

Mick Powell

Mick Powell 2015

Assistant Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

(my absolute dream job!)

University of Connecticut

My time as the Between Women Facilitator at the Women’s Center led me to continue to seek community after graduating, to carve and keep important space for queer and trans women and femmes. My time at the center was so rewarding and I couldn’t imagine being without such a thoughtful and intentional community!

Ajay Shenoy

Ajay Shenoy 2008

Assistant Professor of Economics

University of California

I went to the University of Michigan for graduate school. In large part because of my work at the WC, the university awarded me a fellowship aimed at fostering diversity. While at Michigan I spent all five years of grad school volunteering and working at UM’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center in the Men’s Activism Program.

Huong Nguyen

Huong Nguyen 2016

Academic Advisor

Student Success Center, San Jose State University

My experience as Graduate Assistant at the Women’s Center allowed me to understand the impact of language and to think critically when it comes to practices/policies.

See all alumni updates

These are only the highlights so look out for our newsletter for so much more!


 

Tell Us Your Story

The Women’s Center Invites Alumni Stories & Photos for Inclusion in 50th Anniversary Celebration

As part of the Women’s Center’s 50th anniversary, we hope to tell the stories of all of the folx who have been a part of our herstory. Please get in touch and share your story! We welcome reflections on time spent at the Women’s Center and stories about life after college. These stories will become a significant part of 50th anniversary celebration and our herstory.

 

We are also requesting that alumni send photos of themselves and peers from when they were at the Center, as well as current pictures. Please identify those in the pictures. These pictures may be showcased at the events which will take place honoring our 50th anniversary.

Share Your Story

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    Save the Date

    UConn Women's Center 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend

    November 4-6, 2022

    Reconnect with old friends, meet some new ones, and help us build a stronger and more connected alumni affinity groups. Check this page for details to come.

    Feminism in the belief that all women have the right to control their bodies and destinies; the right to live a life free of violence and abuse; the right to equal protection under the law, including equal access to education, employment, and power.

    — UConn Women’s Center

    Signature Event

    Take Back the Night is a decade long tradition, honoring victim-survivors of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and harassment.

    2020 Take Back the Night poster graphic, which shows to hands holding tight in the dark

    Take Back The Night

    2022 — Speak Out & Candlelight Ceremony

    Honoring victim-survivors of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and harassment through poetry, stories, song, and open mic.

    Free Food and Drink provided. Gender inclusive!

    Learn More

    Take Back the Night 2021

    Rooted in Resilience

    2021

    This year we demonstrate our strength overcoming unique challenges this year brought us, and finding inspiration to move forward.

    Learn More

    2020 Take Back the Night poster featuring a soaring phoenix

    Falling, Rebuilding, Soaring.

    2020

    An evening of empowerment and healing for survivors of gender-based violence. Join us for our solidarity march, speak out, and late night discussion.

    Learn More

    Our Students

    Our student staff members have filled key roles to keep the Women's Center running for 50 years.

     

    Current Staff  Student Legacy

    Photo from the 1975 Nutmeg Yearbook illustrate support for women’s issues on campus in the 1970s.

    1975

    student staff 2020

    2020