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“30 Years of Life-Changing Work”: WSU Women’s Center Celebrates Anniversary

Women’s Center Celebration | Photo by Emily Mancuso | The Wright State Guardian

On Saturday, Oct. 21, the Wright State University Women’s Center celebrated its 30th anniversary, discussing the history of the center, how it has impacted students and how it has influenced women in Dayton.

History of the center

The complex and triumphant history of the WSU Women’s Center is quite long, but Women’s Center Assistant Director Bobbie Szabo provided a comprehensive summary of how the center came to be.

Szabo sourced from speeches from prior anniversaries, WSU Guardian and Newsroom articles, the report from the Task Force on the Status of Women in the Academy at Wright State University that established WGS and the Women’s Center and advocacy letters by Gertrude Chasens, which forced the university into action in the first place.

The 1970s brought activist speakers and gender studies classes to campus, and the 1980s brought the Mini University and the expansion of these classes.

These changes were brought upon by the aforementioned Yellow Springs teacher Gertrude Chasens, who championed a letter-writing campaign to the university as a call for action, and the Task Force on the Status of Women in the Academy led by Dr. Mary Beth Pringle.

The Women’s Center officially opened in February 1993.

Despite the myriad bomb and death threats in its short history, the Women’s Center continues to be there for students and their needs.

“30 years of women not taking no for an answer. 30 years of leadership, of meeting the needs of Wright State and the surrounding community, of empowerment and education and advocacy and hugs and laughs and tears. 30 years of life-changing work,” Szabo said.

Szabo continued to cite information on why the Women’s Center is still needed, including that women are more likely to drop out of school because of familial obligations as well as lack of financial support. 

“At Wright State, women students report experiencing discrimination, harassment, bullying and aggression at a much higher rate than men. WSU’s women report feeling significantly less safe on campus than its men,” Szabo said. 

Since Aug. 13, the Women’s Center has reached 1,013 students, faculty and staff.

Meaningful moments, inspiring voices 

At the conclusion of Szabo’s speech, a video played with students describing how the Women’s Center has impacted them.

“Besides being a literal space to any person identifying as a woman, the space is also very open and welcoming to any person, regardless of gender identity,” student Isabel Harney-Davila said in the video.

After the impactful video, keynote speakers Jocelyn Robinson and Juliet Fromholt took the stage. Robinson is the Director of Radio Preservation and Archives at WYSO public radio based in Yellow Springs.

“I first started taking classes at Wright State back in 1974. We called it White State University then,” Robinson said, talking about personal education and career. “It was a long slog, but it was worth it.”

Fromholt is the Music Director of WYSO, host of “Kaleidoscope & Alpha Rhythms” and a previous member of WSU’s WWSU radio station.

“WYSO also started me on a path of realizing that media can make a difference,” Fromholt said. “That people hearing things, seeing things, can affect the way they think and see the world.”

Both Robinson and Fromholt gave a behind-the-scenes look at the production and process of making a podcast, their experiences as alumnae of Wright State and the life of women audio producers while playing excerpts from their podcast, “Rediscover Radio: Women’s Voice, Women’s Music in the WYSO Archives.”

Reflections and support for the center

At 8 p.m., attendees could come down to the Women’s Center to partake in snacks and tour the new location.

As the assistant director and only full-time staff member at the Women’s Center, Szabo mainly organized the event.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge women’s accomplishments and think 30 years, three full decades is a huge amount of time and a really impressive amount of time, and I think that because my position was not filled for an entire year, we really needed an opportunity to come together and celebrate the work of the Women’s Center and to remind campus that we are still here, and we are still doing that work and will continue to do that work,” Szabo said.

Similarly, attendee Leah Ward is the Director of the Women’s Center for the University of Dayton, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“I hope I can come back for the next ten, the next twenty, the next thirty [anniversaries]. I hope the Women’s Center continues to grow at Wright State,” Ward said.

Before the start of the event, the center encouraged donations to be put towards the Women’s Center Student Emergency Fund and Women’s Center Opportunity Fund, raising an additional $150.
Readers can click here to donate to the Women’s Center. For more information about the center, visit the Division of Inclusive Excellence website.

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