For 30 years, the Women's Resource Center (WRC) at Bucknell has provided a home not just for women but also for underrepresented groups across campus. Now the center is celebrating its anniversary with a two-day event, including a gala and a women's leadership panel, that brings together current students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members to recognize the achievements of women locally and on a global scale.
Women have always had a place at Bucknell — the University's Female Institute opened in 1852, just six years after the University was founded, and the University became fully coeducational in 1883. But as women's rights and women's issues evolved in national conversation, women at Bucknell pushed for the University to become more actively inclusive. The WRC began as a collaboration between staff members and graduate students, including co-founder Jamie Grant M'83, who also started the first support group for the LGBTQ community at Bucknell.
In the early days of the center, students and staff members participated in weekly confidential talks about women's issues; by 1991, the WRC had expanded enough to initiate an annual Women's Leadership Conference that brought activists and scholars to campus to speak about feminism and women's rights. Although the conference no longer occurs, the center continues to elevate diverse voices on campus, organize service opportunities, and collaborate with other organizations to provide leadership training and academic discussions for students.
"Something I'm really proud of with the WRC is that it is collaborative, not competitive," said Kelsey Hicks, the center's director. "I never like seeing women pitted against each other in competition. I want inspiration and empowerment."
So far the 2017–18 academic year has featured a series of workshops on self-care, an ongoing book club called Between the Covers, and events like the BeYoutiful Pajama Party (with the Bucknell Panhellenic Council) and Take Back the Night (with Speak UP Bucknell), part of an international movement that fights violence against women through marches and vigils.
Anushikha Sharma '19, a double major in computer science & engineering and women's & gender studies, appreciates the WRC's emphasis on inclusivity and intersectionality. "As a woman of color, it's nice to feel seen and understood in a space that welcomes women of color," she says. "I hope everyone served by the center can use it for safety, growth, creativity and companionship."
That sentiment is reflected in the theme of the center's 30th anniversary: "Inspired by women, empowered for all." All are welcome to participate in the celebration, regardless of gender identity. Partner organizations across campus are putting together two full days of events, including coffee talks in the ELC where all students can get career advice from successful alumnae, a dinner between student leaders and the alumnae, and a speaker panel open to the entire student body on the subject of women in leadership. The WRC is also sponsoring a gala, open to all students, faculty and staff, where members of the campus community and beyond will be honored for their contributions to women's rights on and off campus.
Hicks hopes that current students will be inspired by the accomplishments of the past and look for ways to put that inspiration to work in their own lives moving forward.
"I want everyone who uses this space to realize we can be the change we want to see in the world," she said.