Women’s Center 4EVER: Reflections on My Last Day as Women’s Center Staff

Few college graduates can claim to have had the experience my fellow staff and I have shared while with the Women’s Center. Our jobs have been many things: one part employee, one part student, one part teacher, one part social justice programmer, one part artist, one part writer, one part friend, one part killjoy. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know I was able to work from many different angles–something I’ve always wanted in a job–and I was guided by my own passion for feminism and social justice. With the Women’s Center, I have gained quite a bit of insight into working with a professional social justice organization.

This is where I’m going to talk about what I’ve gained from my time with the Women’s Center.

I’m not crying or anything about it being my last day…

Working at the Women’s Center you gain a lot of different skills that become increasingly useful as you approach graduation and begin to enter the “real world,” as we so forebodingly call it (as if college is a wholly separate fantasy world where our responsibilities don’t exist). Here are a few of the most valuable things I’ve learned about, and that I’ve been reflecting on as I count down to my last day working at the Center.

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UMBC Women Who Rock: Rehana Shafi

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’m working on throughout the 2014-15 academic year (and now perhaps beyond). In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.

-Jess

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UMBC Women Who Rock!
Rehana Shafi, Director of the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program

In the few UMBC Women Who Rock blog posts I’ve written over the past year, I end with the same paragraph every time. I ask my readers about which UMBC women inspire them and how the counter narratives they’re sharing with us allow UMBC and our greater community to be more of exactly who we want to be. I absolutely love the power of counternarratives and their ability to expose assumptions and reveal complexities and depth. And, while it’s so important to emphasize the counternarratives, after connecting with Rehana Shafi earlier this summer, I was reminded of the importance of also simply knowing the narrative of someone’s life.

Rehana speaking at the dedication of the naming of Sherman Hall.

Rehana speaking at the dedication of the naming of Sherman Hall.

Rehana and I are both a part of the Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) Division and for the past four years have shared time together at leadership team meetings. During these meetings, I have looked to Rehana as a role model as I design my own concept of women’s leadership. I appreciate the time I have to sit with her around the UAA leadership table. She asks important questions, provides important context to discussions, inserts moments of humor and light-heartedness, and exemplifies confidence. I have learned a great deal from Rehana by simply being at the same table with her. And, despite having spent this time with Rehana, I recently was reflecting on the fact that I knew very little about her and who she is. This realization inspired me to set up a time to meet with her under the guise of a UMBC Women Who Rocks interview.

So, I asked her “Who are you?”

But, let me take a step back. This actually wasn’t the first question I asked her.  Continue reading