The Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.
This week we’re featuring our founding documents and our current mission statement.
“…the Women’s Center will enhance the lives of people…It will be an advocate for women fighting persistent marks of social inequality and prejudice that limit their potential—whether they are students, staff, or faculty…There is no doubt that the Center will play an important role in attracting students to come to UMBC and in improving the quality of their university and subsequent careers,” Angela Moorjani, Women’s Center Committee member, 1991
UMBC is a diverse community with diverse needs. Since UMBC’s founding in 1966, faculty, staff and students have felt the need to have a safe space on campus where resources, information, and materials could be accessed on issues relating to gender, equity, and justice. In creating the space, the Founding Committee for the Women’s Center had to ask themselves important questions about establishing a Center in the first place. For instance: What services will be provided? Where will it be located? Who will run it? Where will funding be obtained? There was a strong consensus that a space was needed that was safe, provided advising, with special attention for returning women students, offered information on women’s health and area clinics, and was a meeting space for women’s groups on campus. Its mission would be to assist women in achieving their full potential in education, work, and personal lives through personal empowerment, academic and intellectual growth, and professional development.
The Founding Committee went about answering these questions by gathering information about pre-existing Women’s Centers and their functions by contacting and visiting other campus-based women’s centers. With this information, the Founding Committee were able to write a proposal and hold formal meetings with administrators to request space and funding support for a center.
The Women’s Center Committee made the Women’s Center a reality in September 1991 with the help of Provost Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger and the Founding Committee for the Women’s Center. Through Argersinger, money from the Provost’s Office was initiated to fund furniture and the salary of a part-time director. The Management Committee offered a space and contributed funds that established operating funds for the Center. Because of this funding, the support of campus departments, and the hard work of so many committed individuals, the Women’s Center was first established on the second floor of GYM I, Room 207. It consisted of four offices (a meditation/lactation room, the director’s office, the Women’s Union office and a storage room for files) and one large common room that was used as a multi-purpose space.
Twenty-five years later and UMBC growth and evolution to addition of more resources and services continues to shape who the Women’s Center is and what it should be and mean for the campus community. Over the past few years, the Women’s Center staff and Advisory Board spent countless hours in researching, assessment, and engaging in critical conversations about what an update to the Women’s Center mission statement could and should look like. With new initiatives like Critical Social Justice and discussion groups such as Women of Color Coalition and Spectrum, it was important for us to center the work the Women’s Center does related to social justice, feminism, and anti-racism. It was also important for us to maintain our deliberate focus on women and advocacy. In 2015, we introduced our new mission statement and guiding principles to the UMBC community.
The Women’s Center at UMBC advances gender equity from an intersectional feminist perspective through co-curricular programming, support services, and advocacy for marginalized individuals and communities. We prioritize critical social justice as our community value, with a deliberate focus on women, gender, anti-racism, and feminism.
All are welcome as long as they respect women. Their experiences. Their stories. Their potential.
- We will encourage authentic dialogues among students, faculty, and staff to facilitate consciousness-raising, transformative learning, and self-determination.
- We will embody our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and social justice in our operation, staffing, and programming.
- We will operate from a holistic and non-hierarchical anti-violence framework.
- We will challenge the barriers that reinforce inequity and oppression impacting our university and broader communities.
- We will cultivate women’s empowerment, involvement, and leadership in all aspects of university life.
What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!
Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!