The roots of the Women’s Center began in 1980 when Evelyn Reiman, then Assistant Director of Student Development, sponsored the first NC State Women’s Week – a series of afternoon and evening programs for campus women. Five years later, the Division of Student Affairs established the first professional staff position to support women students on campus and conduct rape prevention education. The position was held by Janet (Jan) Rogers as “Women Student Concerns Coordinator” working out of Student Health Services and sometimes meeting students in medical exam rooms. Molly Hays Glander, a counselor at the NC State Counseling Center acknowledged a need for a Women’s Center and recognized the significance of sexual assault on our campus. Molly reached out to Evelyn Reiman to create a Sexual Assault Task Force1 in the Women’s Center. Two years later (1987), the office of Women Student Concerns moved from Student Health to the Department of Student Development and Merry Ward joined Jan as a full time Rape Prevention Education Coordinator. That same year, the first Take Back the Night march and rally were held on campus.
In 1989, the Women’s Studies Program began with Barbara Risman as its first director. During that same year, students formed the Women’s Resource Coalition and Heloise Jones was elected as the president. Heloise began working tirelessly for recognition of the unique needs of campus women and wrote a proposal for a Women’s Center as an independent research project through the College of Education. Heloise, along with five other students, Evelyn Reiman, and select faculty, formed a nucleus of activism for women on campus creating a Women’s Resource Coalition newsletter and distributing it to 16,000 campus women.
In the following two years, Evelyn Reiman, Jan Rogers, and Barbara Risman met regularly and developed a proposal for a Women’s Center to be established on campus – but the wheels of change often move slowly.
At a retreat held in the spring of 1991, student leaders were asked what they wanted to accomplish before leaving NC State. Heloise Jones replied that she wanted to see a Women’s Center. She made it a goal. With her tenacious attitude in tow, she set an appointment to see the Provost. She met with Interim Provost Frank Hart and presented her case for a Women’s Center in the campus community. As it turned out, the College of Textiles was moving out of Nelson Hall and the industrial-like building had plenty of empty space. Most of the space was not suitable for offices or even meeting space. However, the basement (which had housed a library) made a very comfortable space. In October of 1991, Heloise saw the fruit of her labor when the Women’s Center officially opened its doors. At the opening reception, Dr. Hart told Heloise that it was what she had said to him that caused him to put his complete support and efforts behind creating the center. That support included giving what was considered very valuable campus “real estate” for it. The first “Friend of the Women’s Center,” Becky Leonard, donated furniture, artwork, and items that made the space more comfortable and welcoming. The Molly Hays Glader hotline2 was started to provide 24/7//365 advocacy to survivors of interpersonal violence and their loved ones.
Heloise commented, “The day we opened our doors, we had meeting space, an office for Jan Rogers, carpet on the floor and women eager to create the space they craved, faculty beaming at a dream and goal realized that they’d campaigned so hard for, university administration applauding with support. All of us knew the world had changed at NC State that day.”
Today, the NCSU Women’s Center continues to serve as a catalyst and resource that advances gender equity and social justice through education, advocacy, and leadership for the campus community. Although we are a “Women’s Center”, we see gender on a continuum and we welcome EVERYONE to the Center. Together with our Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), we envision and work for a Wolfpack community that champions gender equity and promotes respect for all. What started small has grown to five professional staff positions including a Director, Associate Director, Assistant Director of Interpersonal Violence, Rape Prevention Education Coordinator, a University Programs Associate, as well as a Graduate Program Assistant, Undergraduate Interns, Undergraduate Student Staff, Peer Educators and AmeriCorps Literacy members.