Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Conversations with Women of Distinction

Yesterday the African Ancestry Month Planning Committee, in conjunction with the Women's Center, hosted Conversations with Women of Distinction. The event merged the themes of African Ancestry Month (Fenruary) with Women's History Month (March) by featuring a panel of inspirational Women of Color.

The panelists included Alison Banks-Moore, the Chief Diversity Officer for Work Life Initiatives at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; Kaili Baucum, Educational Consultant and Doctoral Student; Venus Hewing, Psychological Counselor at Ramapo's center for Health and Counseling; Rose Mary Howell EdD,  Dean of Students at Montclair State University; and Rita Williams-Bogar MBA, CPCU, ChFC, the President & CEO of Personal Development Solutions LLC.The panel was moderated by Regina Clark, Professor of Journalism at Ramapo, and Sabina Ulysse, the President of the Students of Caribbean Ancestry. 

Over the course of two hours the panelists shared personal stories and gave advice on a wide range of personal topics. When asked what they know now, that they wished they knew as college students all five panelists recommended getting an internship or another form of real world experience to help determine what your passsions are. Kaili talked at length about embracing the experiences that come with college, including studying abroad, and taking the time to engage with people who are different from you. All of the women also recommended networking on a deeper level by building a framework of people who you engage with on a regular basis, and finding yourself mentors within that network who you can trust to keep you grounded.

My personal favorite piece of advice came from Rita, who warned the audience against letting your work become your life. "You are number one on your to-do list," she said after advising the audience to choose a job that they feel passionate about. She warned the audience that if they were not careful, they could find themselves working 24/7 since work that we care about has a tendency to cross the boundaries into leisure time.

I was personally most interested in the portion of the conversation that focused on the challenges these women had to overcome over the course of their lives. During this section the panelists shared a wide range of stories that related to sexism and racism, including one instance where a panelist was told by a visiting business-person with their company that when given the choice between a man and a woman who are equally qualified, the man should be hired because he will not take a "vacation" to have baby. All of the panelists' abilities to overcome these challenges and still be successful and happy was wonderfully encouraging. All five of them demonstrated major amounts of strength, creativity, integrity, and other traits that make them wonderful role-models to everyone who got to attend the event.

If you were at the event and you’d like to share your reflections on the event, please let us know in the comments!

I just want to take a moment to shout-out to Sarah Costello, Graduate Assistant for the Office of Student Development since this was her last event at Ramapo before heading off to work for the American Diabetes Association. We'll miss you Sarah! I also wanted to thank Rick Brown and everyone else on the Planning Committee for putting together this awesome event. Finally, I wanted to take a moment to notice the cameo that the Women's Center couches made in this event! (We're so proud of them!)

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