Amanda Larch | Managing Editor
Just across the hall from the Financial Aid Office, in Old Main 115, is the new location for Marshall University’s Women’s and Gender Center.
The space is for all students, said Claire Snyder, program coordinator for the center, whether they’re experiencing gender-related issues or just want to learn about getting involved.
“Although we often focus on issues and concerns faced by women and women-identifying students, we know that everyone experiences gender in some way, whether they be men, women, non-binary,” Snyder said. “And so (students) may have gender-related concerns, or they may just be really passionate about working on issues related to gender equity or gender-based violence or interested in seeing how they can get involved in leadership opportunities on campus.”
When visiting NC State last year for a conference, Snyder said she and Leah Tolliver, director of the center, were inspired by how students were working together and utilizing resources in the student center; this served as an influence for the layout of the new Women’s and Gender Center.
“We walked around and looked at how students were using the spaces,” she said. “One thing that we noticed is that students were working in all types of different configurations and groupings, and they wanted flexible seating, flexible work options, and a lot of them were using these whiteboards to study together. And so we just wanted to have the options for students to use the space however they want and whatever fits best for what their needs are.”
Featuring a lounging area, a workspace with a plugin station and a lending library, the Women’s and Gender Center is a multifunctional and safe space welcoming all students to build community, work on projects and have a comfortable and friendly atmosphere, Snyder said.
“I’m really excited for students to have a space to come and hang out (…) between classes or if they’re stressed out,” Snyder said. “They’re always going to find a friendly face in here. They’re always going to find someone who’s happy to answer any questions or lend a listening ear, and I’m excited for students to have such a dedicated space for them.”
The Women’s and Gender Center provides resources for students, such as brochures, sexual health products and menstruation products, and its lending library offers books, films and other educational materials that students may check out and return.
“I was able to do some purchasing over the summer, and we’ve got a lot of great new releases, fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, comedy, poetry, that we thought would be really appealing to young people and some perspectives on all kinds of issues and experiences that we want students to be able to have easy access to,” Snyder said.
“We also have some educational materials like films that are sometimes prohibitively expensive for students to be able to show, especially with institutional licenses on a campus. We have all those materials and they’re available for professors to use, or if students want to plan an event around any of those materials, we’re happy to lend those out.”
Snyder and Tolliver will have their own private offices if students need to speak with them, and a graduate assistant will have office hours as well.
“That’s really one of the great things about the fact that I now have a private office because it’s much more convenient and comfortable for students to be able to come in,” Snyder said. “We’ll do our best to always have someone in the office to greet students or have a way for students to reach us and they will be able to meet privately with us for advocacy support or any other needs.”
Snyder said the previous location of the Women’s and Gender Center, in Prichard Hall, will now be used to provide additional space for the Counseling Center, as well as serve as a testing location for Student Disability Services. When the space became available in Old Main, Snyder said she thought it would be a great new location for the center because students are already familiar with the building.
“Our Assistant Dean Dr. Rayshawn Eastman has been really supportive of making sure that we are investing in the Women’s and Gender Center and in services that serve all students,” Snyder said. “This space in Old Main became available, and we really just thought it would be wonderful to be somewhere where students can easily identify. They’re familiar with Old Main; they walk through here to visit financial aid and the registrar’s office all the time. We hope that they’ll walk by and take a peek in and be like, ‘that looks interesting’ and check it out.”
The Women’s and Gender Center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but Snyder said there will be opportunities for afterhours activities as well, such as film screenings, meetings for student organizations and even a possible Galentine’s Day event.
“We hope students will come and visit us, this is their space, and so we want them to be able to use it,” Snyder said. “So we also love that this space gives us the opportunity to host activities and events right here in our space.”
Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]