Against a sunny, clear spring day, a gathering of faculty, staff and students helped mark the re-opening of the California State University, Dominguez Women’s Resource Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 3.
“We are so happy to be able to re-open the women’s center,” Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Borrego said. “There has been so much shared effort among groups on campus in support of the center. It is a great day to see it open.”
Ivonne Heinze-Balcazar, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages who served as director of Women’s Resource Center prior to its closing, expressed joy at seeing the center reopen.
“I am so thrilled that the Women’s Resource Center has new facilities, which will provide women students from now on a safe space in which to relax, study, socialize, obtain academic, professional and personal growth, promoting experiences and learn in an collaborative manner,” she said.
The center, which had been on the campus since the 1970s, was forced to close in 2009 due to budget cuts. Understanding the importance such a center plays on a college campus–especially a campus like CSU Dominguez Hills with a majority female student population–University President Willie J. Hagan allocated resources toward its reopening.
A committee within the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs began meeting last spring to plan the return of the center. Led by Sonja Daniels, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, the committee convened focus groups with students, faculty and staff, visited centers on other university campuses, and created a vision for what the center would become, Daniels said.
One student in particular who took part in the planning was Marcela Franco, who was among the victims at a shooting near Santa Monica Community College in June of 2013. Daniels dedicated the opening to her memory.
“I know she would be really proud of us and what this center is going to mean for our students going forward,” Daniels said.
The new Women’s Resource Center opened in January in room 148 of the Small College Complex. The center includes a reception area with computers, books and bulletin board with informational materials and announcements, a break room with small refrigerator, microwave and table, and a larger lounge area with seating and desks where students can study, or have small group discussions.
“Students on campus, particularly women, need a women’s resource center that will provide them with programming, workshops, referrals, individual and group support and opportunities for personal and academic growth and self-exploration,” Heinze-Balcazar said. “We need a women’s resource center that, working with other entities on campus, will create an environment in which women can thrive. Yes indeed we need a women’s recourse center that will advocate for greater understanding of the role and impact of gender in our institution, our lives and our society.”
Tasked with those endeavors and likely more will be the center’s staff, director Jenny Whyte, graduate student program assistant Liliana Iglesias, student assistants Teresa Payne (senior, psychology), Yolanda Gutierrez (junior, sociology) and Linda Kring (senior, business administration), and student interns Roxanne Pinto (senior, sociology) and Denise Wright (senior, human services). They are also joined by two faculty fellows, sociology adjunct faculty member Joan Budesa and Chicana/o studies associate professor Marisela Chávez.
“We have a rich history here at Dominguez Hills for this center, and now we have an opportunity to expand on that history, to support our women and to help raise them up and move them forward,” Whyte said.
In the short time it’s been open, the center already has regulars. Rhae Mae Reid, a business administration major, has been using the center as a quiet place to have lunch, study or chat with staff since it opened. She was invited to say a few words at the re-opening ceremony.
“I’m usually the first student Jenny sees in the morning and probably the last student in the evening,” Reid said. “It’s a nice friendly place. I love the ambiance here. I get a lot of positive encouragement from the staff and students, just encouraging me to work hard and just stay positive. The center’s helping me to get a step closer to my goals, and I’m just so appreciative for the center…. Thank you, Women’s Resource Center.”
For more photos, visit the set created on the unversity’s Flickr account, http://flic.kr/s/aHsjTN1pSZ.