Tucked away at the end of an entirely unremarkable hallway on the third floor of Maloney Hall lies the Boston College Women’s Center: a tropical-colored oasis providing friendliness and relief from the turbulence of both college and womanhood.
Undergraduate staff members man the front desk, grooving in their seats to a hip-hop/jazz/funk hybrid genre they recently discovered on Youtube and sporadically breaking into a chorus of giggles, all the while working fastidiously on their computers.
The Center’s energetic furniture and décor – a series of Scrabble letters spell out the word EMPOWER, 14 points, on a bookshelf by the door – seem to be plucked straight from the pages of a magazine; in fact, the only giveaways that the office is a place of serious work are the various pamphlets and posters scattered throughout the room, promoting Women’s Center programs.
The atmosphere in the room is neither clinical, nor academic as so many of the offices on campus tend to be. Smiling faces at the door as well as the refreshingly hip décor both suggest that the Women’s Center is a place altogether different from the rest of campus.
Kenyé Askew, MCAS ’18, one of the Center’s many skilled and ebullient female staffers, first found herself here entirely by accident. While attending an ice cream social in Maloney, someone grabbed her by the arm and brought her to meet Katie Dalton, the Women’s Center’s powerhouse director.
A freshman mentee had suddenly dropped out of the Duo program, in which upperclassmen women mentor freshmen for an entire academic year, and Askew was encouraged to fill the space.
Having already interacted with Women’s Center staff at dinners they hosted for the residents of Kostka Hall, which touched on themes including body image and overall female confidence, Askew took the mentee position without hesitation.
Now as a part-time, paid staffer working on the Duo Program (the very one that introduced her to the Center a full year ago) Askew sees it as her mission to “connect people on campus so that they can have a better experience at BC.”
Askew warmly recalls, “The thing that drew me to the Women’s Center was the fact that everybody in the staff was so accessible. There are always people on hand, ready to tend to your needs and make you feel important.”
This compassion and genuine concern for each individual who visits the Center undoubtedly comes from the top down. The veritable superwoman leading the charge is Katie Dalton, whose title as Person of the Year has done nothing to erode her sense of humility.
“I honestly believe the most significant thing that I can offer the community is my time,” says Dalton “I feel incredibly privileged to be able to hear students’ stories and to walk with them through both the triumphs of their time at BC and also the struggles.”
Aside from her empathy and open ears, Dalton also offers the BC community cutting-edge programming, from mentorship programs and conversation groups, to trainings aimed at eradicating sexual assault on campus.
One of the most widely recognized programs on campus is Bystander Intervention, which educates students (primarily freshmen) on how to intervene on behalf of friends and strangers in order to prevent sexual assault. Furthermore, the program was designed with the intention of changing the underlying culture that permits this kind of behavior, rather than simply providing services for victims after-the-fact.
“The Women’s Center is at the cutting edge with the Bystander Program,” reports the program’s graduate assistant, Erin Doolin. “Other colleges look up to it.”
Bystander’s clear, understandable and engaging message is presented by student trainers with a comprehensive understanding of BC’s culture, and offers audience members creative solutions to the health and safety challenges they face routinely in a college environment.
In addition to Bystander Intervention and the Duo freshman mentorship program, the Women’s Center provides various other forums for students to discuss their concerns about feminine and social issues, as well as to connect with a progressive, compassionate community of women.
In the Rise program, upperclassmen women are introduced to faculty and staff mentors who counsel the mentees on how to best finish out their years here at BC. Between Rise and the Duo program, the Women’s Center provides nurturing, individualized guidance for female students throughout the entirety of their undergraduate experience.
Think Tank, a group that meets Sundays at 7pm in the Women’s Center, serves as a forum for discussing social issues with likeminded and passionate people. The low commitment level and informality of the group makes getting involved in a conversation about femininity as unintimidating and community-oriented as possible.
The entire BC community is integrated into discussions about sexual assault and body confidence during CARE (Concerned About Rape Education) Week and Love Your Body Week, during which seminars, interactive photo activities and artistic experiments turn these daunting social issues into a festival celebrating our tenacious will to evolve and heal as a society.
Thanks to these groundbreaking programs and the inspired leadership of Katie Dalton and Assistant Director Rachel DiBella, the Women’s Center has emerged as one of the most progressive and dynamic communities on the BC campus.
“The Center is always forward moving and never complacent in where it’s at here at BC,” proudly states Women’s Center staffer Grace Na, MCAS ’16. “Being a part of that is a phenomenal experience.”
And while staff members and students alike sing the praises of Dalton and DiBella’s “warm and motivated” disposition and constant willingness to listen to any and all students, Dalton defers this praise and success to others in the Women’s Center community.
“There is no doubt in my mind that it is the students who work in the WC… who have defined the center as a space where dynamic conversation thrives, where critical thought is a cultural norm, and where ideas turn into reality.”