Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Women’s Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month.
The MSUM Women’s Center opened on November 13, 1990, due to MSUM students and faculty activism. Three women came together to draft a proposal to establish the Center, submitted to then-president Roland Dille. A year later, they held a press conference to rally more support. Dr. Karen Branden, now an MSUM professor of sociology, was a student at the time. The women who advocated for the Center, she remembers, were all part of Dr. Beverly Wesley’s Women’s Studies class.
In the 1970s, when increasing numbers of women enrolled in college or returned to pursue professional or graduate degrees, there were no institutional supports for women students, many of whom were balancing work and studies with raising families.
Today, students find the Women’s Center to be a valuable resource.
“The Women’s Center has given me a place on campus where I feel supported, welcomed, and safe,” said Jean Renslow, a philosophy and women’s and gender studies major from Big Lake, Minn. “It has been especially helpful for me this semester with the pandemic because I know that if I need a breather, I can go to the Women’s Center and let go of some of the stress and anxiety I carry.”
Bahati Numbi, a junior from the Democratic Republic of Congo majoring in sociology and women’s and gender studies, said the Women’s Center helped her find a major that fit her ambitions.
“The discussions I have had there always helped me submit better work for school,” Numbi said. “I will recommend the Women’s Center to anyone who desires to improve their knowledge while finding a support group.”
The MSUM Women’s Center, once located in the basement of Dahl Hall, is now in Bridges Hall and was refurbished in 2017 by the newly hired Coordinator. It provides abundant resources for students, faculty and staff and promotes programming and speakers throughout the year. Most of their events are free and open to the public. The Women’s Center works to increase understanding of issues impacting women of diverse backgrounds through dialogue, collaboration, and purposeful action.
“We seek to inspire a collective commitment to change and to empower students of all genders to serve as ethical leaders,” said Dana Bisignani, Coordinator of the Women’s Center and Rainbow Dragon Center. “Women’s Centers are tasked with the work of both binding historical wounds and paving a new way forward. They are truly transformational spaces for many.”
The Women’s Center has brought nationally renowned speakers to campus, including reproductive justice scholar Loretta Ross, as well as local activists and leaders such as Prairie Rose Seminole.
The MSUM Women’s Center isn’t the only women’s and gender equity center celebrating an anniversary in the state of Minnesota this year. The Women’s Center at the University of Minnesota – the first in the country – is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and the Women’s Center at St. Cloud State University is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In a spirit of collective celebration, staff and students from all three centers will come together for a series of virtual talks about the rich history of Women’s Centers in higher education and the critical work they continue to do.
The first discussion will take place on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested can find event details on Facebook @MSUMWomensCenter or Twitter @MSUMWomensCtr starting next month.