Tender age belies Lopez's
experience, commitment

Monitoring the logistics of an event the scope of Women's History Month is an incredible feat for anyone to undertake. At the tender age of 21, Davina Lopez is an old hand at making sure that one of Emory's largest annual events runs smoothly.

Perhaps the most time-consuming task for Lopez, assistant to Women's Center Director Ali Crown, is producing the extensive Women's History Month calendar. She also coordinates meetings of the Women's History Month Committee, the group that plans the annual celebration held each March.

"I keep in touch with everyone and make sure we're all on the same page as far as Women's History Month is concerned," Lopez said. "I help with the logistics of bringing in speakers and other guests. I coordinate where they're going to have dinner, whether they're a vegetarian, where they're going to stay. We also show them around the Women's Center and make them feel more at ease."

Lopez's modest description of her role is in sharp contrast to Crown's assessment. "Davina is very resourceful and creative," Crown said. "The theme for this year's Women's History Month, 'Women Crossing Boundaries,' was her concept. The Women's History Month Committee wholeheartedly endorsed that concept because it gives us an opportunity to create another diverse slate of programs in which people from all across the campus can participate."

A 'seed' of activism
Lopez became active in women's issues early on as an undergraduate at Oxford College and later at Emory. As a senior, she served on the President's Commission on the Status of Women and its Student Concerns Committee. She also was a founding member of SEED (Student Educators on Eating Disorders).

"My particular focus in SEED," said Lopez, "was not necessarily to heal women from eating disorders, but to raise awareness on campus about what kind of cultural and societal factors contribute to women having eating disorders, how prevalent it is on college campuses and what can be done to prevent women from getting eating disorders while they're in college."

As a resident adviser, Lopez said she "always challenged my residents to think about things from different perspectives, and I think that's pretty much a feminist standpoint. My programming went beyond just having panels come in and talk about different topics. I wanted to do more interactive programming because learning comes from asking honest questions and engaging in dialogue using your own language, coming at it from your own perspective and seeing how that perspective can be respected. I think I practiced feminism and engaged in a feminist mode of thinking."

Lopez also worked in the Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Life as an undergraduate. She sees connections between women's struggle for equality and that of minority group members and lesbians and gays. "What some people fail to understand," she said, "is that whatever those issues are that a particular group is working on, the work ultimately benefits the common good."

Lopez joined the Women's Center staff two years ago, shortly after graduating from Emory with a degree in religion. Although her original plan was to attend graduate school right after college, she decided to delay her matriculation and work at the Women's Center for a while.

"I graduated from college when I was 19 years old," she said. "I had been to school every day since I was 4. Although I think I was ready for graduate school at that point and could have done well academically, I really needed the experience of living theories out before I actually went to school to construct them. I needed to figure out exactly what it was to be an adult before my foray into adulthood at an academic institution."

Off to seminary
After six years in the Emory community, Lopez will leave this fall to attend Union Theological Seminary in New York to pursue a master of arts in religion and education. She plans to focus her work on the type of community building modeled for her by Crown and by Saralyn Chesnut, director of the Office of Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual Life.

"I'm not necessarily interested in getting a degree with which I'm going to be in the pulpit," said Lopez, a Roman Catholic. "I can't be in the pulpit; the pope said no. Also, I have no desire to do that because what I think is more important is that theologians and others with this type of background go out into the community.

"What I'm interested in, and what Union provides, is a really good basis for theory/ practice learning," Lopez explained. "Not only do I get to be in the classroom and learn about how people talk about God, I also get to go out into the city and pick up a service project and bring that back to the classroom and say, 'this is how people are oppressed and this is what this means in terms of God in our lives. Let's try and make sense of it.' I don't think that kind of learning comes from just books."

Lopez's departure for seminary will be a bittersweet experience for Crown. "Davina has been the perfect partner for me in the fourth and fifth years of the Women's Center's development," said Crown. "Our program has grown tremendously, and she has kept up with the added responsibilities of being essentially a two-woman office. She will indeed be missed."

-Dan Treadaway

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