January 19, 1999
Volume 51, No. 16
Emory Women's Alliance provides support for students
Seeking to enhance the community of women at Emory and also to provide mentoring opportunities for women across campus, a subcommittee of the Presidents Commision on the Status of Women is organizing the Emory Women's Alliance.
Modeled after the Safe Space program in the Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Life, the program seeks to identify women faculty and staff willing to serve as mentors, counselors or simply just friends when female students need support. Danielle Sered, a junior English major and chair of the PCSW's faculty/staff/ student relations subcommittee, launched the program after finding no structure in place at Emory for female students to talk to older women "about the issues of being a woman in the university setting."
"There are some amazing women at Emory who want to be there for the students, and that communication isn't happening as well as it could," Sered said. "There's almost a sense of some 'invisible barrier' between women students and faculty."
With the hopes of toppling that barrier, Sered and the subcommittee sent a letter to approximately 120 women faculty and staff all across campus inviting them to participate. Just like Safe Space, the alliance will give each volunteer a logo decal to put up outside her office or cubicle, identifying her as a participant. Sered said the response has been very enthusiastic.
"Most women who reply are delighted, thrilled or honored to participate," she said, noting that about 60 women had volunteered as of late December. "I was pretty excited about the project at the beginning, but the response I've gotten has just been invigorating."
"I think it's a marvelous idea," said Ali Crown, director of the Emory Women's Center. "It will be a good way to institutionalize mentoring and coaching and building a support system; even though they call it an informal network, it's a sign of an institutional blessing."
Sered will hold a kick-off meeting this semester for all volunteers, during which they will receive some basic mentoring/counseling training from people who've worked with Safe Space. Everyone will then break into small groups to come up with other useful ideas.
Sered said the alliance will distribute lists of volunteers all over campus, post messages on LearnLink, put up flyers, contact department heads--all to inform students that the resource is out there and to encourage women to talk about it. "It's not supposed to be a secret club--we want women to tell about it," Sered said.
"Another thing that sticks out to me is that [the alliance] emphasizes a facet of mentoring that people overlook: it's a two-way process," Crown said. "Someone needs to make it known that they want to be mentored, and other women need to make it known they will do the mentoring. This provides a way for that to be stated."
Anyone interested in participating in the Emory Women's Alliance can send e-mail to <email@example.com>.