Emory Report
August 30, 2004
Volume 57, Number 02


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August 30, 2004
Center for Women moves to Cox Hall

By Eric Rangus

When the Women’s Center opened its doors in 1992, Director Ali Crown was told the modular unit in which it was housed was only temporary. “Temporary” drug on for 12 years, but last month the center moved into its permanent home on the third floor of Cox Hall.

A base of operations that “won’t blow away,” as Crown said, is just one of the new things the center is experiencing as the 2004–05 academic year begins. It has expanded its staff (Special Programs Coordinator Jennifer Federovitch, ’04C, recently joined the three-woman team) and, perhaps most importantly, emerged with a new name: The Center for Women at Emory University.

“We called it a ‘modular unit’ for a long time,” Crown said of the Center for Women’s former home. “But everybody knew that was a euphemism. If you looked at it, you knew it. We’re not there anymore. Who cares? Why can’t we call it what it was? It was a trailer.”

The outside of the old facility may not have been much to look at, but the staff worked hard to make it a pleasant place to visit. “We had a lot of comments like, ‘Why is the women’s center in a trailer? What does that say?’” said Assistant Director for Programs Jenny Williams, who admitted surprise herself upon learning of the center’s location when interviewing for her job in 2002.

“But people would come in and say, ‘What a respite—how calming and welcoming,’” Williams said. “We hope to recreate that here—if we ever get unpacked,” she quipped.

Administrators had worked many years to find the women’s center a permanent spot but were never able to put a plan together. “Everybody was sincere,” Crown said, “but there was always so much other building going on.”

But in 2003 when Network Communications started making plans to move its administrative offices from Cox Hall to the Materiel Center, then-interim Provost Woody Hunter wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass.

“We had looked at a couple other possible sites,” said Bill Cassels, associate provost for academic space planning. One of those was the North Decatur Building, but Crown said the facility didn’t quite meet the center’s needs.

“For a long time we wanted to get rid of the modular units, the trailers, on campus,” Cassels said. “But what do you do with the people who are in them? So we moved the women’s center up in priority.”

When Netcom moved, 4,500 square feet of prime office space was vacated, and Campus Planning split it among Food Services, the Counseling Center and the women’s center. The renovations were quick, starting May 1 and wrapping up two months later.

The Center for Women’s new space—several offices and open work areas connected by a long corridor—is a good bit bigger than the old one: 1,684 square feet of working space compared with 1,162 in the trailer.

It includes a conference room (slightly smaller than the old one, but still versatile) and a counseling room that doubles as a private nursing space. There is a reception area (Leslie Campis, director of sexual assault response and education services, has an office adjacent office adjacent to this area), and while the old carpet stayed, there is new, bold, blue and purple paint on the walls and a refinement impossible to create in the old trailer no matter how hard the staff tried.

The name change to the Center for Women came in part from a suggestion by President Jim Wagner, who knows something about the subject. The Center for Women at Case Western Reserve was created in 2001 while Wagner was interim president. Crown was a consultant in the effort, and the Case Center for Women is one of several around the country modeled on Emory’s 12-year-old entity. Also, like Emory, the Case center is seeking a major donor.

Crown, Williams and Federovitch moved in July 21–22, and the new space is a work in progress. The library is set up, but that’s about it. Framed art, including the photos that make up the exhibition “Significant Lives of Women at Emory,” are leaned neatly against the corridor wall. Boxes are stacked in most every corner.
The only signs advertising its location are sheets of copy paper (the best way to get there is to enter Cox Hall on the south—Woodruff Library—side, go past the Counseling Center and through the double doors at the
end of the corridor).

Despite the chaos of moving, the Center for Women’s programming is not slowing down.

A newly expanded film series will debut this semester, and signature programs such as Women’s Health and Wellness and Conversations on Mid- and Late-Life Transitions will continue. Some events held in the old trailer’s conference room may eventually move into spaces such as the Cox Hall ballrooms as well.

So, while the past month and perhaps the next few weeks could be a bit untidy for the center and its staff, the move has been worth the wait. The center has known no director other than Crown, and finding a permanent location has been a quest of hers from day one.

“Every day I come in here,” she said, seated at her desk. “I think about how perfect this space is.”