MU Women’s Center celebrates 40th anniversary

“It’s such a valuable resource on campus,” junior Darvia Okoroigwe said. “It’s like a hero that goes unrecognized a lot and I think it’s under pubbed, honestly. All of the staff here is so humble. They are silent leaders.”
MU Women’s Center staff members pose with balloons to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Center at MU. Courtesy of the Women’s Center

In 1975, the Women’s Center officially opened up its doors at 1 Gentry Hall to help give female students at MU a place to call home. Fast forward 40 years, and the center now resides in the Student Center and has done much more than give female students a home; it’s given them a voice.

From 1 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 9, the Women’s Center was adorned in photographs and pamphlets from over the years in celebration of its 40th anniversary. Both students and alumni were in attendance for the event, reminiscing on the past and discussing the present.

Freshman KeAnn Mays-Lenoir helped decorate the center with different brochures and posters from over the years.

“I feel really fortunate to be a part of a space that has been around on this this campus for 40 years,” Mays-Lenoir said. “Seeing how times have changed and how hard women have been trying to create a space for themselves is beautiful.”

Theresa Eultgen, the Women’s Center coordinator for almost two years, felt drawn to apply for the position after giving a speech for the Feminist Student Union, an organization within the center, when she found out that there was an opening for the position.

“Physically, the center has changed because we have transformed spaces a couple of times,” Eultgen said. “It’s really cool to look back at the programs that we’ve archived. Some of the conversations are the same and some are different”.

This year, the center’s main focus is making sure that everyone feels not only accepted, but also celebrated, Eultgen said. They hope to achieve this goal through their many services and events such as Vagina Monologues.

Vagina Monologues is one of the Women’s Center’s highly anticipated events. The monologues tell the different stories of girls and women from all around the world and are performed by MU students and staff. The performance is MU’s way of participating in V-Day, a global movement focused on bringing awareness about violence against women and girls.

Since its opening in 1975, the center hasn’t strayed from its original purpose. Its website states that the “center provides opportunities for learning, service and support” and that it is open to everyone.

“It’s a destination spot that’s a second home for so many people,” Eultgen said. “The staff, the student staff, really are the heartbeat and that hasn't changed for 40 years. We have an incredibly dynamic, diverse group of women that come from all backgrounds and that seems to be true throughout the four decades.”

Junior Darvia Okoroigwe is a part of the Women’s Center staff and believes that a lot of the things the center does go unnoticed.

“It’s such a valuable resource on campus,” Okoroigwe said. “It’s like a hero that goes unrecognized a lot and I think it’s under pubbed, honestly. All of the staff here is so humble. They are silent leaders”.

The Women’s Center offers many services and programs, one of which is called Stitch ‘n Bitch.

Junior Jasmine Morgan has fond memories of the center’s weekly program, where students can come and learn to knit or crochet and talk in a safe space.

“Stitch ‘n Bitch is one of my favorite events because I learned how to crochet there,” Morgan said. “I used to manage it when I first started working (at the center). It means a lot to me to see how it has progressed from where it started to what it is now.”

The Women’s Center also offers programs like Language Partners, which pairs a native English speaker with a non-native English speaker, and Mend the Gap, which is an open discussion on mental health topics. The Women’s Leadership Conference is co-hosted by the Women’s Center and the Center for Leadership and Service. The conference brings female leaders together to discuss “networking, education, empowerment and diversity,” according to its website.

The Women’s Center’s next event will be Love Your Body Week, which will officially start on Monday, Oct. 19.

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