Fall student


Elevating the voices of more than half of the university community

By A. Hill, contributing writer, Campus Life

March was Women’s History Month and the Center for Women at Emory hosted its annual Women of Excellence Awards at the Miller Ward Alumni House. The ceremony celebrated women who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to issues affecting women at Emory and in the larger community.

The evening also saw the recognition of outstanding Emory seniors as 50 Graduating Women of Excellence. They were toasted by Campus Life Dean Enku Gelaye and presented with a commemorative pin. The students were honored for their leadership, inclusivity, and commitment to making Emory a better place for all. The Alumni Women of Emory helped to pin the students and welcome them to the alumni community.

50 Graduating Women of ExcellenceThese events are simply two of the many initiatives that the Center for Women at Emory (CWE) conducts to elevate the voices of more than half of the university community and, by extension, the voices of women far beyond the boundaries of the Emory campus.

Long before there was a #MeToo movement, the university established CWE as a safe space for sexual assault victims. The office was established in 1992 in response to the rapes of two students by other students, crimes that shook the campus. And these were not the only such incidents. 

“Faculty, staff, and students said enough is enough. We need a center on this campus that would be autonomous from what is now the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. A place for women to go to build community, have support and a refuge in a predominately male institution,” said Chanel Craft Tanner, CWE director.

(Above: Recipients of the 50 Graduating Women of Excellence honors.)

While sexual assault resources are now housed in the Office of Respect, CWE still serves the diverse needs of women at Emory – from providing lactation rooms for students, employees, and visitors to nurturing academic writing for grad students. 

Although women constitute a significant presence on the university’s campus today – comprising 58 percent of students, 42 percent of faculty, and 67 percent of staff – women are still marginalized and still face gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and violence, Tanner explained.

“Women’s numbers are large, but they don’t always have a voice on this campus,” Tanner added. “It is our mission to change that.”

50 Graduating Women of Excellence honoreesVariety of Programming

The CWE team -- three full-time staff, seven graduate assistants, and several work-study students -- manages a robust calendar of about 50 events throughout the year. The focus is on such things as leadership development, identify affirmation, and in-depth discussions about the most relevant issues impacting women.

CWE hosts a permanent exhibit, 100 Years of Women at Emory, that pays tribute to the university’s women trailblazers. The exhibit depicts the students and faculty who enrolled and taught when women were still a rare sight on the campus. The display is located in the Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC) on the first floor outside CWE’s offices.

(Above: One of the 50 Graduating Women of Excellence, Jamie Epstein, is pinned by a member of the Alumni Women of Emory.)

Once a week, Emory women from diverse backgrounds gather at CWE for Bad Feminist Fridays, a time to unwind, listen to poetry readings, do arts and crafts, and let their hair down, so to speak.

The center also carves out a space for women of color. For example, The Kitchen Table is a student-led program created by former students Jovonna Jones 15C and Samantha Scott 15C as a space for black women at Emory to feel valued.

In the words of the initiative’s current student leader Adesola Thomas 20C, “[It] allows us to give one another [as black women] the compassion that we demand the world-at-large have toward us.”

Former student worker Karol Oviedo 19C described what she loves about CWE: “Being able to come in with my curls. Being my complete self and being accepted. Being able to explore my identities and learn more about my intersecting identities, listen to the music I love, and bring my friends to my job. [It] was incredible.”

Chanel Craft TannerImpact beyond Emory

Much of CWE’s work outside of Emory focuses on girls and supporting initiatives that allow girls to show leadership and reach their full potential. For example, CWE works closely with Campus Life’s Graduation Generation program and Emory Athletics to bring about 50 local middle school girls to the GirlCon Conference for a series of empowerment workshops that culminates with attending a women’s basketball game.

In keeping with its mission to advocate for gender-based justice and promote healthy relationships, CWE partners with Emory’s Respect Program to provide the Good Guise Alliance: Healthy Masculinities Initiative.

(Above: Tanner in fall 2017, shortly after her appointment as CWE director.)

Another innovative program created by CWE is the Harriet Tubman Moonlight Hike in March to commemorate the death that month in 1913 of the abolitionist, political activist, and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, which delivered countless enslaved people to freedom.

The third annual one-mile hike was held at Sweetwater Creek State Park, reclaiming Tubman as a nature enthusiast and encouraging participants to imagine what it was like for the fearless liberator and her “passengers” to navigate the woods by only the light of the moon.

Supporting women graduate students in the final stages of their programs is another service offered by CWE. Each week, the Graduate Women’s Writing Group meets to do just that – write.

“It is not a paper sharing or workshopping kind of writing group,” noted Tanner. “We’re really just giving women the space and the time to write with accountability check-ins around issues like boundary setting and imposter syndrome that create obstacles for women to complete PhDs,” Tanner explained.

“From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., we’ll make coffee and give you snacks. Just come on in and write.”

Center for Women at Emory permanent exhibit

What: CWE’s exhibit, 100 Years of Women at Emory, features historical photos and text about women who blazed the path for those who followed at Emory. The display opens with Eleonore Raoul 20L, who enrolled in Emory’s School of Law in 1917 and became the first woman to earn a degree from the university. It moves forward with highlights of the years prior to Emory College opening its doors to women in 1953 and eventually moves on to 1992 when the center was founded.

CWE 100 Years of Women at Emory ExhibitWhere: Center for Women at Emory, Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC), 1st floor.

Hours: CWE is normally open Mondays – Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibit is located outside CWE offices and may be viewed anytime the AMUC is open. CWE and AMUC hours may vary with the university calendar. (Ed. note: AMUC is currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis.)

Cost: No Charge

For more on CWE programs and events visit: http://www.womenscenter.emory.edu