IUPUI discovers Office for Women still needs to exist: Program uses workshops, discussions and awards to keep the issues affecting women in the forefront

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While many universities have programs dedicated to women’s equality, the IUPUI Office for Women is not taken for granted by the administration there.

“It is important as part of the university’s diversity department,” said Kathy Grove, director of the IUPUI Office for Women. “It helps women to fulfill their potential and ensure that we have an environment free of harassment based on gender.”

Established in October 1996 under the leadership of Dr. Kathleen Warfel, who was a professor of pathology in the IU School of Medicine and is now retired, the Office for Women was seen as an opportunity to create a workplace and learning environment free of prejudice against female faculty, staff and students.

But the program was briefly suspended in April 2003. “The university was reassessing the positives and trying to discern the structure of the program’s future,” Grove said.

IUPUI’s administration immediately realized there was a definite need for the program on campus.

“I believe there are still issues related to gender in higher education that need to be addressed,” said Marilyn Bedford, training and development consultant in the IUPUI human resources administration and a member of the Office for Women’s advisory council. “And the Office for Women keeps those issues at the forefront.”

During the office’s vacancy, the university also decided the program’s director should not be required to be a faculty member and reformed the directorship as a staff position. The university then opened up the search for a new director.

Grove, who was an employee at the Julian Center in Indianapolis, which serves victims of domestic violence, saw a great opportunity and applied. “I am very interested in the needs and issues for women,” she said. “It is something I see a need for, something I believe in and something I want to participate in.”

Grove was named the office’s director in February 2004, and the center was re-instituted on April 23, 2004, with an event that featured Indy Racing League driver Sarah Fisher as the guest of honor.

Whereas the original goals of the program-such as pay equity and a campus child-care center-have been realized, the re-institution of the Office for Women created a new agenda, Grove said.

The new vision statement for the office reads: “The IUPUI Office for Women envisions an energized community of faculty, staff, and students pursuing opportunities for full participation, shared influence, and equity among women and men in all aspects of the work and learning environments at IUPUI.”

But Grove has her own vision for the office’s future.

“My goal is to sustain these efforts,” Grove said, “but also to provide ongoing support for women on campus in all their endeavors and promote a place where women’s issues can be discussed. I do that through collaborating with other campus organizations, being a clearinghouse of information and providing ways to recognize the achievement of women on campus.”

Every March, as part of Women’s History Month, the office recognizes three outstanding women leaders on campus. Students and colleagues submit nominations.

This year’s honorees included Professor Missy Kubitschek of the Department of English, who received the Outstanding Woman Faculty Award; and Julia M. Lash, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services, who received the Outstanding Woman Staff Award. In a new category for part-time faculty or staff, the award went to Julie Hatcher, associate director of the Center for Service and Learning.

The office also recognizes outstanding women student leaders each fall.

Throughout the past year, the office has hosted several events, such as discussions on women’s health issues, body images in the media and the grass-roots efforts of women during the civil rights movement. It also sponsored a month-long program to guide women and minorities through the promotion and tenure process.

The workshops concerning tenure and promotion have been helpful to several members of the IUPUI staff. “They’ve broken down what could be a scary process into steps and brought people in who can help you through it,” said Betty Jones, an assistant professor of physical education.

“I personally enjoy the educational opportunities they provide,” said Christina Rafferty, a senior majoring in communication studies and a student member of the office’s advisory board. “Much of the university curriculum is based on the experiences of men, and much of the women’s voice is left out. The Office for Women, through their movies and talks, have helped bring that voice back to education, and I am eternally grateful.”

Last fall, in an attempt to generate civilly engaged women on campus, the Office for Women hosted a symposium on women in politics that included female government leaders discussing the role of women in government. The office also set up registration booths throughout the campus.

These programs and awards are a chief component of the office’s annual budget, which totaled $50,850 in 2004-2005. The budget also includes funding for staff salaries and faculty grants for research.

The staff of the Office for Women is also there to assist and instruct women on an individual basis. “I have worked with the office on an issue relating to a disagreement or a dispute,” Jones said. “I was able to have a group of people talk with me and look at ways to approach that situation.”

Despite its successes, the Office for Women has to compete with other programs on campus for people’s time.

“The Office for Women is just one of many excellent activities at IUPUI, and getting events on people’s calendars can be very difficult,” Bedford said.

This challenge has forced Grove to clearly identify gender issues on campus and create new ways to address those. Through her efforts over the past year, she has seen a steady increase in participation and attendance.

“What has been gratifying has been the interest I have seen in these issues across campus,” she said. “I have found a definite interest and need to discuss these issues.”

Kathy Grove has been director of the IUPUI Office for Women for about a year.

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