Women’s Center celebrates 15 years at GVSU

GVL / Luke Holmes - Profesor Danielle Leek speaks in the Womens Center Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 during an event celebrating the history of women.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Profesor Danielle Leek speaks in the Women’s Center Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 during an event celebrating the history of women.

Ty Konell

Commemorating its feminist work and achievements, the Grand Valley State University Women’s Center celebrated its 15 year anniversary Friday, Oct. 14 with students, faculty and staff.

Fifteen years ago, the Women’s Center was a collection of resources held within a closet and has since developed and grown into an independent space. On Friday, the center held an event at The B.O.B. Brewery in downtown Grand Rapids, as GVSU staff, students and alumni were invited to celebrate the work and history of the Women’s Center in a casual setting.

“It’s pretty amazing. I think a lot of people don’t realize the Women’s Center is so old, and other people feel like it’s been here forever,” said Jessica Jennrich, director of the Women’s Center. “Seeing the Women’s Center change over the short period of time of the three and a half years I’ve been here makes me think ‘wow.’”

Highlighting the years of feminist work the center has accomplished, Allison Montaie, assistant director of the Women’s Center, said one of her favorite parts of working within the center is the connection to students.

“A lot of the students I work with, I come from a similar background, whether it’s being a first-generation college student or being a woman of color navigating this space,” Montaie said. “I love being able to be a part of an organization that can really honor those intersections and diverse experiences of what it really means to be a woman.”

Moreover, the Women’s Center has made a point to encourage and utilize student influence.

“One thing I really love about the Women’s Center is that students want to see a change and we’re able to support that and continue on with their legacy,” Montaie said. “Our center has a rich history of being able to take initiatives started by students and really expand on that.”

Although there has been 15 years of effort, administrators in the Women’s Center said there is still work to be done.

In the future, the officials in the center want to expand the on-campus food pantry called Replenish, expand resources for student parents and create a program for women of color. The summit for middle school and high school girls of color will occur within April of 2017.

Nevertheless, the Women’s Center administration balances the heavy issues they face with what they have described as a “familial bond.”

“We really are a team,” Montaie said. “We have a slideshow of all the times that we are ‘twinning.’ We’re so in sync that it’s common for us to walk into work and be matching someone else.”

“We’re able to joke and laugh about it,” Jennrich said. “It happens so often and I think it exemplifies that we all feel comfortable coming in as our authentic selves to work, and that it’s a place where we can laugh and feel comfortable engaging in funny things.”