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Provost's Update - January 2019

As a cornerstone of our Beyond Boundaries vision, Virginia Tech is committed to creating a campus environment that represents an inclusive and diverse community of teachers and learners. One of the original pillars of this commitment is the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech and its mission to create a campus community that is safe, equitable, and supportive for women, and to celebrate their experiences and achievements. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Center, thus presenting us with an appropriate and timely occasion to recognize and express appreciation for the Center’s work in promoting a safe community for every person who lives, learns, and works on our campus.

Since the 1921 enrollment of Mary Brumfield, Billie Kent Kabrich, Lucy Lee Lancaster, Carrie Sibold, and Ruth Louise Terrett as the first full-time women students at Virginia Tech, our campus community has evolved and created new opportunities to expand and enrich learning opportunities for all students. In the decades following this important milestone, women have achieved and established historic benchmarks in every academic and administrative function of the university. Examples include Sandra Sullivan, who was the first woman to hold a university-wide executive position as vice president for student affairs, and Denise Shuster Greenfield, who was the first female regimental commander for the Corps of Cadets.

Virginia Tech’s success through the years has been built upon the achievements of these highly accomplished women and the roles they played to promote an inclusive and diverse campus community. Today, women occupy leadership positions as deans, vice provosts, vice presidents, and research institute director, and are represented among notable faculty appointments, such as University Distinguished Professors and Alumni Distinguished Professors.

Since its inception in 1994, the Women’s Center has had enormous influence and impact across our campus, and has served as an advocate and catalyst for programs, policies, and services that supports and advances women. One example is the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program (WLMP), which provides a cohort-based experience through a series of sessions on topics related to professional development. The WLMP is specifically designed for women who are aspiring to be higher education administrators. Another university program that promotes the critical role of women is Gender@VT, which was formed in 2017 to research and suggest ideas to improve the work/life environment for employees and students. The program is working with faculty and staff across our campuses to understand and find solutions to issues that fall disproportionately on women, including child care and care for the elderly.

AdvanceVT/Women’s Center Leadership Lunches provide women faculty and administrators with the opportunity to learn from and interact with current academic leaders as well as to meet and network with other women on campus. The Women’s Center is also actively engaged in the work of the Virginia Network, a statewide organization affiliated with the American Council on Education Women’s Network which identifies, develops, advances, and supports women in higher education at the national, state, and local levels. Through this partnership, the Women’s Center is able to provide opportunities for women to participate in the annual Virginia Network’s conference, senior leadership seminar, and other activities through Virginia Tech Women Connect.

Central to the mission of the Women’s Center is serving the university community as a leader in responding to issues of gender-based violence. Staff at the Women’s Center provide completely confidential advocacy and counseling support to anyone impacted by gender-based violence that includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and harassment. The Women’s Center partners with students, faculty, and staff in offering education and outreach on responding to interpersonal violence and advancing a university environment that is equitable and violence-free.

This brief description of successes does not come close to capturing the full breadth and depth of the impact that the work of the Women’s Center has had and continues to have at Virginia Tech. As a campus community, we must celebrate these historic achievements and also recognize that we still have much work to do to provide equitable opportunities for everyone to excel and lead our institution into the future. Our accomplishments as an institution, through Beyond Boundaries, relies on the success of our inclusion, diversity, and gender equity initiatives, and the active engagement of our entire university community in support of these goals.

I hope that you will take time to visit the Women’s Center website and explore ways to partner with and support the important work it does for Virginia Tech. I also hope you will join in the Women’s Center 25th anniversary celebration and will encourage your students, faculty, and staff to do the same.