The Women’s Center of Kutztown University hosted its 30th Anniversary Celebration on Nov. 5, a night to honor the past, present and future.

During the dinner event held in the McFarland Student Union Building of KU’s campus, current and former staff and students shared fond memories and how impactful their involvement with the Center has been in their lives.

“This work takes a village. Truer words have not been spoken, when I think about the collaborative work (of the Women’s Center),” said Director of the Women’s Center Christine Price. “I want to talk about the value of showing up and how important it can be to be present to witness history and support one another in our various communities. So it is so exciting to see folks from across the years who have all different stories and memories of the Women’s Center who have made the trek to be here tonight to celebrate the 30th anniversary.”

Grace Hill, former director of the Center, said there are many women who contributed to the success of the Women’s Center. She shared memories, some funny and some very impactful. Among those memories are having the opportunity to meet Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinam, Patricia Ireland and Madeleine Albright on KU’s campus, “All student driven initiatives.”

“Memories are great, but the future is greater,” said Hill. “I thank this community, all of you, for your continued support and encouragement of our students and of the Women’s Center and GLBQ Center. I am encouraged by women’s progress and look forward to more voices, women’s voices and men’s voices.”

Current and former KU students spoke about how the Center impacted their lives, using words like “family,” “supportive,” “welcoming” and “comfortable.” All shared their gratitude for the experiences and memories that made such a big difference in their lives.

Colleen Clemens, director of women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGS) at KU, talked about the WGS program’s close relationship with the Women’s Center. Hill, a KU alumna, was the first to graduate with a minor in women’s studies in 1996. Last year, the WGS program graduated 30 minors and two majors.

“Our students go out to be teachers, advocates, academics, business people, parents and partners with equity and justice,” said Clemens. “The Women’s Center allows our students to put the theory learned in the classroom into practice on the campus and beyond. The Women’s Center gives students the chance to be the change they want to see in the world by offering service opportunities, workshops, trainings and speakers that help these students see how their studies can be (used) in their lives beyond the classroom.”

“The future of WGS is bright as well,” introducing Kathryn Sauers, the first beneficiary of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies scholarship.

When a child, Sauers cut her hair short, played with the neighborhood boys and refused to wear shoes, which was opposite to her grandmother’s wishes.

“That kind of behavior was never talked about with my grandparents, so growing up I felt ashamed and I felt different,” she said. “It wasn’t until I came to Kutztown that I realized I can be whoever I want to be, regardless of the gender role pushed on me as a child. I found comfort in the realization that I am a feminist that fights for equality.”

The WGS program pushed her to find herself and to educate those who feel the need to conform to stereotypical gender roles.

“Encourage them to think outside the box and be who they really want to be,” said Sauers. “WGS gave me a community when I wasn’t expecting it and I am so thankful for that opportunity. This program has truly changed my life and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for WGS.”

The anniversary event also coincided with the kick off for the Dr. Constance P. Dent and Dr. Ann T. Gundry, Distinguished Speaker Series presented in collaboration with the Women's Center and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Funding for the series was presented by Gundry, professor emerita and former director of the Women's Center, in memory of Gundry's late spouse, Dent, who was a professor of psychology at KU for more than 30 years. Dent died in May 2018 at the age of 95.

This gift will provide funding to bring internationally-known speakers to KU whose area of expertise and personal experience are relevant to current topics and have a connection to women and gender initiatives.

During the speaker event that night, KU associate professor of English Amanda Morris led a discussion with civil rights activists Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter Marcella Gilbert of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

A long-time activist for Native American rights, Thunderhawk spoke about their fight to retain their treaty rights, environmental protection concerns because they are land-based people, Native American history and their continued fight for land rights.

“We stand and resist because that's what our ancestors did,” said Thunder Hawk.

“Activism is foundational for you. It's part of your core. What can young people do to make a difference?” asked Morris.

“I think you know what you want to do. There is no play book or manual,” said Gilbert. “This is the time to be brave. This country is changing. Young people have the power. Find what is your calling and just go for it… There's no time to wait. There is no planet B. We believe in you.”

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