In the early 1990’s, two Virginia Wesleyan students spearheaded the development of a space on campus dedicated to women-- their academic interests and their unique needs. The space, called the Women’s Resource Office, was located several places on campus until today, where it shares space with the Floyd E. Kellam, Jr. Social Science Center. At that time of the development of the office, several interested professors were teaching courses focused on women in their own departments. As interest in women’s issues grew, the idea to develop a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies led to that becoming a reality, with Professor of Theatre Sally Shedd named as its first coordinator.
Today, Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) is a major, chaired by Associate Professor of English Kellie Holzer. True to women’s ways of learning and supporting one another’s growth, the faculty and staff of the WGS programs and Women’s Centers at both Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University hosted those of us interested in developing our own Center, shared their histories, and provided good advice.
Our higher education colleagues suggested that it was important to give faculty and staff women a voice on campus, as ODU's Women's Center had done in developing its Women's Caucus. Virginia Wesleyan's first Women's Forum meetings were held during the Fall semester of the 2003-2004 academic year. Initially, faculty and staff meetings were separate, but it quickly became evident that women's issues were so similar for both faculty and staff that combining the two would be best. Out of the Women's Forum came the Women's Resource Center, which presented a wide array of programming for women and advocated for increased involvement for women in the college administration, for equity in athletics, for campus safety, and for increased awareness of women's concerns in many areas.
Under the directorship of Associate Professor of English Jennifer Slivka, the Women's Resource Center widened its mission to offer programming related to not only women's issues, but LGBTQ+ concerns as well, all the while implementing an intersectional approach to its work of creating inclusive and validating environments for all genders and sexualities by educating the community on how gender and sexuality intersect with race, ethnicity, class, sex, ability, age, nationality, and belief systems. Under Dr. Slivka's tenure as Director, the Women's Resource Center became the Office of Gender and Sexuality Equity. The Office also works with other campus organizations to promote programs that support and educate about gender and sexuality equity for a wide audience that includes students, staff, faculty, alumni, and the broader community.