Meet our new Intern, Crystal!

By: Crystal Lum

Hello! My name is Crystal Lum, and I am one of the BHS undergraduate interns at the UMKC Women’s Center. I am a senior here at UMKC and I am about to graduate this upcoming fall. I am majoring in Health Science with a minor in Exercise Science. I chose UMKC because I really liked the environment and the amount of diversity that the campus offers. Through my years at UMKC, I have made so many friends and experienced a lot of college life here at this institution. I have learned a lot about different cultures and met many people with different identities. Interacting with others and helping people in need is one of my passions. I love meeting new people, either through events or just through mutual friends.

I was interested in interning for the Women’s Center because their focus and goals aligned with my own personal values. The organization is inclusive to people regardless of their personal identity. I support their mission values, which are to advocate, educate and provide support services for women’s and gender equity. I am looking forward to planning fun and new events for not only the students and faculty, but for the entire Kansas City community to take part in. I hope for people to learn about what the Women’s Center offers, and for people to feel welcomed in this space.

My personal favorite things to do in my free time are hanging out with friends, attending concerts and visiting different coffee shops!

Engaging Students Through Healing Arts at UMKC

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

By: Arzie Umali

The following blog was written by the director of the Women’s Center, Arzie Umali, and was originally posted on the A Window Between Worlds blog at awbw.org/blog/umkc. Arzie is a certified healing arts facilitator and has been offering workshops at UMKC since 2013.

The Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) has had the honor of hosting A Window Between Worlds healing arts workshops since 2013. As an artist and survivor of trauma, I knew firsthand the healing power of art; now, for almost 10 years, I have been sharing that knowledge and empowering our students to use art to heal not just from trauma, but also navigate through the daily stressors of college life.

Through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Bringing an AWBW program to the Women’s Center was a perfect fit. It was African American feminist writer, Audre Lorde, who said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Our students are often overwhelmed and juggling multiple responsibilities, never having enough time for themselves. Being a college student today is hard, and many of our students we support are not just college students. They are also care-givers, and parents, and self-supporting individuals with jobs and families. They are also dealing with different traumas and stressors like debt, illness, loneliness, family violence, and/or a global pandemic. For many of our students, college is also the first time they have felt safe to come to terms with their own identity. For most students, college comes first and everything else comes last – especially themselves. I often find myself telling students that self-care is just as important as showing up for class, studying hard, and acing their finals. And that’s where our AWBW program comes in.

From the first time our students come to campus during summer orientation, we engage them with healing arts. During orientation, we offer students the opportunity to create Stepping Stones. This art activity allows them to ground themselves as college students and see their journey as a series of steps leading them towards graduation. This activity guides them in keeping focused on their end goal, and if they should stumble along the way, their Stepping Stone is there to remind them to keep taking steps forward.

Throughout the academic year, students can engage with our AWBW program through multiple avenues. Whether they need support dealing with trauma, managing their anxiety, coping with stress, or just a timeout, our healing arts workshops are available to them all year round. During Welcome Week, we offer Journey Charms workshops using shrink art where students can visualize college as one of life’s journeys that may be full of good and bad surprises. We also offer Touchstones workshops where students create art that ties them to the larger UMKC community and reminds them that we are there for them, no matter what. Finally, at the end of each semester, we host Shrink Your Stress. This signature program takes place during our campus Stress Less Fest and gives our students a window of time during finals week to step away from their studies to do some self-care and stress relief by creating fun and meaningful shrink art.

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

Our most successful and fastest growing art workshops are our Healing Arts Corners. These self-managed healing arts stations are set up in various locations across campus to reach as many different populations as possible. In 2015 we started these workshops with just four locations and this past semester we were in twelve spaces on campus including the Women’s Center, International Student Affairs, the LGBTQIA Rainbow Lounge, the MindBody Connection (a collaborative space of our Counseling Center and Student Health and Wellness), the At Ease Zone in Student Veterans’ Services, the Student Advising Office, the Writing Studio, the Health Sciences Library, the Village in Multicultural Student Affairs, and our three residence halls. These stations provide students an outlet and resource for doing self-care on their time and on their terms. Students learn quickly where the stations are, and they return time and again when they need a little art to get them through the day.

Since 2013, our AWBW program has engaged students across campus, from classrooms in Arts and Sciences, to lounges in our medical school, to the sidelines of our basketball court. Our program has grown from serving 245 participants through 17 workshops during our first year, to serving 1800 participants at 67 workshops during the 2018-2019 academic year. With the COVID-19 pandemic came an even greater need for our workshops. We pivoted several times in order to continue offering art to students in the safest way possible.

The AWBW program at the Women’s Center is vital to the overall health of our campus. I am confident that through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Arzie Umali, MPA
Windows Facilitator
University of Missouri-Kansas City

Meet the Women’s Center’s New Graduate Assistant, Alison Kendall

By Alison Kendall

Hello! I am Alison Kendall, the new graduate assistant at UMKC’s Women’s Center! I attended UMKC as an undergraduate, where I obtained a bachelor’s in psychology. I enjoyed my time as a Roo so much that I decided to continue my journey here as a graduate student. Seeking a master’s in clinical mental health counseling, I have always been passionate about helping others deal with the tumultuous nature of our world. Following the reception of my degree, I aspire to specialize in caring for the mental health of LGBTQIA+ individuals and families. Empowering others to embrace their individuality, connect with their community, and care of themselves in all forms are the lessons I intend to impart as a future counselor and as a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center.

The Women’s Center goal of fostering gender equity speaks to me. Growing up in the rural Midwest highlighted the dire lack of inclusive spaces within my community. What also drew me in is the Women’s Center’s ability to combine feminist education with creative expression. The Women’s Center blog flexes creative op-eds which inform and entertain, the use of arts in the context of healing renders beautiful pieces in tandem with alleviating stress, and the Women’s Center connection with the artistic community sheds light on the many artists whose expression has been snuffed for most of history. I look forward to offering my own creative perspective to the Women’s Center through therapeutic events, fresh ideas, and stimulating discussion amongst the student body.

My favorite past times are journaling and writing short story fiction, discovering new restaurants in Kansas City, and watching horror and thriller films. I am eager to continue the Women’s Center tradition in educating, and advocating, and supporting my fellow students, faculty, and community.

A Farewell from Taylor Michl, our Graduate Assistant

 

By: Taylor Michl

Boy am I ready to sip cold drinks in the summer sunshine. But, not before reflecting on a busy semester—and year—filled with growth and fun. I’ve been graduate assistant at UMKC Women’s Center since August and it’s bizarre to think that this is the end of the road.

At the Center, I’ve been surrounded by colleagues and visitors who deeply care about the liberation of women and others that experience gender marginalization. There’s something really special about going to work everyday knowing that the smiling faces I will see deeply care about justice in the same ways I do. This semester, I have witnessed Women’s Center staff persevere, create, educate, empower, and grow. I have learned so much from them about ecofeminism, using art to empower and heal, dismantling fatphobia, and using creativity to meet students where they’re at. I’ve also been lucky to work with a variety of students, faculty, and staff in other departments through our Women’s Center programming, which has made me feel a deeper sense of community at UMKC.

Although I don’t plan to work at a university women’s center in the long term, I know that planning events, supervising staff, and building connections here will make me a more thoughtful counselor, researcher, and faculty member in the future. So, I guess all that’s left to say is thank you. Thank you all for making my feminism more informed, nuanced, and caring. Thank you for engaging in our growing gender equity community at UMKC. To anyone reading this, thank you for continuing to show up for yourself and your community every day even though it can be painful to live in a world that is less kind to some than others.

I hope your summer is filled with loved ones, fun, and taking breaks. You deserve it!

Farewell, Au Revoir, and Adios Y’all!

By: Sierra Voorhies

I have learned so much from working at the Women’s Center for two whole semesters! At first, I really struggled to find topics for blogs, I didn’t trust my writing or my interests. Now, after a full academic year, I have gained so much confidence and knowledge that there were actually more blogs that I wanted to write that we didn’t have time to. 

For your entertainment, I will tell you a couple things that I wanted to write about but ran out of time to. First, last semester I went to the Women’s March in Kansas City, and I had such an interesting time, with really good and not so good parts of that experience. I also wanted to talk about wedding ceremonies, specifically how some brides chose to follow or shirk tradition (like by wearing a black or colored dress instead of a white one). Another thing I would have liked to write about is the connection between femininity and commodification. For example how women and femme people are made to feel like it’s normal or necessary to have a collection of shoes, clothes, makeup, nail polish, etc. to be fully performing femininity, and that masculine presenting people don’t have the same capitalistic demands on them. 

If you are working at the Women’s Center in the future, please feel free to make these ideas into your blog posts, I will continue to check into this blog after I am done, because it is truly a great place to get insight into the gendered issues of today from the perspective of college students. I will always remember my time here and thanks to anyone who reads this blog!

Goodbye Women’s Center!

By: Adriana Miranda

Well, it’s been a long academic year and it’s finally coming to a close! My time at the Women’s Center has definitely passed by too quickly though. There are so many blogs I didn’t get to write, and so much to still be said and done. However I’m so glad I still got to share things like: exploring what performing femininity means in relation the the male gaze and desirability, women of color and their role in being essential workers,  SA awareness, and of course my usual spiel: INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM!

I hope we’ll all continue thinking about intersectionality in our fight for gender equity. Remember none of us are equal until we are ALL equal. This includes our trans sisters/brothers/siblings, BIPOC, disabled folks, plus size folks, and anyone else who has to fight for equity in this largely cishet, white, male, able-bodied focused world.

I have loved being part of such a wonderful team for yet another semester and being in an environment where i’m comfortable being my loud, colorful, intense Latina lesbian feminist self, and I get to work on things i’m passionate about.

I’ve met so many wonderful new people and strengthened bonds with other Women’s Center staff who will remain friends for life and I’m so grateful for all we’ve done together.

It’s been real Women’s Center, i’ll miss ya, and I will miss writing for all of you lovely folks reading the blogs 🙂 <3

Reflecting on my Women’s Center Experience

By: Jetzel Chavira

This has been one of the most fulfilling and busiest years of my life. I am reflecting my time at the Women’s Center and my most favorite part about working here was meeting my co-workers. On the daily I work with Adriana and Sierra who are my fellow work-study students. Apart from them, I also get to work with the interns which include Laura, Ebony, Emma Sauer, Emma Stuart and Alyssa.

The most challenging part of working here has been balancing work and life. I tend to get overwhelmed a lot and when I don’t organize or prioritize than I usually end up procrastinating. I found that using a physical planner and my Outlook calendar really helped. I would also make lists of what tasks I needed to do and prioritize them. Overall, the Women’s Center has been a good experience. I learned management skills, organizational skills, and had so much fun hanging out with my coworkers.

Bye for Now, UMKC!

By: Emma Stuart

As the spring semester comes to a close, many of us are logging off of the Women’s Center blog for good, and I am one of those people. This semester seems to have gone by fairly quickly in my eyes and I cannot believe that we are already only 2 weeks from the semesters end. I have enjoyed getting to be a part of the Women’s Center and getting to learn more about what it has to offer. During this internship I have gotten to learn more about how a resource like this functions and how much the people behind it contribute. The thing that I have found most enjoyable about my timer here at the Women’s Center is all of the people I have had the pleasure of interacting with, these people range from students, my co-workers, faculty, and staff here at UMKC. This has been very enriching for me and for my collogues as well.

The connections I have made here are ones that I hope to keep in the future as they are very special to me. Additionally, this internship here at the Women’s Center has been my first so there has been a lot of learning and a lot of firsts over the course of this semester and for this I am grateful. I will cherish the connections that I have made here and all of the knowledge I have gained. This is only my second year at UMKC so I am sure that I will have the opportunity to interact with the Women’s Center again soon! I am thankful for this opportunity and for the skills that I have gained out of this internship. Thank you for the support and encouragement! And I wish the future Women’s Center Staff good luck!

Before I Let Go…

By: Ebony Taylor

Right when I finally memorize all of the login passwords and am confident enough to say that I know what I’m doing, my final days at The Women’s Center are here. As a senior intern, I felt this job was only a requirement for graduation, just get through it and you’re done. I realized quickly that that was not the case. I am glad to have had a role that challenged me mentally and emotionally this semester. Having taken Women and Gender Studies classes in the past, I would not have called myself a feminist back then, for fear that I would be labeled as a “man-hater” or receive strange looks from others.

Even as I stumbled through my first event that I helped program, I was determined to not make the same mistakes again. This internship taught me to embrace the unknown and learn to ask questions. Believe me, I had a lot of them! I also credit my coworkers, peers, and directors for inspiring me to put my whole self into my work, and I think that has been reflected in the work I have done this semester. There are only so many things that can be learned from the classroom, the others by experiencing them. I will honestly say that that those I have worked with this semester were truly amazing and I am honored to have been a part of such a great team. From the open and deep conversations about any topic, the laughs shared in the office, to the many collaborations on projects, it has been a memorable experience at the Women’s Center. I am now proud to wear my “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt in honor of what The Women’s Center represents and what we offer to UMKC.

My only regret is that I did not participate in past Women’s Center events or work study in my early years at UMKC. I hope to take my new and restructured skills of organization, marketing, and coffee-making with me into post- graduation roles and hope to see the future of the Women’s Center advance the programs left behind by the Class of 2022.

Hasta la vista, UMKC!

As One Story Ends, Another Begins…

By: Emma Sauer

Wait, the semester’s over already?  

Is it just me, or did these past couple months just breeze by? It feels like just yesterday, I was making shrink art, fumbling with the office phone, and feverishly typing up my new blog post—and now, suddenly, I have to say goodbye. Even knowing I’ll be returning as a blog intern in the fall, I can’t help but get a lump in my throat. I’m especially going to miss my coworkers, who are some of the sweetest, friendliest, and funniest people I’ve met at UMKC. If any of you are reading this, I’ll miss all of you!  

My favorite part of being the blog editor for the blog has definitely been getting to see what my peers write, and how their personalities, passion, and individual characteristics are weaved into their posts. It’s interesting how everyone has their own voice when writing- at this point in the semester, I can actually pick out characteristics of each person’s writing and tell them apart. Within the Women’s Center, our blog posts have also initiated deep conversations between staff about the topics they were writing on. It’s been really cool to see how writing and researching for the blog has contributed to the intellectual growth of our staff.  

As for myself, I’ve gained critical skills in so many areas. I’m much better at planning, communication, and editing than I was when I first took this internship. It’s been a huge help for my professional development, and it’s been super fun! I can’t wait to come back next semester—I have the rare opportunity to revisit and refine my role as editor. Next semester, my goal is to create new and interesting content, and to write more research-based posts.  

The Women’s Center is a warm, welcoming place, whether you’re an employee, a student, or an off-campus visitor. I’ll miss it dearly over the summer, but I know this isn’t goodbye. We’ll meet again, Spiderman Women’s Center!