Haley’s Experience at the Women’s Center

By Haley Dean

This semester, I was the event-planning intern for the Women’s Center. When I started applying to internships, I had no idea I would end up at here, but I am so glad I did! Throughout this semester, I have had so many amazing experiences here! I have grown to love the staff I work with, and will miss them all so much! I’m sad to see the end of the semester come so quickly, especially since I can’t physically be at UMKC to see it end. However, I am excited to graduate and move on from this chapter of my life.

This internship has taught me so many things. Learning about all the events we host, and why we do them, has taught me so much about women’s rights. I have been able to advance my leadership skills through planning/hosting/attending these events, which will be beneficial to me in my future career.

Overall, it was a great semester and I’m so thankful for everybody I’ve met and everything I’ve learned throughout my experience at the Women’s Center!

Thank You, Women’s Center

By Kyra Charles

I was shocked when Arzie Umali picked me as blog editor. I’d never worked in a position like this before, my only experience coming from my various writing classes. Six months have passed since that interview, and I’m so happy and grateful that she gave me a chance. My experiences at the Women’s Center have been enlightening, not just as a student, but as a feminist and a writer heading into the job market. I truly believe their patience, determination, and trust have given me strength I will use as I head out into the real world.

Of course, as blog editor, my first priorities were the blogs. I always encouraged the staff at the center to write about their passions and they delivered. Shanakay Williams shared her model of self-care. Maggie Pool gave insight into feminism in the film industry. Allani Gordon embraced the lives of the artists she interviewed. Elise Wantling opened up about their personal struggles as a non-binary individual. Adriana Suarez educated us on the big issues like the tampon tax. Sabrina Zavala and Haley Dean dove deep into the importance of our yearly events. I’ve watched the way these writers have grown and I’m proud of them all.

Outside of the blogs, I also took part in several projects around the Women’s Center. The first major thing I did this year was the Vagina Monologues. I got to interact with a kind and diverse group of performers every week, talking about why this project meant so much to us. At the center I advertised the heck out of it on our blog and social media.

Then there was the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage, and the Women’s Center committed to telling the story of how we got here. I collaborated with Elise and Allani to make our poster outside the office, complete with adorable arrows for our “map” by Allani. Elise’s research and all the trivia they shared with me was fascinating, from the importance of saying “suffrage fighter” instead of “suffragette” to the efforts of Lucretia Mott.

It’s inevitable that I bring up the way COVID-19 affected everything. Like everybody else, our daily routines were gone in a snap. We moved online, communicating once a week on Zoom and the rest of the week through email. Our creativity was put to the test as we tried to save our yearly events, and I’m glad to say we rose to the challenge. We put nearly all of our projects online and did everything we could to create the same feeling of comradery and dedication to women’s equity that we bring in everything we do. Watching the effort put into this from the staff was inspiring.

Because of everything I’ve listed here, I believe I’ve gained important experience that I can take with me for future jobs. As editor, I’ve gotten to see firsthand how each of our staff writes and how they’ve improved throughout the semester. I’m thankful with how patient they’ve been with me as I tried to communicate the best ways to improve. Our daily activities have taught me the importance of staying consistent with our message and collaborating to making things possible, even in times of hardship. It’s taught me how to bring passion into my work and always keep learning new things on the job. Overall, this semester has pushed me to give the best I can give and stay passionate about feminism and women’s equity. For that, I’d like to say thank you, Women’s Center.

Reflecting Back During My Time at The Women’s Center

By Sabrina Zavala

The end of my final semester at UMKC has arrived, and although it was not exactly how I planned it to be, it was definitely one to remember. Being the Gender Violence Prevention Intern at the Women’s Center has taught me a lot and I have learned so much from all the amazing women that I’ve worked with in the past five months. They’ve helped me gain more confidence in myself and in my work, and made being there more fun than I could’ve imagined. Although I couldn’t be there physically, I was still able to see everyone through zoom and work from home, and I feel like that need for adaptability will help me in future jobs.

Working from home was definitely different, but I was happy to know that we could continue planning and hosting big events for the university. In the past, I had volunteered and attended a few events that the Women’s Center hosted on campus and this semester I was able to see it from a different point of view. I organized events such as The Vagina Monologues and Denim Day. Both of those events were difficult to prepare for and stressful of course, but in the end, the results were worth all the hard work that was put into them.

Everything I have learned from the Women’s Center has given me experience and skills to use in the real world. Although I won’t walk across the stage on May 17th, I still thank the UMKC Women’s Center for giving me the privilege to intern for them. They’ve given me the best senior experiences on campus, and helped me go above and beyond as the Gender Violence Prevention Intern.

InterUrban ArtHouse’s Influence on the Creative Spirit of UMKC

By Allani Gordon

While the Who Does She Think She Is? Art Exhibition ended a couple of weeks ago, we still want to highlight our university’s relationship with our fellow collaborator, the InterUrban ArtHouse, beyond their participation in our annual art show.

Before the show even took place in the InterUrban ArtHouse, the space’s founder and artistic director Nicole Emanuel had already been showing her loyalty to UMKC’s creative community. Nicole served as one of the first featured artists for the Who Does She Think She Is? Art Exhibition, and has been showing her support for the event ever since. It’s extremely fitting that the all-female show now regularly takes place in InterUrban ArtHouse, as Nicole’s dedication to the local artist community is a symbol of the perseverance and resilience of all female artists.

Wolfe Brack, the InterUrban ArtHouse’s operations manager, also does great work alongside the Women’s Center for Who Does She Think She Is?. Wolfe has an established history with UMKC’s creative life, as his first solo show took place at the UMKC African American Culture House. With the help of our fellow Women’s Center member and HerArt Project founder, Arzie Umali, Wolfe was able to curate his show on our campus. Twenty years later and Wolfe still has a profound memory of the show’s influence on him as an artist. In my interview with Wolfe, he stated that “having that show at UMKC showed me that my art was valued and bolstered my confidence enough to keep showing it.” Wolfe continues to pay homage to UMKC as he collaborates and curates with the Women’s Center and the HerArt project.

It’s important to recognize the efforts of our local organizations and their involvement with UMKC. InterUrban ArtHouse is a non-profit organization that strives to help maintain and evolve creative life not just in Kansas City, but here on our campus too.

Meet the Artist: Lynn Norris

By Elise Wantling

Lynn Norris is one of our wonderful artists whose art was featured in our art exhibition co-hosted with InterUrban ArtHouse titled Who Does She Think She Is? I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn and learning a bit more about her and her art. Lynn is a three-dimensional artist who sews, weaves, and makes jewelry, pottery, and collages. Occasionally, she dabbles in two-dimensional art, which she describes as black and white doodles that “look like a machine just vomited parts up, and it is punctuated by faces and strange creatures that do not exist in real life”. Her work typically features lots of bright and bold color choices.

Lynn has always made art, but began using art as a form of therapy in 2004 at the KC Veterans Center, where she partook in an art therapy group on Friday mornings. Lynn is a survivor of military sexual trauma and copes with PTSD, and uses her art to help with this.

Lynn served in the US Navy from 1983-1987 and is a proud veteran. She was stationed at Pearl Harbor and Barber’s Point Naval Air base. She began by maintaining grounds and conducting VIP tours of the Arizona Memorial, then worked as a security guard at the ASWOC (Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center). She eventually became a Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Petty officer and worked in the base photo lab.

Though she enjoyed art, she admits she wasn’t the best at drawing. She started collecting free magazines from the VA Center and noticed they would make great collage material, since they had the colorful and pretty photos. She was taking an abstract art class with a friend through the Raytown school district at the time, and consulted the art teacher, Dennis Helsel. He agreed with her that making collages might be easier for her than drawing. He helped her “figure out how to pull it off” as she says. The first two collages Lynn made were made of totally random clippings. For the third collage she decided she wanted to make one look like a stained glass window, and that was a jumping off point for her. She divided the clippings according to color, then did colored sections highlighted by a paint pen. She’s been using that technique ever since and has made many beautiful pieces inspired by stained glass windows.

One symptom of Lynn’s PTSD is that she has trouble feeling safe, and to deal with that she became obsessively organized and tidy. Her collages are a break from this. Instead of having strict order, she is able to incorporate randomness and chaos into her art. Just the colors are sorted, other than that there is no logic to her arrangements. She even chooses the titles of the pieces by clipping phrases from the magazines and then drawing them out of a hat. The collages have allowed Lynn to let go of her obsessive-compulsiveness and enjoy being in the moment. In her collages, Lynn has found some freedom while also being able to indulge her artistic side.

You can see Lynn’s work, and the work of many other talented artist, in our online tour of the Who Does She Think She Is? Art show. You can also check out more of Lynn’s work on her website, https://mankopowerudcuc.wixsite.com/lessdemented?fbclid=IwAR07lDkfdD9dWYOSnJyzJFqSjnMPpcMSHHS8E_AXJ_SxGrHwwoRob9oGOAI

Meet Us On The Street- What Is It?

By Haley Dean

If you have been attending UMKC for at least a year, I’m sure you have seen the chalking on the sidewalks that happens in April. Did you know that’s actually an international event? Meet Us On The Street is an international program for anti-street harassment. Participants everywhere spread the message about gender-based street harassment and why it needs to stop.

What is gender-based street harassment?
According to stopstreetharassment.org, gender-based street harassment defined is as follows:

“Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

If you’ve ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, or stalked, you have experienced gender-based street harassment. Gender-based street harassment can make the streets feel unsafe for everybody who walks on them.

Why is the program in April?

Meet Us On The Street is held every year for a week in April, because April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. It is the perfect time to bring awareness to the issue.

How can YOU participate in Meet Us On The Street and help spread the word?

The Women’s Center participates in Meet Us On The Street every year. This year we will be holding it as an online campaign for the entire week of the 20th. Take a look at our social media during that week to see what we are doing to spread the word. We will be chalking and writing messages and posting our creations on our social media with the hashtag #StopStreetHarassment. You can join us in spreading the word, too! Make your own creations and post them with the hashtag, or share our posts on social media. The Meet Us On The Street official website has a list of ideas for messages if you need help creating one.

Women’s Center Update

On Friday, March 13, the UM System university announced that all classes will be taught online and all campus events canceled for the remainder of the semester.

This, unfortunately, applies to the UMKC Women’s Center as well and we are canceling all remaining events for the spring semester.  This breaks our hearts, but it’s necessary to prioritize community safety right now.

Additionally, while the Women’s Center remains open, but we are putting social distancing procedures into place, so please call or email ahead if you’re planning to visit. We’re also working on setting up a Zoom account, so stay turned for more information on that.

So Long and Farewell!

By Maggie Pool

Since the beginning of this academic year, I have been an office assistant at UMKC’s Women’s Center. My time here has proven not only my aptitude for learning more about my passions, such as feminism, but also how much power I have in spreading that knowledge to the people around me.

One of my responsibilities was writing a weekly blog post for the Women’s Center website.

“What do I need to write about?” I asked.

“Anything about women.”

As broad as that prompt was, it allowed me to freely explore realms about women in fields that I am already deeply ingrained in, like film, for example. I became fascinated over the gender inequalities surrounding Oscar nominations, especially after this year featured an explosive amount of incredible female directors and female-driven film projects. I explored the history of fallen Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, who has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for two felony sex crimes. I dove into film industry history with Dorothy Arzner, who was the only woman director to successfully transition into the era of talkies from silent cinema. All of these topics filled me with greater wonder and love for the world of cinema, while also expanding my knowledge of women’s influence in cinema.

Alongside graduate assistant Indra Mursid, I had the honor of creating a brand new Women’s Center program. Indra and I teamed up to start a Menstrual Products Drive to raise awareness about the expenses of menstrual products, the hardships women go through during periods, the Pink Tax, and how many schools are trying to make products more accessible. We held the drives in UMKC’s residence halls, and we were pleasantly surprised to see students excited about our program by donating products for others to use. The ultimate goal was to have products available in every women’s and gender-neutral bathroom on campus. Raising awareness about menstrual cycles makes the subject less taboo. That will hopefully make it more possible in the future for women to have better access to menstrual products and better support systems during menstrual cycles.

My time working at the Women’s Center has been one of my favorite working experiences yet. I’ve told the staff they can’t get rid of me that easily! I will be back for events and to study in the amazing supportive environment that is the Women’s Center. I thank everyone so much for the fun and wonderful experience that this has been! So long and farewell!

Indra’s Experience at the Women’s Center

By Indrasari Mursid

For the past 4 ½ months, I have been the graduate assistant at the Center and throughout that time it has shown me what I’m capable of and what my limits were. Additionally, how little I knew about women (beyond my knowledge of being a Women’s and Gender Studies minor as an undergraduate) in industries like theater and film, sport communication, and business thanks to my incredible co-workers and the events we put on throughout the fall semester.

Throughout the semester, I took photographs at various events, managed social media accounts, assisted in creating programs, created event fliers, and managed the Healing Arts program throughout campus. Managing Healing Arts with workshops provided by A Window Between Worlds proved more to me how impactful art-making for leisure was as far as coping with daily stressors of being a college student amongst other identities. As an artist, I found release in leisurely art-making and that’s how I found the field of Art Therapy in high school.

As an Art Therapy major during my undergraduate career, I had seen how transformative intentional art-making was in a supervised art therapy session related to individual experiences of their domestic life, interpersonal and romantic relationships, trauma, family, sexuality and sex, cultural and religious identities, etc. Facilitating Healing Arts workshops at Hospital Hill, replenishing Stepping Stones for Healing Arts corners around campus, and managing I Can, We Can and Shrink Your Stress gave me an inadvertent, small taste of what it might be like for me as an aspiring art therapist to facilitate an art therapy session in groups or individually. These workshops, events, and corners have affirmed why I want to be an art therapist in the future.

Not only did my experience as a graduate assistant affirm my goal of becoming an art therapist after I obtain my licensed professional counselor (LPC) license, but it affirmed my love for advocating for others especially with my involvement in Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, I Can, We Can, “I Am Enough” photo campaign, Women Who Lead, and reaching out to organizations that also advocate for others like League of Women Voters, MOCSA, Barrier Babes, UMKC’s Counseling Services, UMKC LGBTQIA+ Affairs, and Violence Prevention and Response Program. I have already decided as a licensed professional counselor, I would like to work for a non-profit organization or at least for a company that truly advocates for their patients and employees.

Unfortunately,  I am leaving at the end of the fall semester to pursue other educational opportunities, but I am so grateful for what I have learned, the friendships I made during the process, and the hard skills that will be an asset to me in my future counseling career and in other jobs up until my counseling career. Working at the Women’s Center was truly a learning experience of what I am capable of and what I still have to improve on, but it has cemented my love for counseling, art, and advocating for human rights. I hope to combine all of those interests into my counseling practice.

My Time As An Honorary “Roo”

By Skye VanLanduyt

I’m sad my time at the UMKC Women’s Center is coming to a close. Although I’m not a traditional UMKC student, the Women’s Center welcomed me as their blog editor for this semester. I wish more people in our community knew about the programs, resources, and services the Women’s Center provides.

I loved getting to interact with students, staff, and members of the community on a regular daily basis. However, I will treasure my one-to-one meetings with our Assistant Director, Arzie Umali. She provided me with valuable career development skills, advice, and compassion. I may have graduated with a B.A in English, but I never thought of myself as being “qualified” or “good enough” to be a writer. While studying abroad as an undergrad, a professor told me I was “unfit to be an English major.” Given this was a professor, their words greatly impacted my self-confidence. I started unnecessarily worrying over something as simple as writing an email. Two years later, I can say as an undergraduate, I published eight pieces in my school’s literary magazine. As an intern for the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, I’ve kept governments’ accountable and ensured more women become appointees.

Now, I can say I am an honorary “Roo.” It has been a pleasure to be the blog editor for the fall 2019 semester at the Women’s Center. I’ve had the opportunity to staff the front desk and participate in Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®, the UMKC Women’s Center Wine Tasting, and The Clothesline Project. All of these programs and experiences have inspired me to pay closer attention to women right here in our community. It seems silly I let one person’s opinion of me affect how I saw myself. I let a lot of opportunities pass me by, either because I was too scared to try, or because I didn’t see myself as worthy enough. Arzie saw my potential, worth, and capabilities as a writer and young woman when I couldn’t see it for myself. I can’t thank her or the Women’s Center enough for encouraging me to see myself as a strong, qualified, worthy woman. I know I will take what I learned this semester with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve always enjoyed writing about women and LGBTQIA issues, but getting to write and help others write for a larger audience, has been really rewarding. My time as a blog editor for the Women’s Center might be over, but I hope to encourage and inspire other women just as the Women’s Center has inspired me. I know my writing career and commitment to continue fighting for women in the non-profit sector has just begun.