Galerstein Women’s Center Marks Its 20th Anniversary
From left: Narcely Ruiz, assistant director; Katrina Watland, counselor; Lauren DeCillis, director; Ashfia Salemin, administrative assistant; and Matt Johns, assistant director of LGBT+ programs, work at the Galerstein Women's Center.
Twenty years ago, the Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein Women’s Center (GWC) opened a small office in the Student Union with little more than a desk and two chairs.
What started as a resource for female faculty members has grown into a welcoming place where all faculty, staff and students can find resources and support through lectures, workshops, counseling, scholarships and more.
“The GWC has evolved from a grass-roots effort to talk about issues that women faculty members faced to a campuswide resource that focuses on gender as a current and ever-evolving diversity issue,” said Lauren DeCillis, who has served as the center’s director since it opened. “Equality for women reflects the enduring legacy of reform, advocacy and inclusive practices at UT Dallas.”
Women on faculty and staff initially advocated for the center to address recruitment of female professors, tenure and maternity leave. They named it to honor the University’s first female dean, Dr. Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein, who oversaw the School of General Studies (now the School of Interdisciplinary Studies), from 1975 to 1987.
Dr. Abby Kratz, associate provost, was among those who worked to create the center.
Dr. Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein
“Although universities throughout the nation began adding administrative units to provide support to female faculty and students as early as the 1960s, the concept was a new and alien one for UT Dallas until the 1990s when, with determination and vision, the new vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Hobson Wildenthal (now executive vice president and provost), encouraged the development of a women’s center and an environment that welcomes and supports women,” Kratz said. “Under Lauren DeCillis’ watch, the center has provided a platform through which the University has been able to engage in dialogue and meaningful change that has sustained its proactive leadership in regard to emerging gender issues over the years.”
The center, a department under the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, now occupies a suite in the Student Services Building. It has brought a variety of programs to UT Dallas, including wellness initiatives such as the first mammogram van and flu shots, sexual assault awareness programs and the University’s first private lactation room, the Lily Pad. In 2010, the center drew a crowd of 1,200 to a lecture by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
The Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein Women’s Center is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. From promoting equal pay to nondiscrimination against the LGBT+ community, this timeline shows how the center has helped create a welcoming and inclusive campus at UT Dallas over the past two decades.
“I am proud of the work we have done throughout the years to advocate for a campus culture that advances equity for women and girls, including programs like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which educate, empower and challenge stereotypical ideas about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) fields. I am also energized by the work yet to be done,” said Narcely Ruiz, the center’s assistant director.
The center has increasingly provided support to the LGBT+ community, with its LEAP (LGBT+ Education, Advocacy and Programming) initiative including Safe Zone training, National Coming Out Day and advocacy for gender-neutral bathrooms. This year, the center hired its first assistant director of LGBT+ programs, Matt Johns.
“The newly established position of assistant director of LGBT+ builds on the efforts of the Galerstein Women’s Center, which has led women’s and LGBT+ programs and advocacy for over a decade,” Johns said. “My hope is to foster a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations, and to be among the top 30 most LGBT+ friendly campuses in the nation.”
Dr. Karen Prager, professor of psychology and gender studies, said participating in the founding of the center and hiring DeCillis as its director was one of her “prouder moments at the University.”
Yi Li (left) and Rachel Crews show off their henna designs at a Galerstein Women’s Center event during International Week in 2015.
“Since the days of its inception, Lauren and the center have been involved in a wealth of activity designed to create a welcoming environment for women of ambition who wish to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields,” Prager said. “The center provides a place where people can meet and share problems, seek counseling, and gain support for creative, nontraditional paths in life. It is a beacon to the world that UT Dallas is a place that supports women having complicated lives that combine education, career, relationships and parenting, lives that allow the full potential of women to be realized.”
This fall, the center has been busy hosting a broad range of programs including salary negotiations workshops, lectures, Safe Zone training and weekly Tea Tuesdays.
“By representing gender issues at UT Dallas, the Galerstein Women’s Center has been instrumental in helping the University create a welcoming environment on our campus for all students, faculty and staff members,” said Dr. George Fair, vice president of diversity and community engagement. “We are very proud of the center’s role in fulfilling the University’s commitment to embrace, enhance and celebrate diversity.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].