Duke, Prescott join Center for Women and Gender

by Madhavi Menon | 11/10/05 6:00am

The Center for Women and Gender is undergoing significant changes this term as the center welcomes new staff, plans innovative programs and redesigns its office space.

The center hired Alysondra Duke as assistant director earlier this year. Duke's position replaces the part-time outreach program coordinator post.

Xenia Markowitt, who was named as the center's director last year, said she restructured and shuffled roles in an effort to make the position now held by Duke both nationally competitive and more focused on the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program.

Leah Prescott, the recently appointed SAAP coordinator, spends two days a week at the center and the rest of her time at Dick's House. Prescott said she is pleased with her position, which was previously held by Abby Tassel, who resigned in April amid disputes with the College administration.

Prescott, however, said the administration is supportive of her work.

"I feel like Dartmouth is a place that is supportive of new concepts and ideas," she said. "I was welcomed with an overwhelming amount of support and resources for any initiatives and ideas I or my colleagues have had. It feels really good when people are taking your ideas seriously."

Meg Hancock, a liaison between the Office of Residential Life and the Center for Women and Gender, also took on her position this fall. Markowitt said Hancock has brought an unprecedented wealth of experience and new ideas to the post.

New student interns, administrative intern Amy Rolfvondenbaumen '07 and programming intern Ana Catalano '06, have also begun working at the center.

Duke recently finished graduate work in women's studies at Minnesota State University at Mankato and was working in health education before taking her role. Her bachelor's degree is also in women's studies from the University of Nevada in Reno.

"It is fun to be able to use that type of education in a setting like this," Duke said.

Duke's main focus is programming, but other responsibilities include hiring, budgeting and organizing funding for various projects. Duke will be coordinating programs including the "Vagina Monologues," the sex festival, visionary in residence and possibly a gender festival in the spring.

Duke and Prescott recently launched a radio program, "Eyes and Ears: Seeing Violence ... Hearing Silence," on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. The show discusses sexual assault in general and on campus in addition to student efforts at education and outreach.

"We are very excited and full of all sorts of ideas," Duke said. "There is a lot of great energy and a lot of great people here."

Duke also works with students who want to start groups or plan events, providing them with funding through the center.

"The great thing about this position is that it is brand new, and I can shape and mold it in any way I want," Duke said.

At the same time as the center welcomes new staff and launches new programming, it will soon undergo a remodelling that includes new furniture and fresh paint. The work of studio art majors will be displayed on the walls.

"We want to make it younger and hipper," Markowitt said.

The center, located in the Choates residential cluster, is used by students, staff and faculty groups for evening meetings.

"We are working on making it a place where people want to come and hang out," said Duke, who oversees the physical makeover.

According to Prescott, the aim of the center, which was founded in 1988, has not changed during this transition period.

"I think that the center is a tool that can be used in order to further promote coeducation at Dartmouth," she said. "I definitely think it provides a structure to promote dialogue about gender."

Markowitt, however, said that there is much work left for the center.

"I'm not sure we've fully achieved coeducation at Dartmouth," she said. "Women tell me that they still feel like visitors here -- like it is not their school."

She also said that some female students feel that social space is controlled by men and there is a lack of alternatives.

"I hope the Center becomes, in a small measure, an alternative," she said.