Conference to address empowerment of women

By Jen Bland

Finalized plans for “Empowering Women: Dignity, Diversity and Development” include some programs of specific interest to the NIU community.

According to Donna Baptiste, graduate housing assistant, these events include today’s panel discussion from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Diversions in the Holmes Student Center, a discussion about gender communications, a discussion about overcoming childhood trauma and the difference in the treatment of women today as compared to thousands of years ago.

Today’s panel discussion, “Women’s Forum and Speak-Out: Creating an Empowering Campus Environment,” is designed to kick off the conference.

“We wanted to start the conference with input that focuses on the theme of empowerment and this discussion should provide people with an idea of what sessions they may want to attend,” Baptiste said.

Panel members include Irene Johnson, assistant dean of the graduate school; Sue Mellard, external programs director of the law school; Carole Minor, professor of educational psychology, counseling and special education; Rosalyn Robertson, graduate student in art and Jan VanderMeer, women’s studies secretary. It will be moderated by Sharon Howard, director of University Resources for Women.

Baptiste said the discussion will begin with brief presentations by each of these women about their experiences at NIU and about the position of women in higher education in general.

The group then will break up into smaller groups to discuss their reactions to the presentations and they will reconvene to share their opinions and input.

“We want a lot of participation from women of the campus,” Baptiste said.

She said this is a good alternative educational experience. “Students can meet and interact with people they usually don’t get the chance to talk to in a less formal setting than a classroom,” Baptiste added.

Carole Minor, associate professor of educational psychology, counseling and special education, said this discussion is important to students for two reasons

“Students need to be aware of gender issues in their daily lives and because it’s important to hear from women working,” Minor said. “It’s important to see what their lives might be like and the issues they will face as women.”

Friday from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Holmes Student Center, “Gender Communications: Discovery of Differences” will be addressed by Kathleen Patchett, assistant coordinator of community college relations, and Sheryl Mullis, area coordinator of Lincoln and Douglas.

Mullis said the discussion will focus on “You Just Don’t Understand” by Debra Cannen and “Genderspeak” by Suzette Haden Elgin. She said the structure of power and communication and how it affects the working conditions and lives of women will be discussed.

The lecture and discussion of scenarios allows participants to learn about how to communicate with others and how people’s communication affects them.

“Overcoming Childhood Trauma” will be discussed Friday at 10:15 a.m. in the Holmes Student Center. The presenter is Vicki Whipple, who has a counseling practice in DeKalb.

Whipple said this lecture will help abused women learn how to begin the healing process.

This lecture was inspired by Whipple’s experiences as a counselor. She said it will help people who have been abused and those who know abused people learn about the healing process.

Whipple also will be presenting “How Things Would be Different if …” at 1:15 p.m. Friday in the Holmes Student Center.

This presentation will ask women to imagine what life was like for women thousands of years ago when they were respected and considered great leaders. It also asks the question, “What would life be like if there was a women’s lodge?”

The presentation is based on a book titled “The Circle of Stones.” Whipple said this experience will encourage women to think more and help them be in touch with what it is like to be a woman in society now and then.

“It will give students a vision of what life could be like and how to get a better sense of themselves as women,” Whipple added.