The Women’s Center at Virginia Tech is celebrating 20 years of service to faculty, staff, and students in 2014.

The center first opened its doors in Lane Hall in 1994. Ten years later, the center moved to its current location at 206 Washington Street, Blacksburg, Va. More than 100 people have volunteered with the center over the past five years.

Here is a snapshot of the center’s impact and services at Virginia Tech.

  • Gender-based violence
    • On average each year, the center provides counseling and advocacy services to 150-200 students, staff, and faculty that have been impacted by gender-based violence. Since 2001, around 2,500 students, faculty, and staff have used counseling and advocacy services.
    • Since 2001, large-scale presentations and theatrical events have education more than 17,600 people.
    • Since 2001, over 1,000 hours of presentations and training have been delivered to more than 43,000 students, faculty, and staff.
  • Leadership
    • The Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program, launched in 2005, has 128 past and current members.
    • Through the AWARE project, Virginia Tech students mentor Blacksburg Middle School girls. It serves around 50 sixth through eighth grade girls each year. AWARE also hosts College Day every spring, encouraging middle school girls to visit campus and learn about university life and learning.
  • Equity
  • Health and wellness

“Our impact at Virginia Tech would not be possible without the community’s involvement and support,” said Anna LoMascolo, co-director of the Women’s Center. “While our focus is women, our programs and services are open to all.  We depend on everyone – women and men; students, faculty and staff – to achieve our mission.”

“Our focus is to promote a safe, equitable, and supportive community at Virginia Tech for women through counseling and advocacy services, educational programming, and outreach initiatives,” said Christine Dennis Smith, co-director of the Women’s Center.

Beyond traditional services such as counseling and educational events and outreach, the center serves as a hub for advocacy efforts in promoting positive change on campus.

“The Women’s Center has been critical in pushing for policies and programs that support gender equality, safety on campus, and work-life balance,” said Ellen Plummer, assistant provost and former director of the Women’s Center from 2000-2007.

Pat Hyer, associate provost emerita, served in an instrumental role in the establishment of the Women’s Center. 

“The Women’s Center was founded at a time when Virginia Tech was struggling with severe state budget reductions and it seemed there was very little money to accomplish any new initiative," said Hyer. "Yet senior administrators found creative ways to launch and fund this important program using the gender equity expertise of Professor Penny Burge and reallocated positions and space. Over the last 20 years, the Women’s Center has helped changed the culture of Virginia Tech, making it a more inclusive community where both women and men can thrive.”

Jessie Meltsner, special projects coordinator and the longest-serving staff member of the center holding a position there since 1998, reflected on the center’s progress. 

“In my 16 years at the Women’s Center, I have watched us evolve as a staff and as a campus unit in ways that are responsive to the needs of the Virginia Tech community at the time,” Meltsner said. “Being a part of an organization that has the flexibility to react to events in real time, and the courage to advocate for the needs of women on this campus even when positions we have taken have not always been popular, has been a uniquely rewarding experience.”

Events are scheduled throughout the spring semester to help celebrate the Women’s Center’s 20th anniversary, including:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 5: Open House from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Women’s Center.
  • Throughout March: Moments in the History of Virginia Tech: A Campus Walking Tour.
  • Wednesday March 12: Women’s Day of Service in Floyd, Va.
  • Saturday, March 29: Lunafest at 3 p.m. at The Lyric Theatre.
  • Wednesday, April 2: Women’s Health and Wellness Chocolate Festival from 3 to 6 p.m. at Old Dominion Ballroom in Squires Student Center.

The Women’s Center website has full details on these special 20th anniversary events as well as other events scheduled for the spring semester.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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