Welcome (back) to UIC!


Welcome [back] to UIC! If you are reading this, you have made it to the second week of the semester. That means you survived the dizzying transition from summer to fall. Each academic year begins with a different energy. This one has been unique for sure, characterized by mask and vaccination mandates, seat plans, hybrid teaching, and new procedures about how we typically interact with the campus. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, introducing variants here and there, so I hope that we can extend as much grace to each other as we try to make it through a very confusing time.

This semester, WLRC will operate on a hybrid schedule. All of our programs will take place virtually, and staff are available to meet with faculty, students, and staff online. Beginning September 13, the center will be physically open for limited hours and at limited capacity on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Please share this information with other students, especially those looking for a place to sit so they can participate in their online synchronous classes. We encourage everyone to watch our website for changes in hours of operation. Call 312-413-1025 before visiting, to find out whether we have room.

Our official “welcome back to campus” event will be the virtual Open House on Wednesday, September 8, noon – 1:30 PM. We hope to see you there!

Thirty years ago, UIC students acted up in response to episodes of violence against women of color on the campus. They built on the organizing of faculty and staff who successfully pushed for a gender and women’s studies program from decades before and helped make possible what we now know as WLRC. As one of UIC’s Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC) which report to the Office of Diversity, WLRC shares a broad commitment to social justice, which includes addressing racial and economic inequities, gender-based violence, and other structural issues inside the university that exclude or otherwise limit access to resources, support, and opportunities for members of our campus community. We are a campus resource for UIC women—staff, faculty, and students alike—but not only for those who identify as women. If you are looking to build community, to get support, and to benefit from our programs that highlight scholarly, activist, and creative work about marginalized women inside and outside the U.S., we are here for you!

UIC prides itself on its racially and economically diverse student body. As a campus that is majority women students, women of color make up a significant portion of our community. As such, WLRC pays particular attention to how women and gender non-conforming students from marginalized backgrounds experience the campus and offers resources that can contribute to students’ success at this institution.

  • WLRC’s Tuition Award for AY2021-2 is now available. This tuition waiver supports undergraduate women students who have been at UIC for at least one semester and who have a great deal of financial need that is not met by financial aid. We especially encourage applications from women who are members of marginalized communities: women with disabilities; women of color; undocumented students; lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women; those returning to college to complete their education; parents. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted. For more information, contact Dr. Bennett, ndab1@uic.edu.
  • This fall, we are launching Phoenix Rising Collective for UIC students who lead campus organizations that work on gender equity in their disciplines or fields. We are excited to offer this space to our students so they can organize, learn, and develop feminist models of leadership that will strengthen their engagement on the campus and beyond.
  • Building on the successful pilot from the spring semester, WLRC is incubating the Speaking|Writing|Being program, a graduate student-led community for Black women graduate students to build a community of support for their intellectual work, form supportive writing/working relationships, and participate in professional development activities that will help them to thrive at UIC and beyond.
  • Working with the College of Medicine’s Medical Colloquia Series, WLRC provides educational programming for first- and second-year medical students that centers the scholarship of women of color working at the intersections of race, gender, and medicine. This year, we have invited Vanessa Grubbs, a leading voice in advocating for elimination of race-based medicine, to offer a virtual lecture “Racism in Medicine: Why and How I Confront It” on September 17.
  • In collaboration with the Department of Psychology, Gender & Women’s Studies program, and other units, WLRC will present a lecture by Jennifer Freyd, a psychologist who is well known for her research on trauma and interpersonal violence, and the ways institutions (such as universities) betray their members. The lecture will take place in October 2021, and precede a special seminar with graduate students, who will meet with Dr. Freyd.
  • The center offers internships for both graduate and undergraduate students as well, and these can be tailored to serve the students’ academic needs while also addressing programmatic goals of the center. Email us to find out more!

WLRC welcomes the opportunity to work with faculty from across the university to create engaged learning opportunities for students, whether through presentations in classes, having students participate in shaping or documenting the center’s programming, or providing input and supervision on students’ projects. We share faculty’s interest in providing robust learning opportunities for students. We are happy to work with academic units to co-host guest speakers and discussions around topical issues related to the discipline that are located at the intersections of race, gender, class, and other axes of inequality.

You can see what our work with staff looks like during our 30th anniversary events, which will focus on the work done through the Campus Advocacy Network (CAN), UIC’s only unit devoted to providing education and free confidential advocacy around gender-based violence (sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, stalking, and harassment) to the entire campus. CAN was originally conceived as a survivor services program that demanded deep partnerships across the university in order to be impactful. On this anniversary, you can learn about how staff from a variety of units on campus have emerged as unlikely allies in the work to move beyond compliance, and how you can join forces with us to build a truly survivor-centered campus.

We are pleased to announce that CAN has been awarded a $50,000 Violent Crime Victims Assistance (VCVA) Grant from the Illinois Office of the Attorney General for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year. We will use the VCVA funds to grow their emergency grant fund and to work with faculty, staff, and students to reimagine how to serve survivors in the UIC community.

In the midst of this celebration, we also bid farewell to Dr. Ada Cheng, who is transitioning out of her role as CAN’s Outreach & Education Specialist. We welcome her continued presence in and support of CAN’s educational and advocacy mission over this academic year. A search to fill the position will take place in spring 2022.

Finally, there’s a lot going on in the U.S. and the world that begs for the broader community to come together to talk, learn, share perspectives, build power, and take action in whatever ways that we can. It is also a given that the lives of UIC students will be affected in some way by political upheavals whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. For this reason, WLRC’s newsletter is also a space for learning about how we, as a university community, can engage with these issues. See, for example, Professor Nadine Naber’s recent op-ed on the resurgence of the problematic argument about “saving” Afghani women that was first used 20 years ago to justify U.S. war in Afghanistan. Through sharing these critical feminist perspectives and creating opportunities for dialogue, I hope that we can find ways to work together to push for a more just and safe campus and world.

We welcome your ideas and submissions to the weekly newsletter—announcements, thought pieces, resources that you want to share, feedback on content that you find useful. If there is a program/event/issue on which you or your unit wants to collaborate, develop further dialogue, or see more education work done on campus, please do get in touch with us so that we can figure out how to work together!

Despite the altered circumstances, you can see that we have a lot planned for the semester. Please follow us on social media, share this newsletter with students, especially incoming ones, and let everyone know about us!

Until next time, take care of each other.

Natalie Bennett