University leaders partnering with Women and Gender Collaborative are pictured in January 2016. Cori Wong, pictured center front row, stands with collaborators, from left to right, Irene Vernon, Sue James, Monica Rivera, Mary Ontiveros and, front row, Caridad Souza Women and Gender Collaborative Readies for March LaunchImage of

Women and Gender Collaborative Readies for March Launch

By Dell Rae Ciaravola, as appearing in SOURCE,

University leaders partnering with Women and Gender Collaborative are pictured in January 2016. Cori Wong, pictured center front row, stands with collaborators, from left to right, Irene Vernon, Sue James, Monica Rivera, Mary Ontiveros and, front row, Caridad Souza

University leaders partnering with Women and Gender Collaborative are pictured in January 2016. Cori Wong, pictured center front row, stands with collaborators, from left to right, Irene Vernon, Sue James, Monica Rivera, Mary Ontiveros and, front row, Caridad Souza

Educate to empower. Engage to change.

That’s the mission ahead for the Women and Gender Collaborative as it readies for a formal campus launch in March alongside Women’s History Month celebrations at CSU.

Since 2012, when President Tony Frank gave the charge to the university to become the best place for women to work and learn, many on-campus committees and offices have dedicated their efforts and passion to that goal. Independently and collaboratively, they have helped move the university closer to realizing a culture and climate of gender inclusiveness for faculty, staff and students.

Among those groups are the President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty, the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. Until recently, a central way to bring together and more broadly communicate the significance of these efforts with the rest of campus had been missing.

Introducing the Women and Gender Collaborative

The Women and Gender Collaborative, led by Cori Wong, will work to connect, support and promote various campus efforts that focus on women and gender-related issues. The Collaborative also will create opportunities for the general campus community to learn more about and engage with these topics on a deeper level, providing a platform for activity and growth toward the university’s overall goal. It also will develop educational content to inform diverse audiences, and convene, host and facilitate critical dialogues around women and gender.

Wong wears multiple hats. Last summer, she was appointed as both the special assistant to the President for Affordable Housing Initiatives and the director of the Women and Gender Collaborative. She also serves as special instructor in the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research. Wong brings together academic credentials – such as a dual-PhD in philosophy and women’s studies – and a down-to-earth passion for teaching, learning, and applying theory to everyday life. In her own words, she aims to engage the “hearts and minds” of the campus community around the daily realities that shape and create our campus culture and climate.

“Making CSU the best place for women to work and learn involves complicated issues. To solve those complex issues, it’s necessary to connect with women, men, students, faculty, and staff across all groups and bring the issues home to them,” Wong said. “Not everyone is an expert in women’s studies, but anyone can participate in the conversation and make a personal connection with situations in which these issues play out. The Collaborative’s goals are to educate, engage and empower all audiences to help improve the university’s culture around women and gender.”

Irene Vernon, chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, agrees.

“The Collaborative can bring a means to fill in some major gaps in education across campus about gender and feminism,” she said. Vernon also chairs the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty, which is at the forefront of identifying and addressing equity issues on campus for women faculty. “The Collaborative’s educational focus will allow for efforts to be better understood and supported.”

Connecting and building partnerships

Wong vows to bring just that to the table – connecting the groups that carry out similar work with the broader campus, and connecting the campus community back to the issues at hand. Among her first priorities is to help the community better understand how gender informs and influences everyday interactions, and help people build the skills to recognize and respond to problematic issues, such as bullying or gender bias, as they transpire.

“Cori is intelligent, energetic, and motivated to make the Collaborative work, and I think we need to support these efforts to help the university move forward,” said Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs.

In addition to working with various campus groups, the Women and Gender Collaborative also has begun building external partnerships with the city of Fort Collins, as well as local groups and organizations. The Women and Gender Collaborative will absorb and expand upon the efforts initiated by the Ripple Effect.

“I think there is room for new initiatives and ideas as the Collaborative takes shape, and it will be important to reach out to all interested women and men to participate,” Hughes said.

March is Women’s History Month, and the Collaborative, along with other groups across campus, are already focusing on educational and social events to reach across campus. Wong invites the campus community to attend as many events as possible to connect, learn and empower themselves and one another.