Brown Women’s Network hosted a virtual event Wednesday entitled “Examining the Evolution of Women at Brown.” The goal of the event was to “explore the evolving role of women at Brown through interactive and dynamic discussion” to deepen the community’s understanding of “shared and varied experiences from Brown and beyond,” according to a community-wide email from BWN. The event featured speaker Felicia Salinas-Moniz MA ’06 PhD ’13, director of the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, along with a welcome address from President Christina Paxson P’19.
Paxson’s welcome address celebrated the 130th anniversary of women being able to enroll at Brown, which also coincides with the 120th anniversary of women of color being able to enroll.
The BWN has been holding a series of special events during the 2021-22 academic year to pay “tribute to the generations of inspiring Brunonian women,” according to a BWN email.
“I’m thrilled that we’re celebrating (Brown women alums) and how their achievements have evolved over time at the University,” Paxson said.
The event was a collaborative effort between University staff and three members of the Women’s Leadership Council, which is a group of women at Brown appointed by Paxson who support students and alums through various initiatives.
“We wanted to present a program that would be exciting for the alumnae community,” Andra Ellingson ’78, head of the Brown Women’s Network content strategy group, wrote in an email to The Herald.
Salinas-Moniz began her presentation by giving viewers information about the history of the Sarah Doyle Center, which opened in 1975. The center moved from Meeting Street to Benevolent Street in 2001 and provides a space of “connection” for students, Salinas-Moniz said. Other features of the building on Benevolent Street include a study and meeting space, an art gallery, a garden and a library.
The mission of the center is to “engage the campus community through a feminist praxis of activism and academics,” Salinas-Moniz said. The center changed its name to include “gender” in its title in order to emphasize inclusion, she added.
The center has been hosting events this month to celebrate Women’s History Month. This year’s series was planned by Graduate Student Coordinator Claritza Maldonado GS and is centered around “tapping into the collective moment of being frayed at the edge, but also highlighting the liberty and creative qualities of not being hemmed in,” Salinas-Moniz added. Some of the month’s events include presentations by a network of mask makers who created masks for BIPOC communities, a committee focused on mutual aid and a virtual reading with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Natalie Diaz, she said.
WLC members and alums who previously participated in the Women’s Launch Pad mentorship program facilitated breakout room discussions following Paxson’s welcome and Salinas-Moniz’s presentation. Guidance was provided to the leaders on how to facilitate the breakout room topics prior to the event.
“The facilitators were eager to be a part of this special program,” Ellingson wrote.
Breakout rooms were created to be a space where small groups had the chance to “engage directly on topics about what being a woman at Brown has meant to them,” Ellingson added.
The discussion questions centered around their experiences on campus, how Brown shapes personal identities and how the Brown experience has motivated change in attendees’ personal or professional endeavors. Each breakout room had about five participants and lasted around 25 minutes.
The event’s closing remarks encouraged students to seek out the Sarah Doyle Center for events and resources and emphasized the unique opportunities alums can provide.
“I think the event provides a great opportunity for intergenerational conversation across alumnae and current students,” Salinas-Moniz wrote in an email to The Herald. It “is a wonderful way to commemorate 130 years of women at Brown and to celebrate Women’s History Month.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article indicated that this year’s Women’s History Month series was planned by Graduate Student Coordinator Claritza Maldonado GS. In fact, Maldonado led the series, collaborating with Sarah Doyle Center staff.