Aspirations of the Women’s Resource Center

Annett Zlotorzyzki, Joanna Snawder and Tracy Barfield

By Syed Ahad Hussain – Senior Staff Writer

The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) is a place to get answers, help and guidance for all NEIU students regardless of their gender, despite the center’s name. The WRC is in affiliation with the Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs, and is led by Joanna Snawder and her two student aides; Annett Zlotorzyzki, a senior environmental studies major, and Tracy Barfield, a junior social work major.
The staff of the WRC sees themselves as the first point of contact, a clearing house for references and answers for the students, and a friendly office which can act as a bridge for students. WRC is a place to go if students “have a very serious issue, perhaps they got assaulted, or need help finding housing, looking for child care options, or maybe they just want to learn about women’s rights or social justice. So all of these concerns are our concerns so we are here to help by either providing the resource directly to the student or connect them to it,” says Joanna Snawder, “we help students find resources in variety of ways, physical resources, by giving them brochures, handouts, pamphlets of the local organizations. We also help students find [resources] through events and programs, and also, as the director, I serve as the advocate of the students; so if a student does need help to navigate a process here on campus, I can help the student navigate that process.”
Joanna Snawder recently came to Chicago from Denver, Colo., with a seven-year background in working in campus-based women’s centers, including one such center in a California Catholic school, and a women’s resource center in Colorado’s Metropolitan University in Denver. Snawder was very excited to take this position because the WRC was new for NEIU, and also because it gave her an opportunity to design the service this campus needed from the ground-up. NEIU has lacked a resource center after the closure of Adult and Women’s Services office in early 2011. Snawder discussed her experiences as the director, and then highlighted how being under that umbrella of inclusion and the guidance of the leadership at the Pedroso Center helped her look at diversity of identities in a very multifaceted way.
The WRC’s upcoming events include a gently-used all sizes women’s professional clothing drive event in partnership with the El-Centro campus, which will help female El-Centro students to prepare to dress for job interviews and the work environment. Snawder has also submitted several of innovation grants, one of which will enable the center to offer students a salary negotiation workshop. The center is partnering with the Women’s Studies faculty for a film screening of ‘Pink Ribbons Inc.” about breast cancer awareness. The film is a critique of the pink ribbon products being sold supposedly to benefit breast cancer, and is being shown by the WRC on Oct. 24, at 5:30 pm, location to be announced. The WRC will celebrate ‘Love Your Body Day’ which will focus on body image awareness and acceptance. “This year [the WRC] is taking an unusual angle by focusing on African-American women and the politics of black hair,” said Snawder. “[African-American women] will share their stories about what sort of assumptions get made in the way they choose to wear their hair. However, everybody has a hair story, so everybody is also welcomed and encouraged to come ask questions and share their stories.”
“I want women of NEIU to know that they have an advocate, an ally, a space that is theirs. First and foremost the center is about making [students] comfortable and having an inclusive experience here,” says Snawder. “I want them to stay at school and finish their education, I’ve worked with a lot of students in seven and a half years and I understand the reality of not getting some of the needs met. I remember working with a student who was living in a tent and she contacted the center because she wanted some advocacy with a professor and getting some special arrangements with a class. I wanted to encourage her to find a different housing option but she told me that she was fine living in a tent and she wanted to focus on her education because she saw that as a pathway out of her situation, I thought that was very inspiring.”
Snawder said NEIU owed it to the students to supply them with as many tools, skills and resources as possible so that they could be successful and finish school self-sufficient and resilient. “We want students to know that the WRC is a non-judgmental safe space so they can bring their issues here,” said student aide Zlotorzyzki. The Women’s Resource Center is located in B-130 inside the B-119 suite near the Angelina Pedroso center.