According to the Utah Women in Education Summit, female students ages 18-24 are on the decline in Utah higher education. Utah was above the national average for women in college from 1987 until 2000, and is now below average by about 5 percent. Dorothy Hill, women’s advocate and program specialist at the Weber State University Women’s Center, said that keeping women in school is one purpose of the Women’s Center.
“We advise women who are either enrolled in school or who are thinking about getting into school, and we recognize that women have some unique needs, and we’re tailored to meet those needs,” Hill said.
Hill recently moved from WSU Student Support Services, where she had worked for 10 years. She is helping run the Women’s Center in the absence of the center’s director, Carol Merrill, who is away on a site visit to Iowa State University and Minnesota State University at Mankato. Hill is also in charge of the seminar for single mothers that the Women’s Center is sponsoring this semester, the Single Mom’s Success Forum.
The sessions will be taught mainly on Thursdays, from Sept. 15 to Nov. 3, by guest speakers and WSU faculty and staff, including Merrill and Hill. The topics range from how single mothers can take care of themselves and their children physically to how to set goals and make healthy dating decisions. Other seminars for single mothers have been offered at WSU in the past, but Hill said she has plans for this semester’s version that she hopes will be particularly fun for participants. These plans include a trip to a ropes course for the students.
“It’s going to be really interactive; it’s not going to be the type of series of seminars where you just sit and listen, so I think it should be pretty fun,” Hill said. “I think a lot of the ideas, we had different versions of them in the past, and, again, I’ve just adapted them a little bit to what will work for what I think women or single mothers need now, and what our resources are to teach now.”
Stephanie McKee, a WSU sophomore and single mother of three, said she is “absolutely” interested in attending the seminar, with emphasis on a couple sessions in particular.
“All of them, they all sound really good, but I think the first one that catches my eye is Goal-Setting and Self-Reliance, and then Surviving and Thriving,” she said.
The Women’s Center also hosts WSU’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month and helps organize Sub for Santa in December. The center also offers many other services to students, including academic advice, scholarships and guiding them around campus to other services.
Also, despite their title, their services are not exclusive to women. Jennifer Parkinson, office assistant for the Women’s Center and a BIS junior, said that many new students have seemed surprised to learn that the center, though designed to meet some needs that are generally unique to women, is open to men as well. Hill said she has been happy to offer the same level of academic advice to male students who come through the door, and Parkinson said the center offers scholarships to single parents and many other students regardless of gender.
“Here at the Women’s Center, we’re just trying to help, and we try to make sure that everything is free and it’s for what the students need and not, you know, something that they’re never gonna use,” Parkinson said, “something that they can take and use throughout their whole life. It can be anywhere from being a single mom to being a normal student, and learning success skills and learning leadership skills, and our director Carol is a great leader, and she’s taught everybody who’s ever worked here stuff that we can take with us when we go away from the Women’s Center.”
Those interested in attending the Single Mom’s Success Forum, including non-student single mothers in the community, can register for the free seminar on WSU’s website. The Women’s Center is located in Room 322 of the Shepherd Union Building, next to the Nontraditional Student Center.