TIMES CHANGE: BUT MISSION OF ODU'S WOMEN'S CENTER DOESN'T
4 March 1997
The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA
BEHIND THE FOOD COURT, past the bookstore and beyond a flurry
of students in Old Dominion University's Webb Center is a place
women have sought out for years.
It's called The Women's Center, and though it first opened 20
years ago in a different location, the mission has remained the
same: to address the needs of women on campus and in the community.
When the center first opened, the issues in the forefront of
the women's rights' movement were sexual harassment, sexual assault
and gender inequities.
They're the same today.
"If someone had told me I'd be talking about the same issues
today as I did when I first started working in the women's
movement, I don't know whether I could have done it," said Julie
Dodd, who has directed The Women's Center at Old Dominion
University for the past 15 years.
But she has, and will continue to do so until there isn't a
need for a place like The Women's Center.
The idea, she says, is to work her way out of a job. To create
an environment where there isn't a need to designate March as
Women's History Month because their achievements will be celebrated
throughout the year. To create a campus atmosphere where women are
never raped, harassed, or treated unfairly. And a society where
women have equal power with men in judicial, political and business
Dodd doesn't expect that to happen in her lifetime, though.
That doesn't mean that progress has not been made. The
accomplishments of the center have been many.
Dodd and the center's staff have helped hammer out and refine
policies on sexual harassment and sexual assaults on campus.
They've lobbied for female professors to be paid the same as their
male counterparts, and to boost female enrollment in fields
dominated by men. And perhaps most important, they've created small
communities of women to help maneuver the women through prejudice
and pain: A support group for African-American women called
"Sisters," a group for women who've been sexually assaulted;
sessions on sexism in the media, lesbian rights and healthy
On top of the core issues that Dodd and The Women's Center have
dogged for the past two decades are layered new concerns of women.
A key one is women returning to college after raising families or
after trying careers that didn't work out. That's a population
that's grown over the years.
The center works with these women to bolster their confidence,
help them brush up on study skills and focus their efforts on
professions where they can thrive.
And to help women take the next step of moving up in their
fields, the center last fall launched the Women's Institute for
While the images of the women's movement in the '70s may have
been of young, revolutionary women marching in the streets, the
image today is more likely to focus on women trying to juggle work,
education and family roles.
And while gender gaps may still be with us, Dodd believes the
environment surrounding them has changed over the past two decades.
The awareness of the problems has increased, and the attention to
righting them in political and judicial arenas has reached new
As such, the idea of having a women's center on campus has gone
from a revolutionary concept to an expected one.
"I don't find myself having to justify The Women's Center in
the same way I did early on," Dodd said. "There's a general
understanding of what we do and why we are here."
Color photo by Tamara Voninski/The Virginian-Pilot
Julie Dodd has been the director of the Women's Center at Old
Dominion University for 15 years.