Spring 2013 Newsletter
Women of Color Empowerment Dinner Celebrates 15 Years
On May 17, approximately 250 women students, faculty and staff of color and their allies gathered in celebration for Western’s 15th annual Women of Color Empowerment Dinner (WOCED). Presented by Student Outreach Services, the WOCED honored the rich accomplishments of women of color at Western and the many contributions women of color make to the Western community and beyond. The event encouraged students to pursue their goals in higher education, and created a powerful space to increase learning and gain support in resisting forces of bias and oppression experienced by women of color. As Joan Ullin, event chair and Assistant Director of Student Outreach Services said, “This event touches people deeply. We need this space. We need our community.”
The WOCED was truly a community event. Dr. Reneé Collins, Director of Student Outreach Services, offered reflections on the history of the dinner, which began in 1999 when a small group of women of color including Dr. Collins met in the Fairhaven Dining Hall to discuss challenges and accomplishments. That dialogue was a rare and empowering opportunity for women of color at Western to come together and support one another.
Today, the WOCED has evolved into what Dr. Collins describes as a signature University event. Dr. Karen Dade, Associate Dean of Woodring, gave a keynote address situating the celebration of women of color’s accomplishments and resiliency around the event’s theme, “I am because we are.” Following her remarks, students performed a dance titled I Am Because We Are choreographed by Dr. Dade. The WOCED also included vocal performances by students Elisabeth Scott and Belina Seare.
Three outstanding women students of color were recognized at the event. Joan, who is a longtime leader of diversity efforts at Western, describes the selection of this year’s award recipients as “really bringing in and honoring the diversity of who we are.” The Women of Color Empowerment Award was presented by last year’s Award recipient, Professor Kristen French of Woodring, to Maria del Rosario Corona Horta, a Fairhaven student who also gave the evening’s student keynote address. Maria was recognized for her work advocating for and supporting people who are in the United States without documentation, including founding the Student Coalition for Immigration Rights.
Constance Mary Brown, an incoming freshman, was awarded the Arevalo-Hayes Scholarship. The Women of Color Empowerment Scholarship was presented to Christina Canton, an American Cultural Studies major who has worked extensively with Western’s Queer People of Color and Queer Women Educating and Supporting Together clubs, and who is currently participating in the Race, Culture and Society in the Latino Caribe program in the Dominican Republic led by Fairhaven Professor Larry Estrada.
At this year’s dinner, the WOCED planning committee launched a campaign to endow the Women of Color Empowerment Scholarship. Lise Fitzpatrick, Director of Administrative Services, Financial Management and Information Systems in Extended Education, announced a $10,000 gift from her family toward the scholarship’s endowment. As Joan said, “Lise’s generosity inspires the rest of us to think of ways we can support her unselfish action. She has a big heart.”