Women’s Resource Center begins mission

By Elizabeth zinchuk

A new center on campus will focus on empowering women through leadership skills and education.

Melinda Yeomans, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said the Women’s Resource Center is a new addition this semester. The mission statement, she said, is excellence in advancing the women of SIU in wellness, empowerment, inclusivity, professional development, academic success and leadership development.

Plans to form the center began last semester, Yeomans said, and the Center for Inclusive Excellence is excited for its doors to be open and active.


With the new center, Yeomans hopes to initiate programs that promote leadership and wellness.

“Our mission is about helping our SIU women feeling connected, supported, taken care of, empowered, advanced, advocated for,” Yeomans said. I want them to know that they are seen, heard, and looked out for.”

The reason a Women Resource Center was needed, Yeomans said, was that women tend to not know what they are capable of in terms of leadership.

“Women still face many challenges in our culture to feeling fully empowered; the work of the WRC is supporting our SIU women to that confidence on all levels,” Yeomans said. “It’s very important women know we belong here [in the college setting] and in the highest levels of professional achievement and leadership.”

Yeomans said society is still predominantly a patriarchal society and many women do not have the opportunity to have good role models.

“We belong at the table, our opinions matter, our voices matter,” Yeomans said. “Some of our first generation women come from areas that might not have as strong, professional role models for women as other women.”

Barbara Bickel, director of the women, gender and sexuality studies, said she has already begun working with Yeomans on some of the programs the center will put on for Women’s History Month starting in the last week of February into March. She said many good things will come from it.


“We’re hoping to make it visible for women on campus,” Bickel said. “I only see benefits from it.”

Bickel said a place like the Women’s Resource Center was missing from campus and will be a great asset for women.

“I think it’s always good to have a space that’s welcoming and safe for women that offers resources and connections with other areas on campus,” Bickel said. “We’ve come a long way but we still have work to do.”

Yeomans said women could have issues with finances, health and situations that could lead to unhealthy relationships with men, sexual abuse or violence and substance abuse.

“We want to keep our women healthy and always, we want to keep them from any situations that sidetrack them from their goals,” Yeomans said.

Yeomans said she has a Ph.D in speech communication and intercultural communication, and a graduate certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies. She said she has taught a number of classes for women, gender, and sexuality, speech communication, English, and education departments. With her new role as director for the Women’s Resource Center, she hopes to empower women through wellness and guidance.

“I hope the Women’s Resource Center becomes a go-to place,” Yeomans said. “My door is always open and available to students to feel that they are seen, that they are heard.”

Teagan King, a senior from Auburn studying hospitality and tourism administration, was an intern for Yeomans when she was a coordinator for University Women’s Professional Advancement. King said when she first started working for Yeomans she seemed enthusiastic and like she really loved her job.

“I think she has a lot of drive and empowerment to help a lot of women,” King said.

The Women’s Center, a non-campus affiliated women’s resource center has been in Carbondale since 1972.  Cathy McClanahan, executive director of the Women’s Center, said she is working with the SIU Women’s Resource Center and is glad the large amount of younger female students who come to the Women’s Center will have an additional resource.

“I think it is going to be an excellent place for students that need assistance with various issues to go to for help,” McClanahan said. “It will be very beneficial to SIU women.”

McClanahan said the Women’s Resource Center on campus is important because college-aged women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Most of the women in the Women’s Center seeking services through the sexual assault program are between 18 and 28 years old, she said.

“We service a lot of that population, which is why it is so important we have a working agreement with the Women’s Resource Center so that we can make sure they [students] are getting the follow-up support they need if they want assistance outside of campus,” McClanahan said.

McClanahan said the Women’s Resource Center will be beneficial to students’ health but to also the Women’s Center’s partnership with SIU.

A large part of the Women’s Resource Center is about educating women about their health, Yeomans said. WELL Wednesdays she said, will embody that.

Women Exceling in Leadership and Learning Wednesday, or WELL Wednesdays, consist of weekly workshops starting the first week of February from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The programs will start with a half-hour of free yoga by a certified instructor and then take up a topic of women’s wellness: health, academics, leadership, relationships, body image and more, Yeomans said. WRC Leadership Mentorship and mentoring circles for female students and other women around the community will also be initiated.

“It will include special leadership component that really focuses on women’s encouragement and support to have the confidence to enter leadership position,” Yeomans said.

The leadership skills focused on during the WELL Wednesdays will also be a part of the WRC Leadership Mentorship program, where women are trained to be leaders and mentor each other. As a part of this program, Yeomans said she wants to expand to reach more than just female students at SIU.

“Potentially, we want to grow WRC Leadership Mentors into a certificate program for our SIU women and where we can eventually invite local high schools and junior colleges to join some of our programming,” Yeomans said. “One of the real keys to grooming women for leadership is creating a cross-generational pipeline of connection and network that helps women enter leadership. We have an amazing pool of professional mentors on this campus and I want to help connect our students to great mentors.”

The women involved in the WRC Leadership Mentorship program will at some point do service outreach where they reach younger women and try to be role models for them.

“That means identifying young, intelligent, capable women early on and giving them access to experience, knowledge, skills and opportunities to lead,” Yeomans said. “Our WRC Leadership Mentors will go through their own leadership training and we’re hoping to have a certificate program and a retreat.”

In addition, Yeomans said she wants to create diverse mentoring circles on campus. Each discipline, college or major will have professionals in that field on campus as well as young female students, she said.

“The college to career network is very important,” Yeomans said. “We are making sure our women students have mentors.”

Yeomans said while professors can be great mentors, there are other people on campus who can be as equally qualified.

“Professors are good mentors but there might be another remarkable mentor in another college who can provide insight,” Yeomans said. “Potentially down the road you have a remarkable network of people you can call on.”

Elizabeth Zinchuk can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @ElizabethZ_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.