By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The Women’s Center at Bowling Green State University will mark the 20th anniversary of its founding in a state of flux.
Mary Krueger, who has directed the center since its founding, retired at the end of the academic year, and the center is slated to be relocated from Hanna Hall to most likely Hayes Hall in early fall.
Vice President for Students Affairs Thomas Gibson wrote last week in response to questions from BG Independent news: “We are finalizing the recruitment process requirements to commence the search in approximately two weeks.”
He said the hope is to have a new director in place by October.
In the meantime, Krueger is staying on part time, working two days a week.
Last fall, the Women’s Center was moved into the Division of Student Affairs, out of the Office of Equity and Diversity.
In spring, after protests over the way the university handled cases of sexual assault, faculty members put support for the center and for hiring a director with background in addressing sexual violence on campus in a list of demands. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/faculty-members-urge-bgsu-to-be-a-leader-in-addressing-sexual-violence/).
Gibson wrote: “I am seeking a candidate who has at minimum of 3-4 years of related work experience; in-depth knowledge of women’s issues, especially in the college/university setting; a student advocate; a good collaborator with faculty colleagues, especially from Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies; strong leadership and public relations skills; excellent administrative and organizational skills; evidence of potential successful fund-raising, including grant-writing. And certainly, I am seeking an educator, support resource and advocate for survivors of sexual violence, perhaps with the potential to serve as a deputy Title IX Coordinator.”
Among all the uncertainties, though, Krueger does know that the center is still needed and it does important work. “The issues are maybe not the same as 20, 30, 40 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still gender equity issues to talk about,” Krueger said.
Krueger said that the center has targeted its outreach to female students with children. While there are students who are fathers, she said, “we found that being a parent for women is much different because they are more likely to be the custodial parent, so they are the one more likely to do the actual balancing act… The university loses those students more than they should because there are not resources for the student.”
At a time when the university’s state funding is tied up with keeping students so they graduate, this is an institutional problem as well as a personal problem for the student.
And Krueger said: “Society as a whole benefits when people with children have a college degree. There’ a ripple effect.
So the center has created some scholarships as well stipends to help students pay for childcare and help defray other expenses. One of the first donors to that scholarship fund was President Mary Ellen Mazey, Krueger noted.
BGSU was late in establishing a women’s center. When it was founded – and Krueger gives credit to those who did the work to get the center up and going before she was hired – the University of Toledo’s center was already celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Krueger said then President Sidney Ribeau played a central role in “green lighting” the creation of the center.
The BGSU center has established a niche for itself nationally. It has an array of programs that serve not just students, but faculty, administrators and staff, as well as members of the larger community.
When it plans its series of Wednesday lunch talks, or its monthly scholarly presentations, or monthly professional development sessions, Krueger makes sure there’s something of interest over the year for all those constituencies.
The center also holds a reception that brings together new faculty hires who are women with women who have recently earned tenure. This facilitates informal networking and helping new faculty find mentors.
The center also hosts receptions for women of color.
It’s those broader initiatives that Krueger is concerned may get lost under the umbrella of Student Affairs, which is “charged primarily with serving students.”
Gibson indicated he continues to support that broader mission. “The purpose of the Women’s Center is to serve as a comprehensive resource for women’s and gender issues to members of our educational community. Additionally, the Women’s Center will provide leadership for enhancing and promoting academic achievement, career aspiration, positive personal development, and leadership development for women at BGSU and others who would benefit from the center.”
Krueger is hoping to stay long enough to help get the center into its new space. It has been housed in Hanna Hall since its founding.
Then she’ll move on. She’ll work part-time with the Silent Witness program, which has been housed out of the Women’s Center, but will now be at the Bethany House in Toledo.
And she’ll spend time with her two young grandchildren.
Krueger, 59, said she adopted her four now grown children out of the child welfare system, so she never got to experience them as babies and toddlers. “Now I want every drop of that experience.”
She and her husband, Steve Green, who teaches special education at Powell Elementary in North Baltimore, are rooted in the community.
Krueger has two degrees from BGSU, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in Human Sexuality.
She was working at Emory University in Atlanta when the BGSU position opened up. “It was a very appealing opportunity for me.”
Now as that chapter ends, she said, “I’m hoping what the Women’s Center has done all these years can continue.”