Dr. Theresa Raetz
By: Savannah Downing
Support for a Women’s Center has been growing amongst faculty, staff, and many students since the rewriting of an original proposal was undertaken by members of the Student Government Association. Yet for some faculty members and administrators, this provision has been on their minds for many, many years. Teresa Raetz is one of those.
Now serving as the Director of Student Affairs for Extended Campuses, Dr. Raetz works with all 20 departments in the Division of Student Affairs to ensure UGA students receive programs and services to support their overall academic experiences; yet, her interest in students’ experiences began long before she served in this role. As a graduate student at UGA, Dr. Raetz was doing dissertation research that focused, in part, on gender. At the same time, she enrolled in an elective, “Introduction to Women’s Studies,” a course offered by the Institute for Women’s Studies, and it prompted the thought process that led to a major effort to bring a Women’s Center to campus.
Since Raetz’s own undergraduate institution did not have a Women’s Center to which she could compare her ideas of what such a space should look like, she spent time as a graduate student researching other remarkable centers at institutions like Georgia Tech, Appalachian State, and Emory to consider how a center might function here at UGA. Despite, surveys, focus groups and several versions of a proposal drafted, Raetz and others with whom she worked were unable to push the agenda for creating a Women’s Center much farther than that. Even so, it did begin a discussion and demonstrated that there are students who are serious about UGA providing one.
“There is great power in having a centralized, physical, and visible space on a large, complex campus that helps young women become the best leaders and professionals we can be.”
Given the challenges women students and alumni face, Raetz imagined a women’s center would be a good fit with the university’s support of all students. Raetz noted that there are other places such as the recent Student Veterans Resource Center and the LGBT Resource Center that do a great job of providing resources and support to students, but, she adds, we still need a space for women.
Referring to women’s lives after college, Raetz commented on the continuing trend of few to no women in high decision-making positions. Despite the increase of women attending college and earning degrees, the corporate world is slow to keep up with women’s paces in education. When asked what she believed a Women’s Center could do for UGA, Raetz spoke directly to this issue.
There is “great power” in having “a centralized, physical, and visible space” on a large, complex campus that “helps young women become the best leaders and professionals we can be.” Having a visible space would also provide “evidence of UGA’s continuing commitment” to its students who are women and to diversity overall, adds Raetz.
Uzma Chowdhury, Student Government Association Vice President and leader of the student charge to install a women’s center at UGA, is grateful to have the opportunity to work with such an experienced leader. “Dr. Raetz has been a mentor from day one,” Chowdhury says. “She’s been invested in a women’s center at UGA since the conversation began years ago, and she’s been a huge support and mentor to us as we move forward with this process.”