On a recent Friday, students gathered in the Main Lounge of Moulton Hall to reflect on the complex dynamics undergirding most of our relationships with friends, family, roommates or romantic partners.
Each year, the students who oversee the Women’s Resource Center organize a formal lunch centered on a theme. This year, fifty-one students, and eight staff and faculty, attended. Participants split into smaller groups and were guided in discussion by a trained student facilitator.
The Women’s Resource Center was created in the late 1970s by students to help support and enhance the academic, personal, and extracurricular development of women at Bowdoin, and to build awareness of gender issues on campus and in society, according to its website. The Center is overseen by a team of 11 student directors who are charged with putting on campus programs throughout the year.
Photos by Emily Weyrauch ’17
The “themed luncheons” as they’re called, started seven years ago. Last year the lunch focused on mental wellness. The year before, students analyzed “the veneer of perfection,” and the year before that the conversations examined ideas about careers, according to Stephanie Rendall, who is the interim coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center. “What’s great is that they bring together students, staff, and faculty, and we have assigned seating, so people don’t sit in their usual pods, or usual group of friends,” she said.
Two of the Center’s student directors, Kendall Schutzer ’18 and Scout Gregerson ’18, volunteered to lead this year’s event. They selected the theme, which they described as “finding and giving support in relationship.” And they came up with the guide for the discussion.
“Relationships are incredibly important,” Schutzer said. “But it’s hard to find spaces to talk about relationships and the challenges we face in them, and also to honor and celebrate our connections with other people.” She added that the lunch is a “place to share and hear tips and tricks and strategies to navigate the social community of Bowdoin.”
Gregerson said she benefitted from growing up with a mother who is a therapist. “She has been so conscious about talking about relationships with me,” she noted, adding that she believes relationship skills are not innate, but instead are learned and practiced. “Because I’ve had a lot of support thinking about relationships, that was a motivation for me to help foster these kinds of conversations here.”
The annual Women’s Resource Center lunches are designed to give interested students an outlet to talk about more personal aspects of their lives in a thoughtful, safe but also rigorous setting. “We want [the WRC} to become intersectional and political, too,” Schutzer said.
Both Schutzer and Gregerson said they were inspired after the lunch to launch more skill-based workshops, to move from just talking about healthy relationships to teaching people how to create and take care of their relationships.