Things have changed since Shannon Johnson took the helm of the Women’s Center five years ago. The place is bigger, has more staff and offers a wider range of services for NC State students.
Johnson has changed as well, capping 15 years of experience in higher education by earning a doctorate in – you guessed it – higher education.
But the biggest change will come later this month when Johnson packs up and moves to New York state, where her partner has landed a new job.
“I have mixed emotions,” she says. “But sometimes you have to make sacrifices for family and this time it was my turn.”
Under her management, the Women’s Center has worked to prevent interpersonal violence, securing funding to add a rape prevention education coordinator and new programs and workshops.
“The first year we saw a 422 percent increase in reports of interpersonal violence,” she says.
That statistic – while sobering – enabled NC State to successfully compete for federal funds available under the Violence Against Women Act.
Although grant funding is welcome, Johnson has also recognized the importance of building a base of support by reaching out to alumni and others. She recently began developing a database of potential donors and led the effort to raise more than $400,000 this year. (One easy way to support the center is to buy a ticket to the annual Chocolate Festival, scheduled for Oct. 13.)
“One of the challenges most women’s centers face is that many women think we’ve made it, we’ve achieved equality,” she says.
Countering that misconception, she prints out a fact sheet with some inconvenient truths: women make just 77 cents for every dollar men make; of the 1.3 billion people who live in poverty around the world, 70 percent are women; just 17 percent of the members of Congress are women.
There are disparities on campus as well. For example, NC State has had just six female student body presidents in its history. The last – prior to the election of Kelly Hook this year – was in 1999.
On the positive side, the Women’s Center is poised for continued growth. It will have more than 1,600 square feet in the refurbished Talley Student Center, more than twice the space it occupied just five years ago.
“We’ve had to be creative in the way we use space,” Johnson says. “So I feel really good about that.”