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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 10 | Oct. 2, 2003

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

UBC Women’s Resources Centre celebrates 30 years

By Cristina Calboreanu

When it first opened its doors in January 1973, the UBC Women’s Resources Centre (WRC) consisted of a half-time coordinator in half an office. It answered 1,000 telephone inquiries in its first year. Thirty years later, the WRC has six professional counsellors and close to 50 volunteers donating approximately 7,000 hours a year, and provides services to more than 25,000 women and men a year.

The centre grew out of the Daytime Program of the UBC Centre for Continuing Education. Designed to provide non-credit courses for people interested in learning but not with a degree in view (the vast majority of whom were women), the Daytime Program looked to the only North American model, the University of California at Los Angeles.

The WRC has continued to evolve from a specialized resources centre for women re-entering the workforce, to a life planning and adult learning centre for women and men, offering free drop-in peer counselling, and personal development and life planning programs ranging from assertiveness training to financial planning and parent/child conflict resolution.

“There are, within universities, research units and women’s studies programs that operate on an academic or student service basis,” explains acting director Beth Hawkes, “ but to have a university centre that operates in an integrated way, that is both a community service and a teaching and learning environment -- that’s rare.”

Despite having expanded its services to include men, the WRC is holding onto its name, in deference to its roots, but also because, in Hawkes’ words, “it continues to be informed by skills and attitudes that remain strongly based in women’s psychology and ways of being in community and in society: a lot of collaboration, a lot of de-emphasis on ego and hierarchical issues, a lot of mutual empowerment and support.”

“Our curriculum is constantly being developed,” says Hawkes. “In addition to our successful certificate programs, we are always bringing in guests and resources for our volunteer associates to help them deal with specific issues that clients bring up. Personal goals and work-life balance are big right now, because so much change is taking place in the workplace. We’re also getting more highly skilled professionals through the door.

“With the baby boom generation, there are emerging themes related to positive or creative aging; people are thinking about the meaning of their lives in new ways. The rise in uncertainty at all levels is also an issue, whether we talk about SARS, electrical infrastructure, or global terrorism -- we see problems associated with fear and insecurity, which can lead to depression, substance abuse, family and workplace conflict, and so on.”

With the WRC’s 2000 move to UBC’s Robson Square campus have come new responsibilities and perspectives. “Here we are a window between the downtown campus and the community,” says Hawkes. “That calls on us to take our traditional strengths, which have been very focused on the needs of individuals, and to expand our scope to include programming that addresses the health and well-being of the larger community.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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