The Vagina Monologues Should be an Ongoing Conversation

By Jennifer Long

vmOur society is not yet inclusive or representative of all people’s voices. Women, for example, have a number of experiences related to violence and oppression that still need to be heard and championed.

DePaul’s 18th Annual Vagina Monologues was a reminder of that fact. A reminder, because decades after Eve Ensler wrote and performed the original play at the Off-Broadway Westside Theatre, her words are still recited and are still able to disarm and empower an audience.

I had the pleasure of attending this play on the Lincoln Park campus in early February. It helped me grow in my understanding of DePaul women.

A collaborative effort between The Women’s Center, the Theatre School and the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, this performance activism entitled “Vagina Monologues” raises awareness of the breadth of women’s experiences through Eve Ensler’s writing and personal monologues written by DePaul students.

It’s performed every year at DePaul around Valentine’s Day weekend, and proceeds from ticket sales support three on-campus organizations: Rape Victim Advocates, A Long Walk Home and Take Back the Halls. In fact, performances all over the country under this name have raised over $100 million dollars in support of women’s and domestic organizations since its inception.

I should have known that this combination of expression, intention and vulnerability would be reviving.

Throughout the play, audience members were encouraged to clap, holler or snap whenever a monologue resonated. I imagine many, like me, lost count of how many times they participated. It was remarkable to be in the presence of brave women who shared their stories and brought the experiences of others to life by reciting monologues. I felt empowered and connected to a community of DePaul women, women everywhere and their allies.

The personal monologues from DePaul students were particularly startling. They opened my eyes to the broad range of our female students’ experiences—experiences I wasn’t aware of at my own alma mater as an undergraduate.

One particular monologue revolved around conversations that had floated around campus last year. These “#triggered” conversations were in response to racial tension and insensitivity toward those suffering on campus due to their race, sexual identity or experience with sexual violence. This monologue was a reminder that we could all do better at thinking about the impact that our words and actions can have not only in the DePaul community, but in all communities.

And then there was a monologue that clearly articulated consent—how it is defined and supported at DePaul, and how DePaul continues the conversation on consent on many college campuses today.

Interestingly, after some contextual research on the subject, I learned there have been conflicting perspectives regarding these performances. Mostly, that the language used and voices represented were too narrow by focusing heavily on a white, middle-class female experience. Arguably, the platform has grown to include the voices of women with diverse backgrounds and varying identities, including transwomen.

One transwoman DePaul student, who had recently passed away, was unable to share her story that weekend. But a draft of her monologue was posted near the exit. By acknowledging her voice in this way, it was clear how DePaul values expanding the platform to include more voices and experiences—in a way that the original performance may not have done decades prior. Surely though, it could still grow to be even more inclusive.

I highly recommend attending this play the next time it is available on campus or in your community. Whether it is “The Vagina Monologues” or any other performance activism for a marginalized or oppressed community, all who attend will leave with a broader perspective of society.

If more people’s voices and experiences are heard, society might become more inclusive and understanding.

While the people in the audience may have had different identities or definitions of feminism, may not have had vaginas, may not have experienced sexual violence and oppression, they can still become allies for the community and help continue the conversation that works to eliminate violence and oppression of women.

How will you help continue the conversation?

Jennifer Long is a DWN member at large and an assistant director of development for DePaul’s Richard H. Driehaus College of Business.

Join DWN Now—Here’s Why!

Shea Wolfe
Shea Wolfe, DWN 2015-16 President

By Shea Wolfe

As a new staff member coming to DePaul in Spring 2013 from a smaller institution, the university felt very large to me. While I was comfortable within my departmental team and division of Student Affairs, I felt like I wasn’t taking advantage of the networks of people within the campus community that I knew existed and whom I felt might share similar personal and professional interests. I also knew I wasn’t going to find these folks by sitting in my office and waiting for them to come to me, so it was time to go out and do some networking. For an introvert like myself, that’s not always the easiest thing to do, but when I began asking others how to get involved and which organization was doing great things on this campus, the answer always came back around to the DePaul Women’s Network.

While I thought I’d just initially join as a team member, there was an opportunity to take a leadership role within the newly developed Learning & Engagement team (now renamed Membership & Engagement). I decided to step up to the plate because I figured the team was new, I was new, and no one would be any wiser! I found my first year in DWN to be an exhilarating ride and one that I would grow fond of during my tenure. I appreciated getting to know women from other departments and areas that I would never have had a chance to speak with had it not been for DWN. Those meetings became a focal point for me and a place where I could truly be comfortable. When the time came to decide what role I wanted to play for the 2014-15 service year, I once again found myself stepping up to the plate as the Executive Vice President/President-Elect. I am grateful for what DWN has done for the DePaul community, and for myself, and have been honored to play a role in the leadership development of this network.

DWN recently opened applications for membership in the 2015-16 service year. Just as I did when looking to get involved, I would encourage each of you to think about your own personal and professional goals while you’re at DePaul:

  • What is it that you want to do and be while you’re here?
  • What skills do you want to obtain?
  • How can you help yourself get to the next level?

And while you’re thinking about and answering these questions, I would ask you to think about what role DWN could play. There are two ways to participate in DWN: Become a director (this year for the Marketing & Communications or Programming team), or join as a team member within 1 of 5 areas. Each of our teams—Operations, Membership & Engagement, Service & Outreach, Programming, and Marketing & Communications—brings something special to the Network. In addition, the varied types of teams mean you can help out using skills you already have or learn something new. Once you learn more on DWN’s website, applying is as easy as filling out an online application.

I encourage you to consider stepping up to the plate—I know I’m glad I did.

DWN recruitment is open until Monday, April 6. Click here to apply now!

Leaning on Our Sisters: The Annual High Tea with St. Louise

High Tea 2015By Lucina Schell

On March 17, Cortelyou Commons was a sea of green as festive chatter filled the vaulted ceiling. While St. Patrick’s Day was on the minds of many, DePaul women gathered two days after the feast day of St. Louise de Marillac to celebrate DWN’s annual High Tea with St. Louise. Leaving behind the stress of the workday, we met women from across DePaul who wield great responsibility and provide exceptional service to our community, all while taking care of their own well-being and that of their loved ones.

In her keynote, Sister Katie Norris, D.C., Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, reminded us that, though St. Louise lived more than 300 years ago, she has many lessons for today’s professional women. Together with St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise founded the Daughters of Charity. In a contemporary organization, St. Vincent could be thought of as President and St. Louise as Chief Operating Officer. St. Louise was an instrumental woman, a leader with many competing responsibilities. Not only did she have a family who depended on her, she also had a whole community of women. Like many of us, she was a woman who had to grow into confidence in her voice and abilities, the gifts that St. Vincent saw and nurtured in her. St. Louise became comfortable straddling the two worlds in which she and St. Vincent worked: the nobility who helped fund their work and the children of peasants who became the Daughters of Charity. With the strength of her faith and the support of St. Vincent and her fellow sisters, St. Louise became a mentor to these women.

Yet, St. Louise struggled with the same challenges professional women face today: taking on too much, burnout, feelings of inadequacy, making time for self-care. Decorating each table were flower petals with quotations from St. Louise that attest to her contemporaneity, for example:

“You must ask God for the grace to stay well within the limits of your authority so that you do not go beyond it and undertake more than you need to.”

As someone who routinely takes on too much, this was a welcome lesson. St. Louise understood that women with many talents may have trouble saying “no” to work that feels personally resonant or that no one else is willing or equipped to do. Yet, when we spread ourselves too thin, each of our projects suffers. It’s important to prioritize competing responsibilities, and consider where our talents can make the most difference. Saying “no” to one project may be an invitation for someone else to let her gifts shine. In her beautiful invocation, Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-In-Residence, encouraged us to take comfort in our sisterhood, as St. Louise did, and seek out opportunities for mutual support from other women. As we shared tea, sweets and fellowship with other women, the room momentarily mirrored this healthy vision.

Lucina Schell is a member of the DWN Service & Outreach and a Student Records Assistant at DePaul University.

Meal Planning Event Invites Sharing of Advice

By Beth Murphy

As part of a yearlong focus on health through the theme Women’s Ways of Wellness, DWN sponsored a meal planning event this fall to provide tangible ideas for improving physical wellness. Participants gathered for “Making It Count – Tips for Successful Meal Planning” on November 20 at the Lincoln Park Student Center.fitness_200px

The event began with a networking opportunity for all attending, which is among the greatest benefits of DWN programming. Attendees introduced themselves, and then Inez De La Fuente gave a presentation on strategies for successful meal planning. One of the primary issues is making a commitment to doing a better job of meal planning, especially as a vehicle for promoting better eating habits. Even though life gets busy for everyone, especially for working mothers, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Participants shared their ideas as well, giving tips that had worked in their own kitchens:

  • Cutting up all vegetables purchased at once saves time when the meal that uses the vegetables is prepared; some of the vegetables can be refrigerated, but others can be frozen to avoid waste when buying in bulk.
  • Perishables can be cooked or consumed first, which also avoids waste.
  • Attendees suggested cooking meals on one day for the rest of the week, but noted that you can get tired of whatever meal is prepared by the end of the week.
  • Others mentioned that you can have meal-sharing partners where you exchange meals that each of you has prepared; in addition, you can freeze part of the “batch” of whatever you make on your designated cooking day.

bread-21444_640A number of attendees talked about the stress associated with being a working mother and feeling the pressure to cook all meals “from scratch.” Many agreed that cooking a full dinner after working all day is not always appealing, so preparing meals in advance for the week is far more beneficial and healthy. All who attended were provided with copies of shopping lists that noted each day so planners can determine the ingredients needed for the next week’s meals. The attendees also mentioned a variety of storage containers for storing meals prepared in advance.

While bringing lunch to work usually resulted in eating a more healthy lunch, some said but that it also usually meant eating lunch at their desks and missing out on a chance to take a walk during their lunch time. That’s when Kristen Pengelly’s contribution became highly relevant. Kristen provided all attendees with a Faculty/Staff Pass good for seven consecutive days for use of the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center. Kristen noted the variety of activities and facilities that are available, including a nutritionist who works with individuals to schedule multiple consulting sessions (which require payment).

This meal planning event was successful in providing a forum for DePaul women to meet, network and learn more about a topic of interest to them that contributes to their Ways of Wellness.

Beth Murphy is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team and an Associate Professor at DePaul University.

10th Annual Women of Spirit & Action Awards: Finding Balance and Community

By Lauren Kriz

On November 6, the DePaul Women’s Network celebrated its 10th Annual Women of Spirit and Action Awards with the support of staff and faculty from across the university. Despite the fact that I have worked at DePaul for more than five years, this was my first time attending the event, and I was pleased by the number of people in the audience, both men and women, who had gathered to honor an impressive list of DePaul women for their service to the university.

The atmosphere in the room was inviting and celebratory, making the event an exciting highlight at the start of DWN’s year. Jen Fox, the president of DWN, began the event by asking the audience to join her in honoring the “modern-day Louises in our midst—the women faculty, staff and students who help move this great university’s mission forward” and who are leaders across campus.

WSA Awards 1
Before the keynote speaker took the stage, Fox also spoke about the 2014-15 DWN theme, “Women’s Ways of Wellness,” and how DWN will offer a number of programs meant to help DePaul women find balance in six different aspects of wellness: emotional, physical, vocational, spiritual, community and social. To kick off this year’s theme and to honor St. Louise and the DePaul recipients of this year’s awards, DWN picked a special speaker: Dr. Vie Thorgren, the founder and director of the Center for Spirituality at Work, where they aim to “unite diverse people for spirituality and social justice.” Dr. Thorgren came to DePaul from Denver to speak from a Vincentian perspective about holistic wellness, how it applies to our lives at DePaul and how belonging to a community can help us on our path to wellness.

Dr. Thorgren began by talking about the center and how it invites professionals to act as mentors for women who are re-entering the workforce from prison. These professional mentors are trained by women from the prison, who are also members of the board, a format that is uniquely Vincentian in that everyone participates in every aspect of the organization.

Dr. Thorgren then gave a brief biography of St. Louise and how it now seems clear that for Louise’s entire life she had a “yearning for belonging.” After many years of searching, she eventually found that she belonged to God and thus to her brothers and sisters, an idea that was instrumental to her founding of the Daughters of Charity, who provide outreach to all communities, whether rich or poor. Dr. Thorgren spoke about how St. Louise can give us perspective on wellness today related to the idea of belonging. She said that having a sense of belonging can lead to health and lacking a sense of belonging can lead to unease; finding our own sense of belonging is important for establishing balance in our lives. Belonging keeps us centered and gives us life. We begin using “we” when we interact with the communities around us—instead of only focusing on “I”—and that new focus is enriching and empowering and healthy. She spoke about how belonging “makes claims on us.” People in the communities to which we belong know that we have each become “one of the primary resources of [our] brothers and sisters,” and this knowledge lays the foundation of trust and security necessary to maintain a strong community of support.

Dr. Thorgren gave us four areas that she thought were important as we begin to develop our communities.

  1. Each of us needs two types of relationships in our lives. The first is supportive and is with people who have always nurtured and cared for us. The second is a relationship we must develop with “sandpaper people” or people who do not always like us or think like us, but are the people that help us grow.
  2. There is a difference between “do-goodism” and real service, which is about how the act of someone giving service and someone receiving service should be mutually transforming and leave us energized, instead of burnt out like many do-gooders.
  3. There is great importance in having “fallow time” or down time, when we must help ourselves remember the difference between being productive and being fruitful.
  4. We should take problems and really see them and then receive them as gifts. Though we may not always feel like we have the tools to cope with the problems that are presented to us, if we stop and recognize those problems, we may find that though the tools are not always what we expected, we can find them in ourselves. Here she gave us the example of someone she knows from the center, who took skills she had learned in her criminal past and turned them into marketable skills, working hard in her job until she was trusted enough to be put in charge of her office for an entire month.

Dr. Thorgren challenged many of us to think not only about developing our sense of belonging and community, which we have learned is important to our wellness, but also to be aware of the ways in which we go about developing that sense. The perspective of community and belonging that Dr. Thorgren provided in her keynote, along with the knowledge she gave of St. Louise, was a perfect way for DWN to kick off our year and assist DePaul’s women on their ways to wellness.

After Dr. Thorgren spoke, the group celebrated 105 DePaul women for their roles as modern-day Louises. I left my first Women of Spirit and Action Awards with a newfound respect for St. Vincent’s right-hand woman, and also for the many women working beside me, who continue to emulate and develop the community that St. Vincent and St. Louise began hundreds of years ago.

Lauren Kriz is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team and the Operations Coordinator in the Office of Student Records at DePaul University.


Inspiring Connections: Fall 2014 Faculty Forum Highlight

By Nadia Alfadel

Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta
Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta

“It’s never about me—it’s about us and our connectedness,” said Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta, Professor in the School for New Learning at DePaul.

At our DWN Faculty Forum held Oct. 15, I was excited to learn about the Tangaza Project, a degree program that connects DePaul with Tangaza College in Nairobi, Kenya. Students who complete this program receive a DePaul degree, and Dr. Tolliver Atta was instrumental in making this project a reality.

But what I took away from Dr. Tolliver Atta’s forum was more than just a lecture on the project and how DePaul came to be affiliated with it.

Dr. Tolliver Atta invited us to peer into the African world view—the perspective that we are all connected, in one way or another. This notion of interconnectedness, of relationships, is central to the African culture and mind-set, she explained. One’s identity depends largely on the whole to which one belongs.

Dr. Tolliver Atta spoke about family and ancestry, the importance of remembering and honoring the larger whole, the bigger picture, the greater community. “I am because we are and we are because I am,” was one of the many proverbs she shared. And it was this notion of connectedness that called her to work on the Tangaza Project.

It was clear that Dr. Tolliver Atta didn’t want this forum to be a show-and-tell of her work, but rather to focus on the importance of giving back to that larger whole of which one is a part. And so she called on us, her audience, to think about what our larger whole is, and how we can give back to it.

The Tangaza Project truly exemplifies DePaul’s mission and values by providing educational access to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. And the spirit in which it was founded—that of contributing to the larger community—wonderfully reflects St. Vincent’s legacy of working to build a better future for those who may not be able to build one themselves.

I think St. Vincent would be proud.

Nadia Alfadel is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team, and an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Residential Education at DePaul University.

Why I Walk: A Personal Tie to Heart Health

By Jaclyn Hugg

On September 26, the DePaul Women’s Network (DWN) will join a host of other campus and community teams participating in the American Heart Association (AHA) 2014 Downtown Chicago Heart Walk. With the overwhelming prevalence of cardiovascular disease among adult Americans (it’s the No. 1 killer in our country), this event’s mission is two-fold: 1) to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and 2) to raise funds to aid AHA’s efforts to prevent, treat and defeat heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Last year, I walked with the DWN team and had a great experience. Not only was the weather picture-perfect, but the chance to informally network with successful, empowering women (at all levels of the institution) for nearly two hours proved to be beneficial. Moreover, my participation brought about reflection on my personal tie to the cause—the reason I walk. The Heart Walk is special to me because when I was nine years old, my grandmother (who was then only 59) survived a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass surgery. Two and a half years later, she had another heart attack, for which she was treated via angioplasty. With no history of drinking, smoking or obesity, my grandmother’s heart disease was attributed namely to family medical history/genetics (her father passed away at the age of 59 from a massive heart attack).

DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.
DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.

Fast-forward 21 years, and last October, she celebrated her 80th birthday—a milestone that may have never been possible without the life-saving drugs, medical treatment, follow-up care, and daily exercise and nutrition plan that she has maintained. I feel incredibly blessed to have had an additional 20+ years with my grandmother, as I know many of those who suffer a heart attack or stroke do not have such positive outcomes.

With knowledge of my family’s medical history, as well as the risk factors associated with these types of diseases, I do my best to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Additionally, I find value in donating to causes like the AHA, as I know that even $25 can make a difference.

If you join DWN, or any other team, at this month’s Heart Walk, I hope your experience is just as favorable as mine has been. As you take each step, remember to enjoy the scenery and the company of your fellow walkers. Please also take some time to ponder why you walk.

Click here to sign up to walk with DWN’s 2014 Heart Walk Team!

To learn more about the warning signs of heart, stroke and cardiac arrest, visit the AHA’s website.

For more specific information—including risk factors, health living tips, survivor stories and more—targeting women, visit the AHA’s Go Red for Women website.

Jaclyn Hugg serve as DWN’s Director of Service & Outreach and is Assistant Director of Advising for the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University.