University establishes new Gender Relations Center for students

by Julie Hail Flory

The University of Notre Dame will open a Gender Relations Center this fall, offering programs on gender-related topics and facilitating campus dialogue about such issues.

Established in response to a student-led initiative, the new center will be located in the LaFortune Student Center. In addition to offering campus programs, the new center will coordinate and support student clubs and organizations concerned with gender issues, and provide training for staff members who work with students.

“The establishment of the Gender Relations Center under the auspices of Student Affairs represents an important step forward in terms of promoting a healthy campus climate for women and men at Notre Dame,” said Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., vice president for Student Affairs. "In large measure, this initiative grows out of student government’s sustained interest over several years in the creation of such a center, and I commend the student leaders who have helped to bring about this positive development in student life.

“Within the context of the University’s mission, the center will be a place where students can explore a wide range of issues related to gender — cultivating healthy friendships and dating relationships, understanding men’s and women’s health issues, preventing sexual violence, and finding work life balance beyond Notre Dame, to name a few.”

The center will be directed by Heather Rakoczy, rector of Pangborn Hall, a women’s residence hall at Notre Dame. When the Gender Relations Center opens in the fall of 2004, Rakoczy will devote 20 hours per week to the center while continuing to serve as rector.

A 1993 Notre Dame graduate, Rakoczy earned her master of divinity degree in 1997 from Vanderbilt University and previously served as program coordinator for PEACE, Inc. (Project to End Abuse through Counseling and Education) in Nashville, Tenn.

“I am delighted that Heather will serve as the founding director of the center,” Father Poorman said. “Given her commitment to gender issues, her background in ministry, and her understanding of student life at Notre Dame, both as a graduate of the University and as rector of Pangborn Hall, she provides superb leadership for the new center.”

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