Sandrea Gonzales, director of the UNM Women's Resource Center, said the best part of her job is watching women who never thought they would make it into college graduate and pursue upper level degree.
"It's the greatest feeling to see a single mom or a woman over the age of 40 come in here for the first time not really believing they can make it, then watching them grow and learn in so many different ways while studying at UNM," she said.
Gonzales is hoping to get that point across to as many people as possible when the Women's Resource Center and Women's Studies Department co-sponsor an open house today. The event is being held in honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month and will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at center, room 1160 of Mesa Vista Hall.
"We are opening our doors to the community so that they can see the resources available for both men and women at the center," she said. "Even though women's history and rights are things we celebrate all year long, people have given us a whole month to celebrate women's history and we're certainly going to take advantage of it."
Gonzales and Elizabeth Cahn, the center's program services coordinator, have a variety of activities planned in March and April. The biggest events are two national conferences that the women's center is coordinating.
The first conference, the First International Fiesta de Salud: Walking Together Toward Natural Healing, will be held April 6-7. The event, which is being funded by the Vice President for Student Affairs' Office, will include discussions, demonstrations and preparation of natural medicines performed by several folk healers, curanderas, physicians and nurses from Cuernavaca, Morelos and Mexico City. The group will be working together to form an integrated and alternative approach to preventing and treating illnesses.
The other conference is being funded by the state Department of Special Education and is called the A Conference on Women and Disability. It will showcase keynote speaker Judy Heumann, who is the former assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation. The women and disability conference will be held April 27 at the Hilton.
Gonzales and Cahn also are working on a variety of UNM events. Gonzales will be speaking at an American Association of University Women Coffee Meeting Saturday at University House from 10 a.m. to noon. She will speak on the topic of women in transition.
Kris Houde, a professional tax preparer, will answer questions about tax returns at the Women's Resource Center on March 20 and March 27. The event is free, but those interested in attending must register by calling 277-3716.
The center will also feature a film series Wednesdays in March from noon to 1 p.m. Cahn said the films will cover a variety of women's issues.
She is relatively new to the center, but said she has found it some of the most rewarding work she has done because of the emphasis it places on education.
"We give women education in the broadest sense that helps them develop the resources," she said. "We see them use resources, turn around form those resources for themselves and eventually use those resources to help others."
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For more information about the Women's Resource Center, call 277-3716 or visit its Web site at www.unm.edu/~women.