Since its inception, the Women’s Resource Center at the University of New Mexico has worked tirelessly to create a space that makes individuals feel less alone on the busy UNM campus and continues to adapt to the needs of all students. The WRC prides itself on accessibility and inclusion, in addition to continuously evolving to better serve UNM students.
One of the most well-known and unique services provided by the center is confidential advocacy, according to Michelle Dugan, a campus advocate at the WRC.
“If a student came to talk to us about something related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, harassment — we don't need to report that student's name. We can help them figure out next steps, get support, access resources, and we don't need to report their identity to the University. That's unique,” Dugan said.
The WRC also offers other services under their mental health collaborative, including social work and free counseling, to staff and students. The counseling service, which is overseen by Ivette Acevedo-Weatherholtz and consists of several graduate student counselors, will continue to expand this year in partnership with El Centro de la Raza and will be offered in Spanish in addition to English, according to WRC Interim Director Áine McCarthy.
Although UNM does not have a social work program, social worker and program specialist Miquela Ortiz-Upston oversees a team of graduate student interns from Highlands and New Mexico State University that is accessible to UNM students. This team assists with case management, resource navigation, applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, getting public benefits like food stamps, electronic benefit transfer, Medicaid and child care assistance, according to McCarthy.
Dugan noted the importance of the social work team, as they are able to support students through a variety of processes.
“Maybe folks are looking for housing options … setting up a bank account, looking into whether they want a credit card, applying for health insurance, finding a doctor … checking why disability benefits suddenly are not coming through in the way they were,” Dugan said.
The WRC is also home to UNM’s campus grant from the Office of Violence Against Women. This grant has helped to fund the work of the Coordinated Community Response Team whose job is to expand prevention education around campus regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence, according to McCarthy.
With so many resources available to students, both McCarthy and Dugan highlighted the WRC’s commitment to centering students by listening to their feedback, needs and ideas for the future. If a student is interested in providing feedback, Dugan suggests joining the Coordinated Community Response Team Student Advisory Board.
“[It’s] a group made up of students because we don’t want to be making programming or updating programming without student input,” Dugan said.
Although the WRC oftens acts as a hub of resources to people in crisis, the staff members at the center strive each day to inspire community, joy and a sense of belonging among people who want and need it. One of the fun initiatives created by the staff is called “crafternoons” which gives students an opportunity to build community, listen and be listened to while participating in a fun activity, according to administrative assistant Gisell Cereceres.
“We try to make this place like home for students and anyone who comes in … There are sometimes people that come in and they just need to be listened to,” Cereceres said.
On a day-to-day basis, the center also offers students free printing, a family-friendly study space and computer lab, an all-gender and mobility device accessible restroom, lactation rooms, free personal care and menstruation products, free coffee and tea, and much more.
Sierra Martinez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com