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New phase begins for Duke women

With many of the recommendations fulfilled from the Women's Initiative--completed in 2003 under former University President Nan Keohane--a new phase is set to begin this year in the realm of women's issues on campus.

Led by President Richard Brodhead and Donna Lisker, director of the Women's Center, a newly created group aims to continue the momentum begun by Keohane's project and address the problems that remain to be solved.

"I want to have a group together to be talking about what are the most important areas to be focusing on now," Brodhead said. "We just want to make sure we have the wherewithal to keep pressing forward."

In Fall 2003, the President's Commission on the Status of Women was executed to ensure the proposals of the Women's Initiative were implemented effectively.

At the start of this year, many campus leaders felt the University had achieved its short-term goals, including the development of the Baldwin Scholars Program and the expansion of childcare services.

"What we came to realize last spring and over the summer, in many ways, was that the group had accomplished its mission," Lisker said.

"We certainly started discussing this past spring and summer about, 'Where do we go now?'"

Brodhead explained that the newly formed council will meet a few times each semester to discuss relevant issues and formulate goals. In the coming months, officials will choose a diverse group of faculty, administrators and students to attend these meetings.

Lisker said Brodhead is currently expected to chair the committee, and she will serve as vice chair.

Although there is not yet an agenda for the commission, Brodhead and Lisker cited a number of problem areas that still deserve attention, such as mentoring for female students and diversity in faculty hiring.

"It will always be very, very important for a university to be looking to identify obstructions to women in the faculty ranks and to remove those in every way we can," Brodhead said.

Additionally, Lisker said there are notable problems in the undergraduate community-particularly in the social and extracurricular spheres-that are worthy of administrative attention.

"We haven't had a woman [Duke Student Government] president since 1999," she said. "What is it about our culture that [campus organizations] are directing women away?"

The new phase of the Women's Initiative has drawn optimistic reactions from many community members, largely because of the reported success of recent projects.

The Baldwin Scholars Program was created in 2004 in response to studies showing that female students suffer from decreased self-esteem after arriving at Duke.

Combining residential, educational and social aspects, the program has received praise from members for fostering leadership and community among undergraduate women.

"It's definitely succeeded in its goals," said Baldwin Scholar Aubrey Bonhivert, a sophomore.


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