President's Commission serving women

Since its creation in the late 1970s by then Mississippi State President James D. McComas, the President's Commission on the Status of Women has recognized the accomplishments of women on campus and in the community.

Established to advise the university president on issues affecting the status and role of women on campus, the organization has long been known for its annual awards program.

Now, while continuing its traditional activities, the organization also is taking steps to engage more women by expanding its reach and adding new programs. Susan Holland, current PCSW chair, said the commission is trying to connect with more constituents on campus and discuss issues of importance to them.

Among the new ideas the group has implemented recently is the "Food for Thought" luncheon series, held once a semester. The recent spring luncheon featured the topic "Financial Planning for Women," which brought a response in record numbers, Holland explained.

"We planned for 50 attendees, and 58 ladies signed in. We had a waiting list equally as long," Holland said. "Of course, it is heartbreaking to turn people away, but we are encouraged that our work to increase visibility and enhance our activities is helping us reach a bigger audience."

Holland added that faculty, staff and even students were in attendance.

"We've typically been known for the PCSW awards, but that is not everything the commission is about, and we've wanted to increase some of our advocacy efforts," she explained. She said the organization is in the process of identifying top issues for women on campus to help direct PCSW's future initiatives.

Holland said the commission soon will embark on its first service project, which will benefit Safe Haven, a regional shelter for abused women. The Meridian Campus also is participating with efforts benefiting Care Lodge women's shelter in Meridian.

Many other new programs and projects also are under way or in the planning process, including:

--Women's Leadership Workshop. Featuring Amy Tuck, MSU's executive director of campus operations and former Mississippi lieutenant governor, the workshop will be held March 29 in partnership with the Office of Diversity and Equity Programs.

--Outstanding Women Awards program and reception. Set for April 3 in Memorial Hall at 3 p.m., this longstanding annual ceremony is open to the public to recognize campus women in several categories, as well as one woman in the community category.

--Women 4 Women. A mini expo sponsored by the Department of Relationship Violence and Outreach, the event will be held April 17 at the Old Main Plaza. Exhibitors will showcase information designed to bring awareness, education, and advocacy about various women's issues.

--Call for Membership. Each April PCSW opens the application process for women who want to get involved. The committee includes representation from all levels, including faculty, professional (non-faculty), staff, graduate student, undergraduate student, and community members.

"Because our terms are on a rolling cycle, we have seasoned members who keep the group's continuity, but with fresh perspectives coming in each year," Holland said.

She emphasized that with all the enthusiasm for new and growing PCSW programming, there's never been a better time to get involved or take advantage of on-campus events.

"We've evolved significantly in some of the activities we are putting forth. We really want to show that we're a force to advocate and educate, and if there's an issue or opportunity for improvement related to women on campus, we want to know about it," Holland said.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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