University Women of Color meet, greet

by Amber Schadewald

A campus organization that works to sustain diversity through social networking and friendships will meet today for its annual welcome gathering.

The University Women of Color plans events throughout the year to close gaps it sees between departments across campus and connect a small group of people who otherwise might not meet.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. today in the A.I. Johnson Room in the McNamara Alumni Center.

Out of the nearly 9,000 workers employed by the University in April 2006, 371 were women of color, a number the group and other officials would like to see increase.

Carolyn Chalmers, interim director of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, said the University could be doing better at developing the pools from which job candidates are selected.

She said her office wants to provide more centralized help by employing someone who knows where to find more of the qualified people from underrepresented communities.

Chalmers said groups like UWOC are great for networking and encouraging more women to inquire about jobs at the University.

Hawana Sullivan Janzen, a UWOC council member, said the group was created in an effort to attract and keep women of color connected on campus and in the community. She said people are less likely to leave a place if they feel connected and this group helps create those bonds.

Toni Coleman, athletic department executive assistant and UWOC council member, said women staff members have told her they sometimes feel isolated in their departments, because they are the only woman of color.

“It’s isolating when there aren’t opportunities to see others who look like you,” she said.

The group’s annual welcome is the first event of the year. Of the more than 800 women who were invited across the community, about 150 are expected to show up, Coleman said.

Dorcas Michaelson, the Medical School’s human resources director, has participated in the group’s events for the past few years. She said the organization has been a great way for her to feel like she’s a part of the University.

“Once I began networking with other women of color, I didn’t feel like I was on an island by myself,” she said.

Christie Schmidt, a University Relations employee, said the organization has helped her develop a social network here on campus, enabling her to meet other coworkers and make friendships on a professional level with other women of color.

Schmidt says the group has helped her grow both professionally and personally.

Michaelson said she will attend the welcoming event and is excited to see the women she’s met before, as well as those she has yet to meet.

“It’s been on my calendar for several weeks,” she said.