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University of Missouri

Creating Herstory

The Women’s Center serves as a welcoming place for all Tigers.

three women

Laura Hacquard, Marcia Chatelain and Emily Luft find friendship and “femtors” at the MU Women’s Center. Photos by Nicholas Benner

Since the University of Missouri Women’s Center opened in the basement of Gentry Hall March 1, 1974, it has been a place where students, regardless of gender identity, can feel at home. Now located in the MU Student Center, the resource provides a library of more than 3,000 books, magazines and DVDs, and sponsors programs on topics such as body image and violence against women. The Women’s Center, aka the WC, connects Tigers of all stripes who are furthering their understanding of social justice.

Laura Hacquard, M Ed ’80

Hacquard was a public school teacher in Rolla, Missouri, before she moved to Columbia to earn a master’s degree in counseling at Mizzou. She got a paraprofessional job at the Women’s Center and expected to finish her degree and be on her way. But more than 30 years later, Hacquard is still here, creating a place where people can feel safe learning and growing. She started the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Resource Center and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center. What’s kept her here? A commitment — to social change and to students. “It’s the opportunity to watch what the Marcias and the Emilys become,” she says. “Our legacy isn’t this great space; it’s those women.”

Marcia Chatelain, BA, BJ ’01

The year Chatelain participated in the Missouri Urban Journalism workshop as a high school student, training with professional journalists and MU faculty, the theme was “women in leadership.” When she returned to Mizzou as a freshman, she established herself as a student activist. Her home base was the Women’s Center, “one of the few places where a lot of different types of people can feel comfortable.” Chatelain was active in the Inclusion Now movement to add sexual orientation to Mizzou’s nondiscrimination policy, and she wrote the 1999 Hate Report documenting hate speech on campus. “The Women’s Center taught us you can rock the boat,” she says, “and if you do it with respect and responsibility, you can take risks and people will support you. Laura was very good at encouraging us to be ourselves.”

Emily Luft, BA ’12

As a high school student, Luft participated in a workshop on feminist fashion, led by Chatelain, who was a Missouri Scholars Academy faculty member. She returned to the Women’s Center (WC) as a Mizzou freshman. “Marcia was my original femtor [as opposed to mentor],” Luft says. At the WC, Luft found her home — and another femtor in Hacquard. “The Women’s Center is not something you find at a lot of universities,” says Luft, who earned a master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s hard to put into words how appreciative I am that MU has supported the important role it plays in educating and inspiring campus to care about issues of social justice.”