July 16, 2019 | 67° F

Douglass Centennial Kickoff celebrates 100 years of empowering Rutgers women

Photo by Tatiana McNeil |

Douglass College celebrated the beginning of its 100th year with a chance for the institution's alumni, students and faculty to come together. The kickoff event included food, giveaways and the creation of a giant centennial banner.

The chimes that once sounded curfew now ring in the voices of Douglass College alumni, echoing progressive thinking and educational reform for women over a century later.

The celebration kickoff is but one of many events over the next year dedicated to enriching the Rutgers community with activities and the history surrounding Douglass College, said Maria DePina, the senior department administrator for Douglass Residential College.

Event coordination is organized by a planning committee that later divides into subcommittees tasked with different responsibilities, DePina said. Committees like hers are responsible for the general oversight of the kickoff ceremony.

“We wanted to start out by allowing Rutgers administration, students, staff and alumnae to come on campus and see how vibrant Douglass is, how alive we are and how our students are participating in a lot of different activities on campus,” she said.

Programs such as STEM were emphasized throughout the presentation for students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, DePina said. Alumni were able to interact with students and see the different programs they take part in along with course schedules and overall community engagement.

“Alumni can engage with the students with regards to how it’s like to live on campus today because a lot of the alumni experienced different activities and things when they were here. So they can hear some of the differences and appreciate the growth of Douglass College,” she said.

Edie Prescod, the program coordinator of Douglass Residential College, said since assimilating to the rest of the University, Douglass has built a reputation inclusive of the different organizations within the school.

“I think we’ve always been unified, back then Rutgers students could take classes here and vice versa," she said. "What’s special about our college is that yes, it is a women’s college, but we are part of this university, you get a little bit of everything."

Guest speakers of the night included Rutgers alumni, current undergraduates and a few words from University President Robert L. Barchi and Jacquelyn Litt, the dean of Douglass Residential College.

“Douglass has students, alumnae and a president are deeply connected and we wanted to have representation from the advisory board. We wanted the president to speak as he’s been a great supporter of Douglass since he’s arrived, and also a student to talk about our programs, we wanted a really good mix,” Litt said.

The many changes the school has undergone over time make it necessary to showcase different perspectives from different speakers, Litt said. The event was enthusiastic and showed that Rutgers and Douglass are a great fit together.

Douglass looks to continue its focus on STEM with work on the global complex, where students live in small houses with specialized learning goals and community outreach programs, Litt said. Upon student requests, professional development programs look to help students with resume building and instilling the mentality required of women in the workplace.

Arlene Feskanich, a Douglass College Class of 1972 graduate, said she first attended the University in 1968 far from her home in Livingston, New Jersey.  In her first year she saw may discussions over whether Douglass should retain its status as a women’s college or make the vision to go co-ed.

Eventually, the University made the switch, but it did not pass easily through the many reluctant female students weary of giving up their space at such a large school, Feskanich said. Much of the concern resided in whether the decision would prevent the furthering of women’s education constantly overshadowed by their male counterparts.

“Douglass gave them a space that they could shine all by themselves they didn't have to worry about competing with men,” she said.

1969 issues of The Daily Targum show the debates that ensued over the directions the University should take by educators at the time, Feskanich said. The decision was as we have come to know Douglass now and did so for better financial reasons.

“Personally I felt like maybe it would’ve benefited me because I liked math and sciences but ended up earning my degree in American Studies," she said. "Maybe if they would've had a STEM program I would’ve followed that path."

Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.

Christian Zapata

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