Douglass Residential College goes back to basics in 101st year


This past Saturday, Douglass Residential College (DRC) celebrated 101 years. The festivities featured panels of Douglass alumnae and current Douglass students, a swing band, Project SUPER research posters and a speech by award-winning journalist Alina Tugend about embracing mistakes.

The event was an excellent representation of the old and new DRC coming together and comparing notes about what has changed and how the college has grown. Current students reflected on the opportunities that being a part of the residential college provided and what programs had the biggest impact on their lives, while alumnae spoke about why they chose the women’s college and what keeps them coming back. 

During her speech, Tugend commented on how as a society we strive for perfection, but that may be one of our biggest flaws. She mentioned that “we fear making any mistakes because we view them all as disasters,” but they are important to our lives because “mistakes are a way to learn and grow to greater potential” and “sometimes a mistake adds to the beauty of a moment.” 

Throughout the panels, the moderators opened up some questions to the audience that enabled some alumnae to share the circumstances that allowed them to come to Douglass campus. One alumna shared a clipping from the Campus Chatter, the now-extinct Douglass newspaper.

Marlene Carlson, a Class of 1961 Douglass alumna, said she enjoyed hearing people talk about their experiences at DRC and she was impressed by what some of the students had researched for Project SUPER, a STEM-focused academic research program. 

After the speech and panels, the attendees congregated in the Kathleen W. Ludwig Global Living Learning Center, adorned with red and black decorations, food and swing music. During her Campus Night commencement speech, Dean of DRC Jacquelyn Litt mentioned how the college will celebrate its anniversary every year.

Marie Siewierski, a fellow Class of 1961 Douglass alumna, said she likes the idea that the residential college is planning on celebrating every year as it “helps Douglass women remember the legacy and how old the college is, because there aren’t too many women’s colleges left.”

DRC, formerly known as the New Jersey College for Women, has been championing women’s education since 1918. With the help of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), Mabel Smith Douglass founded the women’s college during a time when there were limited opportunities for women in higher education. 

The college was originally separate from Rutgers, but was eventually absorbed by the University. It still retains some independence. 

Some of their traditions, such as the Yule Log, Sacred Path Ceremony and Campus Night, are still a large part of the college today, but as some alumnae mentioned during the Q&A sessions, many traditions they enjoyed such as International Weekend and Dad’s Day are long gone.

Today, DRC still promotes women’s education through a variety of programs and classes. Its signature class, “Knowledge & Power,” exposes its students to Douglass and its history while also enabling them to think critically about the society they live in and encouraging them to “claim their education.”

“(It) really helped teach me that being a woman is still being someone who’s strong and you don’t have to be a man to be able to do all of these things. You don’t have to be a man to empowered, which is why learning about women’s education is so important,” said Aditi Kiron, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

“Douglass carries its legacy of providing a transformative experience for women and most recently through amazing, dynamic and unique programming that focus on mentoring global education in the STEM fields,” said Elizabeth Gunn, associate dean of academic programs at DRC. Some of these experiences include the Global Village and the BOLD Center for Leadership, Career and Personal Development. 

Moving forward, the residential college plans on focusing more on inclusivity and diversity as well as promoting itself as a leader in women’s education not only at Rutgers, but also internationally, according to its strategic plan.


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