Women's Center

About Us

The Duke University Women’s Center is dedicated to helping every woman at Duke become self-assured with a streetwise savvy that comes from actively engaging with the world. We welcome men and women alike who are committed to gender equity and social change.

We are committed to a campus culture that provides all students access to a full range of personal and professional choices, fosters agency and self-determination for all, and creates transformative experiences to understand and resist patriarchal oppression in our lives and the world.

The Duke University Women's Center promotes a campus culture that ensures the full participation and agency of women students at Duke.

We approach our work using these guiding values:

  • Social Justice: We build a community based on equality and solidarity that values human rights and the empowerment of individuals. In resistance to patriarchy and systemic oppression in our lives and the world, our praxis is inclusive of, but not limited to, womanist and feminist values to guide our actions.  We acknowledge and actively resist racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of oppression. Our work is made meaningful because of its role in a broader social movement that dismantles oppressive structures and unifies people.
  • Community: We are responsible to and for one another, the Duke community, the Durham community and the global community in the decisions we make and the process we use to make them. Our decisions reflect our commitment to integrity, inclusivity, sustainability, intersectionality, accountability, evidence-based research and practice.
  • Change: We believe individual and collective transformation is always possible. We embrace culture-shifting strategies and collective action to inspire such change.

The Duke University Women'€™s Center was established after a multiracial coalition of students submitted a proposal to Vice-President of Student Affairs Bill Griffith in 1987 (download the full proposal). Griffith appointed a task force to study the proposal, and they endorsed all its recommendations. 

In January 1989, the Women'€™s Center began in a cubicle in the Bryan Center under the direction of Martha Simmons. In 1991, it moved to its present location in 107 Few Federation, and an office and staff dedicated to services for sexual assault survivors was added to the center. In 1993, Ellen Plummer assumed leadership of the center and the staff grew to include a program coordinator. 1999 marked the tenth anniversary of the center and a new direction with the leadership of Donna Lisker. Lisker was heavily involved with the Women's Initiative and introduced the Baldwin Scholars Program, a selective four-year leadership program exclusively for undergraduate women at Duke.

Since its inception, the Women's Center has promoted gender equity through co-curricular programming on a variety of gender issues, provided services to survivors of gender-based violence and advocated on gender issues throughout the university and the community. The Center's primary focus has always been service to undergraduate and graduate students. Over the past twenty years, our services and prevention efforts have grown to engage both men and women as each is affected by gender norms--the challenges faced by women cannot be resolved without the cooperation and participation of men.

Students are welcome to hang out in the center between or after classes. Use the computer stations, nap on the couch, or help yourself to some freshly brewed coffee.

Student groups may also reserve our space for weekend programming. Please be sure to review and complete our Usage Agreement Form.

Find your feminist voice or just figure out what that means by joining in the movement. Formal internships are available in the spring for the following academic year, but activists and the curious are welcome any time. Sign up for our listserv, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter to find out about new opportunities, or email womenctr@duke.edu for more information