The University of Tennessee at Martin dedicated the new Verna B. Coleman Center for Women and Gender Equality in room 255 of the Paul Meek Library during a reception April 8. The center is named for the grandmother of major donor Martha Edinger, a 1984 UT Martin alumna and longtime resident of Obion and Weakley Counties.
“I wanted to name this for our grandmother who didn’t have the opportunities that I had in her life. But yet she took what she had, and she made the best of it and left a long family legacy in this area of Obion and Weakley County,” said Edinger.
The center was originally established by Drs. Teresa Collard, associate professor of communications, and Lisa LeBleu, professor of family and consumer sciences, in 2011. The center was first located in Grove Apartments on University Street before moving into the Paul Meek Library last fall. The new space on the second floor of the library was constructed by the UT Martin Physical Plant and includes activity space as well as a private area that will serve as a lactation room for student mothers.
“I hope students who use the center will find a community that supports them in the difficulties they face as students, as women, as LGBT+,” said Dr. Renee LaFleur, center director and associate professor of history. “The programs we offer are meant to give students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, but also to cope with the challenges they encounter. Whether it’s learning how to support a friend who has been assaulted, recognizing the signs of depression or learning salary negotiation techniques, I want students to be able to help themselves and others.”
The center hosts a lunchtime speaker series, Women’s History Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities, and a period supply donation drive for female students who are unable to afford such items. Donations can be taken to the Women’s Center from 1-5 p.m. on weekdays, and supplies are made available to all students in need.
For more information, contact LaFleur at 731-881-7534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.