By Marie Haka

Founded over 40 years ago, the UC Santa Cruz Women’s Club connects members of the UCSC campus and the Santa Cruz community. In addition to hosting monthly speaker programs and offering a variety of interest groups, the Women’s Club fund raises extensively to award scholarships to transfer and reentry students. Although the group is primarily composed of women, everyone is welcome to the club.

City on a Hill Press (CHP) interviewed Women’s Club president Andrea Cohen. Cohen, a volunteer for the club, who is also on the staff of the Dean’s Office in the Division of Social Sciences. This is her second year as president of the group.

CHP: When and why was the Women’s Club founded?

Cohen: In 2005, we celebrated our 40th year, making the club almost as old as the UCSC campus. It actually started more like a faculty wives’ networking club, because faculty move around a lot, and in the past most of the faculty were men. At this time the club was mainly an opportunity for women to gather.

CHP: What is the history of your scholarship program and how does it work?

Cohen: Rita Olsen Pister, the wife of a chancellor, became very involved in the 1980s and started an initiative whereby the club raised money for scholarships for transfer and reentry students. At around the same time, she created the Rita Olsen Pister Endowed Scholarship Fund, and we have been building that endowment ever since.

We currently provide about $10,000 in scholarships every year. The scholarship funds are a combination of dollars raised via fund-raisers, individual contributions and the endowment pay-out. Our whole club is under the umbrella of STARS, Services for Transfer and Reentry Students, and they help all transfer and reentry students and try to ensure that they serve as many people as they possibly can. Our scholarship committee meets in April to review scholarship applications, and we honor our scholarship recipients at our spring luncheon in May.

CHP: Could you tell us a little about your current group?

Cohen: We have a good mix: a lot of campus women, either faculty or staff, and community members who heard about us and wanted to get involved. We also have members who no longer live in the area, as well as honorary members. Our membership is multi-generational, which can be really empowering. There are some students, a growing number of 30- and 40-somethings, and a larger number of retired women. Our current membership is approximately 185.

CHP: What are some of the ways in which the Women’s Club reaches out to women and the community?

Cohen: We hold a monthly speaker program on the first Wednesday of the month from October through May. The speaker luncheon program provides an opportunity to showcase a lot of our female faculty, the important research that they do and the contributions that they make to not only our campus, but our community, our nation, and our world. We also invite others to speak to our club. We have met several chancellors as well as community members. Providing intellectual stimulus is part of what we do.

Our members are also excellent ambassadors for the campus. Everyone that’s involved in the club has an interest in raising funds for scholarships for reentry students and in supporting improved relationships between the university and the town. Much of our outreach is via our fund-raisers and networking with our community.

CHP: What do your interest groups provide?

Cohen: We have a lot of interest groups, which offer opportunities for women to get together around a common interest and engage in a common activity. We have a movie group, a lunch bunch, book clubs, a hiking club, a power-walking group, a very successful choir, a bridge club, a garden club, knitting nights, a Mah Jong club, a movie group and a gourmet-cooking group.

CHP: What fun traditions does the UCSC Women’s Club have?

Cohen: At our speaker meetings, one of our traditions is providing light refreshments potluck-style. We have people sign up for a food category and then at the end of the meeting we put names of everyone who brought food, in a hat and we give the winner the beautiful bouquet that decorates our tables for the meeting.

Another one of our traditions that is really great is our fall gathering, and it is our first meeting of the academic year. It is the first Wednesday in October, and that’s where we showcase all of our interest groups, we have places where people can sign up, we have a lot of newcomers that come to that meeting and it’s a great opportunity for people to connect. Our aim is to make everyone feel welcome.

_For information on meetings, interest groups and upcoming events, visit womensclub.ucsc.edu._