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Credit: Luke Chen

The recent reorganization of the Penn Women’s Center will make its objectives smoother internally and clearer to students.

Last August, former Associate Director of PWC Jessica Mertz was named Director of Student Sexual Violence Prevention and Education, leaving her previous position to be filled by former Program Coordinator of PWC Brittany Harris last December.

Harris’ title change is part of PWC’s reorganization, which included the formation of a second Associate Director position, rather than the one director and one program coordinator, that PWC previously had. The second associate director position was filled by Michaela Pommells, who took office last Tuesday.

“Right now, there is a huge attention to sexual violence and we could see that the work was growing in size, and we want to be working on a broad array of issues,” PWC Director Litty Paxton said, citing the White House administration’s current commitment to sexual violence prevention.

Now with two associate directors in PWC, their tasks will be divided. Harris’s job is primarily concerned with advising students seeking support around sexual violence, including advice and referrals. Pommells, on the other hand, will focus on communication, outreach and research. This reclassification of job responsibilities will allow the PWC to broaden its focus and deepen its advocacy for issues ranging from sexual violence prevention to gender equality in the classroom to pregnancy support.

“My goal is to open up the PWC to be a place where people will come to relax and network, have fun, embrace a broad platform of issues, an expansive view of what it really means to promote gender equity,” Paxton said. Additionally, the new organization of PWC will allow for more direct communication between the Center and the needs of the students.

“We want to ask the question, ‘What does it mean to have a Women’s Center in 2015?’” Paxton said. “We really want to include the community and have their feedback guide us in our strategic plan for the next ten years.”

The Division of the Vice Provost for University Life has seen other reorganization and internal hiring within its offices in recent months, including the promotion of former Director of Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Initiatives Julie Lyzinski Nettleton to Director of the Office of Student Conduct. While OSC’s search for a new director began as both an external and internal search, VPUL ultimately decided to hire Nettleton internally. Typically, VPUL’s hiring practices begin with a decision whether to hire internally or externally, or to consider both options, Provost Vincent Price said in a January meeting with The Daily Pennsylvanian.

With current Vice Provost for Education Andrew Binns stepping down at the end of the semester, the Provost launched a search to fill his position — rather than considering candidates from both inside and outside of Penn, this search will be internal to facilitate an easier transition for the large faculty.

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