Anna LoMascolo and Mallory Foutch came to Virginia Tech in very different ways, but both have committed to making Virginia Tech a better place for the Hokie community through their work in the Women's Center.
The Virginia Tech Women's Center, is an organization which seeks to “promote a Virginia Tech community that is safe, equitable, and supportive for women and that celebrates their experiences, achievements and diversity.”
Anna LoMascolo comes from a long line of Hokies. Her great-grandfather was Virginia Tech’s first tailor, and she was raised in Blacksburg by two Hokie parents, who both have two degrees from Virginia Tech, as do she and her sister.
After majoring in Communications Studies at Virginia Tech, Anna went to California State University to get her MA in Sociology, then returned to Blacksburg to get her PhD in Sociology with a certificate in Women's and Gender Studies.
Anna came to the Women’s Center in 2004 and currently works as co-director. In her own words: “I came to Virginia Tech for school, but I ended up finding kind of a home away from home in the Women’s Center. And then, I don’t know, somewhere halfway through my graduate program I ended up applying for a job here and I got it.”
Mallory Foutch attended the University of Texas, Austin for her undergrad before getting her masters from Florida State University. She was hired at Virginia Tech in June of 2016 following her graduation from grad school.
Both women have memories, good and bad, of the Women’s Center and its role at Virginia Tech. Given the rise in the past couple years of movements battling sexual assault and gender-based violence, the Women’s Center has played a growing role in engaging Hokies and answering questions and concerns people have. This rise in awareness has led to many people who work in the Women’s Center and similar programs to feel overwhelmed because of the “inundation of people who need services right now.” Despite the stresses of the job, Anna believes that “as a Women’s Center we have been uniquely positioned to respond in certain ways and to support and that’s a real gift for us I think.”
“The issues that we work on have an ability to make people care, and they have an ability to like make people show up, and they have an ability to move a community to action.” Mallory Foutch
For an example of the impact the Women’s Center has had in the past few year, Mallory recalls the Take Back the Night march in March 2017. The march was one of the first big events Mallory experienced at Virginia Tech, and she remembers it as “a flashpoint moment” of grasping why the Women’s Center work matters. She says that “I feel like I will always think of that night when I think of the Women’s Center, because the issues that we work on have an ability to make people care.”
The impact of the Women’s Center isn’t new. Anna remembers celebrating the Women’s Center’s 10th Anniversary and seeing how many people came out to commemorate the occasion. Anna thinks on the event as “one of those moments where you don’t even necessarily plan for that kind of impact or see it coming, but where you're in a community with other people celebrating.”
Anna, who grew up in Blacksburg and surrounded by Hokies, has a different perspective of the Hokie community. For her, the work of the Women’s Center and its accomplishments are because of relationships and commitment from the Hokie community. To her, “that’s Hokie Nation...that’s Ut Prosim in many ways.” Anna’s favorite thing about working at the Women’s Center is working with people from a diverse range of places within the campus and larger Hokie community.
“I do think there’s something special about Virginia Tech. I do think there’s something special about this identity of Hokie Nation and I do think there’s something deeply special about Ut Prosim.”Anna LoMascolo
Anna also stresses that she thinks Hokie community affects how the Women’s Center interacts with the larger community. She emphasizes that it isn’t normal for women centers to work closely with law enforcement, Title IX officers, and judicial officers, and “to be able to say that it’s a special thing, and I think a lot of that is connected to that sense Hokie Nation, to that sense of service. It’s such a collaborative spirit. It’s intangible, but absolutely alive and important, and I just don’t think we could do what we do without it.”
Over the years, the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech has had many achievements and developed important and successful programs. For instance, the Women’s Center played a role in the development and implementation of ADVANCE at Virginia Tech, which promotes women at the university. Since its implementation, Virginia Tech has added several women deans and has more women faculty, and has also implemented policies to help women have more successful academic careers.
Anna and Mallory are also proud of the AWARE program that the Women’s Center developed. AWARE pairs Virginia Tech women as mentors with girls at Blacksburg Middle School. Aside from weekly interactions between the women and girls, the program also brings the girls to Virginia Tech for College Day where they get to participate in activities college students would, such as seeing a demonstration in a lab or bowling in Squires. For Anna, seeing the kids on campus was a highlight for her, “because there are a lot of kids who don’t see themselves at college. And just the act of bringing them here and demystifying it and having them see how kind of neat is is and different, it feels like it really makes a difference.”
Though there has been a lot of progress at Virginia Tech and with the Women’s Center, Anna and Mallory still have desires for Virginia Tech to improve in the future. Mallory emphasizes that people who work in jobs similar to her's and Anna's are often overwhelmed. Due to the increase in cases and work, Mallory also thinks people who do response work should be valued more by people outside of the profession. In addition to placing value on these workers, Mallory believes we should commit to helping these people, whether with resources or by helping them with their work.
Anna wants to see a shift in how the Women’s Center thinks about their outreach and engagement. She stresses that the Women’s Center deals with issues that don’t just impact women, and she want to ensure anyone who needs their services, or people who just want to engage with the center, feel welcome.
Both Anna and Mallory have played an important role at the Women’s Center and for the Virginia Tech community. Their work on behalf of people of Virginia Tech has helped Virginia Tech become a better place for more people.
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About this Story
Date Recorded: March 19, 2018
Interviewer: Emily Walters
Date Posted: March 1, 2019
Editor: Rachel Beisser