VOLUME 13, NO. 2 NOVEMBER 2000
Providing the tools to combat violence
Jodi Campo, left, and Jennifer Scheipers are kid and goat in WOWI mentoring program
R.A.D. uses simple, effective and proven self-defense and martial arts tactics to develop and enhance the options of self-defense so they may become viable considerations to a woman who is attacked.
Since its founding, WPI has prided itself on preparing students for the real world. Traditionally that preparation has come from a curriculum that uses interdisciplinary problem solving to foster sensitivity to technology's impact on society. A recently introduced program provides female WPI students with the tools to deal with another aspect of the real world -- violence against women.
The statistics are frightening. "One in four women can be expected to be involved in some type of assault in her lifetime," says Campus Police officer Eric Pearson, who joined with fellow officer Sherry Boulay to bring the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) program to campus. During the course, 10 female students spend 21/2 hours each week learning how to protect themselves against violent crime. Developed in 1989 by Lawrence Nadeau, a former municipal and university law enforcement officer, R.A.D. uses simple, effective and proven self-defense and martial arts tactics to develop and enhance the options of self-defense so they may become viable considerations to a woman who is attacked.
Boulay and Pearson have extensive backgrounds in public safety in both academia and the private sector. Boulay is certified in R.A.D. (adults and children); she's an EMT and a rape investigator, and she has spent eight years as a firefighter. Pearson, who is also a certified R.A.D. trainer, has more than a decade of experience in self-defense. Boulay says the students in the inaugural group came from all walks of life with different experiences with victimization. Some had never lived in a city before coming to WPI; others were from cultures where women were regarded differently than in the United States. The program is suitable for all of them. "What we teach in R.A.D. is adaptable," she says. "The key is for a woman to survive an assault by using physical resistance to create an opportunity to escape."
Undergraduates who complete the free program receive a 3/4 college credit. Each participant earns a certificate and the right to attend similar sessions during her lifetime.
Now taught at more than 350 colleges and universities nationwide, R.A.D. is the only self-defense program ever endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
"We are very excited about being able to offer a project such as this and to have highly motivated and enthusiastic instructors on board," says Public Safety Director John J. Hanlon. "This initiative enhances our ability to serve our community in areas beyond our typical responsibilities."
Making connections, building leaders
Providing opportunities for women students, faculty, staff and alumnae to meet and discuss issues of relevance to women (particularly those who study or work in mathematics, science and technology) is the goal of Women on Women's Issues (WOWI), a new program launched by WPI last fall.
"Whether it's a 'Girls' Night Out' event or a lecture by a female executive at General Electric on being effective as a woman in a man's workplace, we've gotten women together to talk and learn from each other," says Tracey Pakstis-Claiborne, assistant director of student activities, who was one of WOWI's founders. Pakstis-Claiborne notes that one byproduct of the group is the leadership skills students develop as they carry out these activities.
One of the more active WOWI members is Jennifer Scheipers '03, an electrical engineering major who organized a campus safety walk and was a "kid" in WOWI's Goats and Kids mentoring program. The program, which takes its name, in part, from the campus mascot, pairs goats (returning women) with kids (female students who are new to campus). The goats "adopt" the kids to ease their transition into life at WPI.
Scheipers' goat was Jodi Campo '02, an electrical engineering major from Johnston, R.I. "The Goats and Kids program creates a support system for everyone," says Scheipers. "Just knowing other friendly faces is tremendously helpful for new students."
While WOWI's goal is to provide support to the female minority on campus, its founders hope it will also encourage more women to apply to and attend WPI. Says Pakstis-Claiborne, "We are glad to know that prospective women students who visit the University will see a strong contingent of women here and feel more comfortable about coming to WPI."
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