The newly-minted 7C EmPOWER Center concluded its summer-long search for an inaugural director with the appointment of Rima Shah to the position. Shah will plan and prepare for the sexual assault survivors' resource center's official opening in January 2016.
Shah wrote in an email to TSL that the goal of the center is to “build awareness and sensitivity around issues related to sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking through prevention education, information dissemination, and training programs for students, staff, and faculty.”
Shah will have a major role in shaping the development of the EmPOWER Center, according to Daren Mooko, Pomona College's Title IX coordinator and a member of the search committee that chose Shah.
“We were intentional about waiting for the new director to come in,” Mooko said. “I think to plan the structure and the programs before a director comes in defeats the purpose of doing a really thorough search for a new center.”
On the decision to appoint Shah, Mooko said, “Rima just made a great deal of sense for us. We were very enthusiastic about her and everything about her work in her previous institution fit right in with the things that we wanted to see, at least at the very beginning of our center.”
Prior to becoming the director of the EmPOWER Center, Shah worked for three years as the first and only full-time sexual health and violence prevention specialist at DePaul University in Chicago.
Of her time in Chicago and her transition to Claremont, Shah wrote, “I believe that this work is only possible through a lot of collaboration. I look forward to learning from the community here and building partnerships with students, staff, faculty, and community partners to help create a Center that effectively addresses these forms of violence with sensitivity and care.”
The search was a nuanced one, according to Mooko. For example, the committee preferred candidates that did not yet have a specific plan in mind for the 7Cs. Mooko said that they wanted the person to first become familiar with the campus before making specific plans.
“We are looking more for philosophy, looking more for what seems to be the foundation of where they see campuses making progress,” Mooko said.
In an email to TSL, Shah echoed the importance of understanding the needs and culture of the 7C campuses. She added that all seven members of the consortium were represented on the advisory board which helped appoint her to the position.
Both Shah and Mooko said that the center will aim to work closely with 7C students, in particular to collaborate with the campus-specific sexual assault survivor resource centers. EmPOWER will seek to “ensure survivors and other students impacted by sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking receive holistic care and support,” Shah wrote.
Mooko said that Shah will take time to communicate with members of the Claremont community and acclimate to the 7C environment “to get a sense of how the Claremont Colleges consortium works and then to really just get going with education programs, prevention programs.”
Shah's “task really is to get it up and running to start to make in-roads with relationships with students,” Mooko said.
Shah wrote that she envisions the center as a place for students to freely learn and speak about issues of sexual violence. “I want the Center to help create a culture of care where everyone sees it as their responsibility to not only take care of themselves but to also take care of each other,” she wrote.
The center plans to share the house currently used by Project Sister, a support service for survivors of sexual assault. The cottage is located at 1030 Dartmouth Avenue, on the northwest corner of Garrison Theater on Scripps College's campus.