This month heralds the opening of the 7C EmPOWER Center for survivors of sexual assault. The center provides free, confidential advocacy and support to 7C students impacted by sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking, as well as programs that will develop organically through collaborations between students, faculty, staff, and the newly appointed director of the center, Rima Shah. This month, Maria Newman ’16 caught up with Shah to talk about her vision for the center.
Maria Newman: Can you tell us a little bit about your professional trajectory?
Rima Shah: I have about 13 years of experience developing, managing, and leading sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual health related university and nonprofit programming in the United States and India.
Most recently, I worked in Chicago as DePaul University’s sexual health and violence prevention specialist. I served 24,000 students, plus staff and faculty, on issues related to sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and healthy relationships. I also served as the point person for conceptualizing and implementing year-round, campus-wide violence prevention and education. I worked closely with those impacted by sexual violence, providing confidential care, support, and referrals.
Prior to my work at DePaul, I was a capacity building consultant for Family Health International in New Delhi, a research associate for the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, and a program development consultant and national trainer at the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco.
SC: How has your experience in these positions influenced your approach to issues of sexual assault, prevention, and support?
RS: My work has made me more passionate about and committed to addressing sexual violence issues. It has also provided me with some effective tools to address such issues on college campuses. I believe that effective communication, wide-scale collaboration, institutional commitment to policies and programs, transparency to the extent possible under the law, and active student participation in the creation of programs and policies are all keys to a successful violence prevention program.
SC: What made you decide to come to The Claremont Colleges?
RS: Because this is a great opportunity! I get to be the inaugural director of a center devoted to the issues I am most passionate about, and I get to do so for a consortium of outstanding colleges.
SC: What do you hope to accomplish as director of the EmPOWER Center?
RS: I want to create a space where students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and comfortable in seeking support, discussing concerns, asking questions, seeking information, and requesting educational programming. I also want to create a culture of care—I want everyone in the 7C community to see it as their responsibility not only to take care of themselves, but to also take care of each other.
SC: What are some of the things you have planned for the center’s first year?
RS: I’m really focused on getting the word out about the center so that students, staff, and faculty on all seven campuses are aware of all of the services offered. I also want to hire student interns to help with program creation and implementation, expand the Student Advisory Board that supports the EmPOWER Center, offer staff and first-responder trainings, revamp the 7Cs sexual misconduct resources website, and much more.
SC: Is there anything else you would like to let us know?
RS: Come by the EmPOWER Center at 1030 N. Dartmouth Avenue to learn more, seek support, and collaborate!
The Scripps College community is invited to the formal opening of the EmPOWER Center on Tuesday, January 26, from 2 to 4pm.
For more of our Spotlight on Staff series, click here.