1994: Women’s Enrichment Center

1994 Dr. Irene Baird Created Humanities-Related Programming for Underprivileged Women

Dr. Irene Baird facilitated the opening of the Women’s Enrichment Center at Penn State Harrisburg’s Eastgate Center in downtown Harrisburg in April 1994. The purpose of the Women’s Enrichment Center was to provide humanities-related programming primarily to women who didn’t normally have access to it such as the women at Dauphin County Prison, residents of a downtown high-rise for the elderly, the Latino population, and participants at an inner-city social service center.

Baird, a doctoral student in adult education at the time – but later a graduate – said that “the program concept focuses on that part of the humanities description that refers to looking at what individuals’ lives and actions mean to them and the ways in which they express themselves.” For example, program participants would read books with characters and situations to which they could relate and use them to reflect on their lives. In this way, the programs help women build self-esteem and self-realization, which provides them with the confidence needed to navigate more fulfilling lives.

In addition to directing the Women’s Enrichment Center, Baird also became an affiliate assistant professor of education and then the director of Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Behavior Sciences. Prior to earning her D.Ed. in adult education, she earned a B.A. in Spanish language/literature from Smith College and an M.A. in the same discipline from University of Kansas.

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