Student Finds Inspiration in Her Work at Emory Center for Women

Student finds inspiration in her work at Emory Center for Women

by Camille Hankins

After graduating from high school in Locust Grove, Georgia, Camille Hankins says enrolling at Emory was like the world opening up to her.

“I couldn’t be the person I am if I didn’t go to college. I have learned so many things on such a deep level,” says Hankins, an Emory College senior. She had a strong, positive intellectual role model in her mother, now an English professor, who started her PhD when Hankins was in middle school. Hankins appreciates the validation of intellect she has experienced at Emory.

Hankins found academic inspiration in her freshman seminar, Introduction to Women’s Studies. In May she will graduate with a double major in women’s studies and American studies. Motivated by the seminar, she volunteered the summer after her first year at a safe house for women escaping abusive situations.

“I did not grow up privileged, but I was sheltered, and at the safe house I saw a lot of stuff that I never experienced before. Working there, I became close to women—some of them my own age—who had spent their whole lives fighting against violence,” she says. “Watching women who had no education and really nothing to fall back on try to navigate independence for the first time, with three to four children, you see it is really tough to make it. I saw women go back to abusive situations because they just couldn’t do it on their own. That was really a shaping experience for me.”

In the fall a friend who worked at the Center for Women introduced Hankins to Assistant Director for Programs Sasha Smith. Smith invited her to volunteer at the center, and Hankins has worked there since. “I found a lot of places to make community at Emory, and the Center for Women is one of those,” Hankins says.

She has learned valuable lessons through her work at the center, including how to start thoughtful conversations that bring awareness of women’s issues. Hankins has served on the advisory board for the center and has made a gift to support the center.

“The women’s center is such a great, constructive space to be in for so many women at Emory. In the political environment of a university, each center has to fight for the right to exist. Donating to the center is like casting your vote for this sort of work within the institution,” Hankins says.

Students who can’t contribute financially to the places and programs that are important to them can give their time instead. “By coming to events and being involved, by interacting with us on social media, by becoming a volunteer, you are casting that same vote as you would with a donation,” she says.

Camille Hankins started working at the center in the Fall of 2010. She is a sophomore in the college double-majoring in Women’s Studies and American Studies. She is interested in feminist activism and scholarship and hopes to work towards social justice in the Emory community and beyond. She is also a bassoonist in the Emory Wind Ensemble and Emory Symphony Orchestra.