Former UT staff member set to open city women’s center

Eleanor Dearman

After working to establish a women’s center at the University 10 years ago, Carrie Tilton-Jones will open a women’s center for the city Saturday. 

The Women’s Community Center of Austin, founded by Tilton-Jones, has been operating by hosting educational events since Jan. 2013, but it has existed without a building and full services.  Now, with its new building on the San Antonio Street opening, Tilton-Jones said the center will serve as a centralized space for women in the Austin community.

According to Rocío Villalobos, one of the center’s board members, the new center will provide educational workshops and have computers, printers, workspaces, a library, a children’s play area and a catalog of community resources for women, among other services.

“You have different groups that focus on different services that people may need, and what the women’s community center is trying to do is be a hub for some of those resources and some of that information,” said Villalobos, who is also the program coordinator at the Multicultural Engagement Center at UT.

Tilton-Jones, who took time off from pursuing a graduate degree at UT to work on the center, said she got the idea to open a women’s center while working as the co-director of the UT Women’s Resource Center, which later became the Gender and Sexuality Center. 

“[The Gender and Sexuality Center] became a home base for all types of women, from [the Rio Grande Valley], from Dallas, from Houston, from all around Texas,” said Tilton-Jones, who is also a founding board member of GSC. “And seeing the power in the women coming together and working together to make cool things happen was so inspiring.”

The center, located at 17th and San Antonio Street, is completely privately funded. The space will also provide another community space, which, Tilton-Jones said, is lacking in Austin.

“There aren’t as many public places where people can gather, and I felt it was important to have a non-commercial space,” Tilton-Jones said.

This center is not Austin’s first. In the 1970s up until the early 1990s, Tilton-Jones said Austin had a women’s center, but it closed for financial reasons.

“I was kind of surprised Austin didn’t have a women’s center of any kind,” Tilton-Jones said. “Most other large cities do.”

While Austin does have many services benefiting women, Tilton-Jones said the center serves to concentrate those community efforts and the center’s own efforts in one location.

“There’s a lot of great stuff going on for women in Austin, but it’s kind of hard to find,” Tilton-Jones said “There’s not really been a home base for the women’s community.”

Villalobos said she hopes the center will give University students connections off campus.

“I think it’s easy to stay in a UT bubble, especially as a student,” Villalobos said. “And we want to make sure that the center is another great resource for them besides the GSC or the [Multicultural Engagement Center] where they can meet folks that are interested in doing great things in the community.”

Marilyn Adams, an intern at the center and psychology senior, said that in addition to giving her peers resources in the community, she thinks the center could offer students a new study space.

“There’s also going to be computers there, so it could give students the opportunity to study off campus as opposed to a coffee shop where they would have to pay,” Adams said.