Shippensburg University’s Women’s Center is looking for a new director.
Stephanie Erdice — “Steph” to those close to her, “The Vagina Monologues Queen” to some in SU’s Women’s Center and the former director of the Women’s Center to all — resigned in mid-October to take on a new position as the chief of programming at the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“It was a really fast transition, a little faster than I had planned,” Erdice said of her departure.
Erdice was working in the Women’s Center since August 2008, when she was hired as the interim director before officially becoming director in the summer of 2010.
During Erdice’s time at SU, one of her main roles was to help guide and lead the Women’s Center’s mission.
Although the official mission is listed on SU’s website, Erdice said the easiest way to describe the mission is “equality, empowerment and ending violence.”
Katrina Howard, the office manager of the Women’s Center for the past eight years, said Erdice went above and beyond during her time as director, earning numerous awards, bringing in guest speakers such as Whitney Thore from “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” and professional basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw, and even starting up the “Ship Says No More” campaign.
Erdice said Ship Says No More was born in the Women’s Center during the spring of 2014 among efforts to make the campus more motivated to end sexual assault.
“It was one of the things where we kind of started it, but then we had to give it to campus. We couldn’t control it because it wouldn’t be as powerful if everything had to be approved,” Erdice said.
Since the introduction and implementation of Ship Says No More, faculty created a syllabi statement and, as Erdice said, “gave it the power of the whole campus.”
“I think that will go down in history as one of my favorite things in my whole career, even though, hopefully, I’m only halfway through with it. I think I’ll always have a special connection to that program at Ship,” Erdice said.
Erdice was also responsible for educational workshops and trainings for different groups on campus, the Tulip Planting Ceremony, the Vagina Monologues, Take Back the Night and other advocacy work.
She worked with students who were victims of sexual assault, intimate partner abuse or other types of violence, and would help provide victims with support and necessary resources.
“Steph was involved in so many things that if I was to name them all, I would be here for quite a while,” Howard said.
Erdice said two main factors went into her resignation.
“So I worked in the position for 10 years, and I just, I mean, being the director of the Women’s Center was amazing. I’m gonna get choked up talking about it. And I really wanted someone else to have that amazing experience in their profession,” Erdice said, her voice cracking. “I felt selfish holding on to the position for much longer. Like, I could’ve done this job the rest of my life and loved it, but somebody else needed to have that chance.”
Erdice said she also felt it was time to take the skills that she had learned and apply them to work on a larger scope in order to make even more of an impact.
“There was this position with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and there was just no passing it up,” Erdice said. “It was a tremendous opportunity to work with a great team, to work in the state that I lived in and to really see the impact that we could have with working with all Maryland colleges and universities, and, you know, other areas of the state, and to learn from those folks as well.”
The Women’s Center is feeling some of the effects of Erdice’s departure. Howard said the center has been a little short-staffed with only an office manager, a student worker, a graduate assistant and an intern.
“Without her, we had to decide what we’re going to concentrate on and what we’re not, so there are a couple programs we didn’t do this semester,” Howard said.
The search for a new director is underway. Howard said the center hopes to have the position filled by the spring semester, but that Erdice will always be remembered for the hard work she put in during her time as director.
“In regards to Steph herself, the type of person she is, the programs and the services that she provided and that she promoted, how she served as a mentor to a lot of students, I didn’t realize how many until she left. Then they were coming out of the woodwork,” Howard said.
One of those students, junior Ali Laughman — the current director of the Vagina Monologues and a volunteer in the Women’s Center — described Erdice as a superhero, “but in the sense of, she tries to do good and doesn’t ask for anything in return.
“My hope is that the person they choose to stand where Steph has, has just as much room in her heart as Steph has,” Laughman said.
Despite the current challenge of not having a director, Howard assured the SU community that the Women’s Center is still working hard to continue advancing its mission of equality, empowerment and ending violence.
“The Women’s Center, I feel, should be held in such a way that… I wouldn’t let it drop,” Howard said. “We do too many important things.”
As for Erdice, she is keeping her doors open for opportunity, and emphasized her gratefulness for her time spent at SU, the relationships she has built and the opportunity she has to work in another position where she can do the work she believes she is destined to do.
“And maybe we won’t, in my lifetime, accomplish an end to sexual assault,” she said. “But if that’s the case, then I’m just gonna come back in my next lifetime and end it.”