CEW+ Celebrates 60th Anniversary in Ann Arbor

A group of people at a event.

The University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women+ (CEW+), started in 1964, is celebrating its 60th Anniversary.

Dr. Tiffany Marra has served as Director since 2016 and provides unique insight into the organization and its history.

A photo of a person smiling.

“Celebrating our 60th anniversary gives us a chance to pause and reflect on all that the organization has accomplished since its inception in 1964,” Marra said. “Considering the tens of thousands of participants who have benefited from CEW+ services, it makes the work lighter knowing that we are building on a long legacy of providing critical support to those we serve. We are taking this year to recognize the ways in which we can grow and change to keep up with our community’s evolving needs.”

According to Marra, the mission of CEW+ is to empower women and underserved individuals in the University of Michigan and surrounding communities by serving as an advocate and providing resources to help them reach their academic, financial and professional potential.

“For over sixty years, we have worked to create an inclusive environment at U-M through policy, programming and partnerships across campus,” Marra said. “Donors play a key role in making our work possible.”

A photo of a meeting room.

According to Marra, CEW+ also provides financial help through scholarships, fellowships and grants. In the 2023-2024 academic year, they awarded over $704,000 in funding to 15 CEW+ Fellows and 89 CEW+ Scholars from various graduate and undergraduate programs on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. CEW+ provides emergency grants to an average of 350 U-M students annually who are experiencing unexpected emergencies leading to a financial shortfall.

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“At CEW+, we advocate for underserved communities regardless of gender and provide resources, career and education counseling, events, and workshops to everyone on campus and in the community,” Marra said. “Additionally, we provide emergency funding, scholarships and fellowships for U-M students.”

Marra said these immediate and ongoing services provide the needed support to ensure educational success and degree completion.

“While we design our programs and services with women+ and underserved students in mind, all are welcome to utilize our services,” Marra said. “CEW+ specializes in serving those who have encountered education and career obstacles based on their non-linear paths to, and experiences within, the University community.”

A old meeting taking place at the CEW.

CEW+ counselors provide no-cost career and education counseling, available to all members of the Ann Arbor community. Each year, CEW+ counselors meet with approximately 1,000 constituents (students, staff, faculty and community members) as they make decisions about their futures. Additionally, this year they partnered with Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a certified financial therapist, to design and host a series of workshops focused on the psychological and social aspects of financial decision-making. Over 830 students, staff, faculty and community members registered to attend these workshops during the pilot period from October 2023 to April 2024.

Marra is proud that CEW+ can annually support an activist’s work through the Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist Program.

“In March 2024, we welcomed human rights activist Caroline Mwochi, who advocates for safe spaces and access for all people, including those who identify as LGBTQ+, in Kenya,” Marra said.

Currently, CEW+ has 16 full-time employees, 2 temporary part-time staff and 8 student employees.

Marra stated that the people who work for CEW+ have a strong variety of backgrounds.

An outside look at the CEW.

“CEW+ represents very diverse educational and experiential backgrounds, including social workers, educators, fundraisers, business administrators, advocates, writers, a communication specialist, improvement specialists, researchers, artists, mothers and LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Marra said.  “A uniting force across staff is our shared passion for our mission and supporting our constituents.”

CEW+ has special programming and events throughout the year, including Women’s History Month in March.

“This year, we sponsored a movie series at the Michigan Theater to bring awareness to ‘Trailblazing Women in Hollywood’s Golden Age’ to highlight how women in Hollywood broke down barriers to diversity and equity, clearing a path for those who followed,” Marra said. “In past years, we have hosted speakers and partnered with AAUW to offer financial workshops.”

Films directed by women featured in the series included “Dance, Girl, Dance” (1940) by Dorothy Arzer, starring Lucille Ball, and “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953) by Ida Lupino.

Marra said CEW+ is supported by and reports to the Office of the Provost at the University of Michigan.

“We have non-profit status as a non-academic unit at U-M,” Marra said. “Our funding is split almost equally between the U-M and the generosity of donors. CEW+ offers financial aid in the form of scholarships to non-traditional students—of all genders—within UM. These scholarships are funded through donations from individuals, organizations, clubs and foundations.”

A group of people laughing together.

According to Marra, established in 1964, the Center for the Education of Women was a pioneering university women’s center. Designed to serve the needs of women students as well as women returning to school or work, CEW+ (then known as the Center for the Continuing Education of Women) was founded with a three-part mission of service, advocacy, and research. From its earliest days, the Center offered free short-term counseling to women in the community, and under the leadership of Director Jean Campbell, counseling became one of the central pillars of the Center’s mission.

The Center for the Education of Women+ (CEW+) continues its work today, serving University students, staff and faculty, community members and people of all genders who are facing education, employment, or other life issues — all at no cost to participants thanks to the generosity of donors.

Marra said even more events will be planned in the new school year.

“We will continue celebrating our 60th anniversary with a series of events, all of which will be posted on our website as they are finalized,” Marra said.