This week, Steph Gauchel officially left her position as the director of Tufts Women’s Center. Gauchel, who had held the position for the past seven and a half years, relinquished the position to accept a job as the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School. She begins serving in her new role today, Feb. 29.
Gauchel’s departure was preceded by a farewell party two weeks ago, hosted by Students Acting for Gender Equality and the Women’s Center Student Collaborative, where she had the opportunity to engage with students to exchange stories and goodbyes.
“I have been fortunate to have many incredible colleagues that I will miss working with dearly, but the hardest goodbyes for me have been and will continue to be the ones with students,” Gauchel told the Daily in an email.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, a plan is in place to find a replacement for Gauchel. While McMahon could not confirm the projected timeline of a transition plan, she said that she has met with Women’s Center leaders, Graduate Assistant at the Women’s Center Bryn Gravitt and Staff Assistant Fatima Blanca Munoz to discuss what they are looking for in a replacement director and what they want for the future of the Women’s Center.
“[The Women’s Center] is both a learning space and a supportive space, a place where people can think about how they can, themselves, develop deeper understanding around feminism and identity questions,” McMahon said. “But they also have the ability to teach and include other people.”
Gravitt noted that there will not be a permanent new director serving before the start of the Fall semester.
According to Gravitt, the Center wants to find a candidate for the position who is as energetic and as student-oriented as Gauchel was throughout her time serving in the role.
“We’ve been trying to do more work to make it a more inclusive space in terms of gender identity, in terms of all identities,” Gravitt said. “That’s something that, I think, has also been part of Steph’s legacy in broadening the scope of what the Women’s Center does for students.”
Furthermore, Gravitt said that the Women’s Center will be moving forward with programming for the rest of the semester as planned during this transitional period.
McMahon said that one crucial aspect of the center is to maintain its ability to cater toward whatever needs any Tufts community members may have.
“That is a very intentional thing about that center, and they want to make sure that continues,” she said.
McMahon praised Gauchel’s leadership role at the Center.
“She’s built something that has sustained itself as she’s taken on different roles at Tufts,” McMahon said. “She was on the president’s Diversity Task Force, she’s been on the Sexual Misconduct Task Force, she’s working with the Associate Provost’s Chief Diversity Officer now around another working group around race and inclusion, and as she has had a broader arc into the Tufts community, the structure of the Women’s Center has sustained itself well.”
Particularly, McMahon commended Gauchel’s prioritization of the Center while being engaged in other aspects of the Tufts community.
“Steph’s ability to run an operation that can sustain itself is a testament to her very grounded rooting in the work itself but also in empowering student leaders to take the mission as they want to,” she added. “I think her major legacy is building an inclusive, dynamic, empowering space for students. We’re going to miss her.”
Gravitt emphasized the impact of Gauchel’s work at the Women’s Center.
“Before Steph came, it was sort of an empty space [and] Steph really transformed the space, both in terms of programming and in terms of the way it looks,” Gravitt said. “Steph has had a huge impact on what goes on here.”
Students involved with the Women’s Center have also shared their positive memories of Gauchel.
“Steph has an incredible sense of empathy that really came through in her work in the Center and in her connection with the students,” sophomore Emma Kahn said. “The combination of high energy and deep compassion that she was able to sustain always amazed me, and it entirely characterized her seven and a half years at the Center. All in the Center who knew her well were pretty devastated to hear she was leaving so soon, but mostly we feel grateful that her kind of leadership will be spread elsewhere and that others will get to build the kind of relationships with her that we did.”
Gauchel further emphasized her connection with Women’s Center community members in an email she shared with the Women’s Center e-list on Feb. 8.
“I have had the privilege of sharing in your growth and in moments of personal revelation,” she wrote. “I have had the opportunity to work with you around issues of gender, identity and social justice and serve as a resource as you have developed your own vocabulary and framework for social change on campus and in the world.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article noted that Gauchel has taken on the role of Dean for Student Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School, but her new role is actually Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School. The Daily regrets this error.