SIROW Earns National Honor for its Diversity, Inclusion

Women and girls have benefited from more than 200 crisis prevention, treatment, writing workshops, research initiatives and other programs initiated by the Southwest Institute for Research on Women since it was founded three decades ago.

For its work, the institute that was created at The University of Arizona in 1979 has earned the National Council for Research on Women's inaugural Diversion and Inclusion Award.

The honor goes to centers across the nation that have "diversified its leadership, governance, administration and/or its program, policy, advocacy or research activities to incorporate women of color; lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people; and/or differently-abled women," according to the council.

Sally J. Stevens has been director of the institute, known as SIROW, for five years and said staff members were astonished when they began taking inventory of its 30-year history. Over the past 15 years the majority of SIROW's funding has come from the National Institutes of Health.

"When we looked back on the 30 years of contributions we realized how much those working at SIROW and our collaborators around the globe have contributed to women and girls from various perspectives," said Stevens, who attended a ceremony in New York to accept the award on Wednesday and speak during one of the council's panel discussions.

SIROW was launched by Myra Dinnerstein, the first chair of the UA women's studies department and current research professor emerita, with funding from the Ford Foundation. The foundation sustained its support of SIROW for about the first 25 years.

The institute, its researchers and affiliates conduct their work in a region that includes Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Stevens said that over the course of its history SIROW has secured more than $30 million in funding and has facilitated projects involving 150 community-based, governmental and tribal collaborators.

Janice Monk, the institute's former executive director, was among those to nominate the center for the honor. She lauded the expansive nature of SIROW's sustained programming and service.

"Since SIROW's founding, its programs have been sensitive to and promoted the advancement of girls, from grade school to adolescence, and of women across the life span, including pioneering work on older women," said Monk, also a UA research social scientist emerita who served as a UA geography and regional development professor.

SIROW's outreach and research has addressed issues related to race and ethnicity, age, sexuality, economics, region, social and cultural issues, including disease prevention, wellness, immigration, poverty, womanhood and widowhood.

Approaching women's issues in a comparative and contextual way is the "hallmark of SIROW research," Monk said.

Among the institute's notable projects and programs are:

    * A series of research grants to promote HIV prevention and sexual health; projects serving more than 4,000 individuals and families involved in testing and treatment, health clinics and other services. These programs have been provided in various parts of the United States and in Mexico.

    * "The Desert is No Lady: Southwestern Landscapes in Women's Writing and Art," a book first published in 1987 that explored ways in which women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds expressed themselves through art. The book covered a 100-year period of artistic expression. "The Desert is No Lady," released in 1995, is a film that examined the writings, photography, painting, weaving, pottery work and other art produced by several contemporary women.

    * The "Report on Women in Immigration Detention Facilities in Arizona" detailed the situation of women serving in several facilities in Arizona, finding that the needs of many go unresolved.

    * The Women in Science and Engineering program was jointly created by SIROW and the UA women's studies department to encourage young women to consider fields in science and technology.

    * Futurebound was a program funded by the National Science Foundation that worked to improve the transfer rate of women beginning their studies at Pima Community College to the UA. Women studying in the areas of astronomy, chemistry, non-health related biosciences, physics, technology and engineering were targeted.

    * Programs providing and evaluating substance abuse treatment approaches including juvenile and family drug courts, gender-specific treatments for women and girls and combined mental health/substance abuse treatment for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) youth.

Monk also noted the institute's "early and sustained educational work in fostering the inclusion of international commitments within feminist teaching in the Southwest and US-Mexico border region and its support of residencies for numerous visiting international scholars," particularly from Uganda, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Germany and elsewhere.

Stevens noted that SIROW also has hosted research and service professionals from countries in various parts of the globe, aiding in HIV prevention and substance abuse treatment programs.

In another letter, Erin L. Durban, who recently earned her master's degree from the women's studies department and is continuing toward her doctorate, wrote about the collaboration between her department and the institute, particularly related to the institute's support of graduate students and its outreach to young women.

Writing on behalf of a group of graduate students in the women's studies department, Durban noted that the partnership "is not only a model to bridge different types of research methodologies, but also provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain applied research skills through internships and graduate assistantships."

Monk also noted that despite the advances women have seen in recent decades, the need for the type of research and outreach SIROW promotes remains relevant.

She pointed to a recent project in which SIROW researchers collaborated with the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona to study the status of women in three southern Arizona counties.

The report indicated that women continue to be relegated to lower economic and professional levels, have lower educational attainment and numerous other challenges associated with violence, safety and health.

"There is continuing evidence of income difference and of women being concentrated in certain occupational categories, like sales and clerical work," Monk said.

"The economic and also political situation are both among the reasons why we still need this institute," she said, adding that other disparities also exist in health care, areas in education and in pay equity.

"Those issues still need research, education, public policy and action," she said.