For women looking to study and de-stress, the Ban Righ Centre is calling students’ names.
The Centre, located on Bader Lane, is celebrating its 50-year anniversary next fall, and is starting their celebratory preparations now. Established in 1974 for women and by women, the Ban Righ Centre provides a homey space for women-identified students to rest, study, eat a good meal, and make new friends.
“Our students have done hard work to get here, do hard work while they are here, and go on to do the best things,” Director Susan Belyea said in an interview with The Journal.
As part of their anniversary, the Ban Right Centre is launching a “Who is She?” https://www.queensu.ca/ban-righ-centre/whoisshe. The campaign allows anyone to write a tribute to a woman who inspired them. Though the initiative is part of the Centre’s outreach and fundraising plan, students don’t have to donate to honour their role models.
The Ban Righ Centre has been at Queen’s since 1974, when a group of women-identified students fought to open a place of safety and serenity for young women, particularly those returning from a period away from school, or mature students with families.
The Centre takes a traditional approach to addressing challenges specific to mature students, specifically by becoming their cheerleader, Belyea explained. They follow a people-before-paper policy in supporting students, and prioritize taking care of one another. The strategy includes making a homemade soup every day for lunch.
“It’s the first way we take care of each other, by feeding. It encourages students from different faculties and backgrounds to collaborate and get to know one another,” Belyea said.
Students who attend the Centre use the two large living areas for socializing, the group rooms for working, and the quiet rooms to close their eyes.
Sarvenaz Heirani Moghaddam, a PhD student in biomechanics, expressed gratitude to the Centre for supporting her during her time at Queen’s.
“As I navigate through my PhD journey as a first-generation immigrant, which can sometimes feel isolating, this Centre has become a valuable retreat,” Moghaddam said in an interview with The Journal.
The support offered by the Centre and the people behind its doors really makes a difference, Moghaddam explained.
“Having attended both UBC and uOttawa, I can confidently say neither institution provides an equivalent to the Ban Righ Centre,” she added.
Women at Queen’s have a long and hard-fought history. Queen’s first held English classes for women in 1869, and enrollment in Arts and Science opened to women in 1878. The first two women to receive university degrees in Ontario were both Queen’s graduates.
It didn’t always come easy. Women were expelled from studying medicine at Queen’s in 1883, a decision which wasn’t reversed until 1943.
Recognizing a need to support women on campus, an entrepreneurial group of Queen’s alumnae founded the Alumnae Association, funding the building of Ban Righ Hall, which was the first women’s residence.
The association insisted surplus funding be used to improve residences for women, and in the ’70s the Ban Righ Centre was born.
In the ’70s there were women hesitant to pursue university studies; with the support and comfort of the Centre, Belyea hopes to empower women as they move through university today.
Looking forward, the Ban Righ Centre hopes to maintain its impact. The dream for Belyea is to be able to give all things, to all students, all the time.
“What we do really well is just slow down a little, and keep personal relationships at the forefront, using kindness and care,” Belyea said.
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