Women’s Empowerment Initiative at UCI Features Houston

The Vice Chancellor’s Office of Student Affairs presented Jean Houston in “Women’s Creativity & the Emerging New Story” on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Crystal Cove Auditorium as the inaugural event for the Women’s Empowerment Initiative (WEI).

The event began at 7 p.m. with Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham introducing the WEI as a movement by UCI faculty members and community partners to inspire the next generation of women leaders through lectures, forums and other presentations. Director of Campus Assault and Resources Center Mandy Mount who is leading this initiative and took the microphone from Dr. Parham to introduce Dr. Jean Houston.

Houston, along with her husband, are key proponents of the Human Potential Movement, an organization founded to cultivate the untapped potential that Houston and other founders believe exists in every person. Houston’s other accomplishments include authoring 26 books, working towards implementing education through UNICEF and being on the board for a United Nations development program.

Beginning her presentation with a humorous anecdote about a woman who unknowingly asked her if she had read her own book, Houston moved on to describe her experience in a Kenyan village in June 1987 where she worked with a group of people to improve social and economic conditions and to enhance women’s status. She emphasized that their one act of building a water tank changed the entire community. Women spent much less time getting water from wells and much more time being active members and leaders of their society.

Throughout the lecture, Houston focused on the emerging world and human capacity. She described the present as the “biggest time of shift and change in human history” and as a new world is emerging, so is the role of women in society.

“We can no longer continue to live as remedial members of the human race,” Houston said. “But the ways of the past is still trying to restrain the ways of the future.”

In order to fight against the backlash that women do and will inevitably encounter when trying to change the social order, Houston suggested empowering each other.

“We’re living in a time of the breakdown of the membrane between cultures,” she said. “People are crossing the great divide of otherness.”

Houston argued that it is not only western women, but women from all over the world who are introducing change and “building a new social order.” Houston encouraged her audience to find support and inspiration not only from people around them, but also from men and women internationally who are working toward the same goal.

Houston’s other solutions included finding strength and creativity within one’s self. She advised that if you activate the interior images of the mind, you will activate the basis of the creative process. She believes that we must find new ways of being and doing, because the “consciousness that solves the problem can not be the same consciousness that created it.”

The Q&A session after the lecture allowed several audience members, including students, graduates and community members, to ask Houston personal questions and advice on how to deal with quotidian sexism. Her emotional and motivational responses left a few in tears.

Edgar Dormitorio, Chief of Staff of the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Student Affairs, said that the WEI has garnered positive responses from student organizations, faculty and community members. They are currently in the process of setting up future events for upcoming quarters.