By Amanda Gambill
Nestled in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership on the second floor of the Student Union Building are two offices, denoted only by blue script on the wall reading “June Anderson Center.” A quick glance and students might miss it.
These are the offices of June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students.
Barbara Scales, the director, has a decorated office with posters of past center events, MT Lambda events and photos of her husband and son. It is clear she has made the university home after being here just a year and a half.
One aspect of Scales’ job is scheduling the programming for Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is “honoring women of courage, character and commitment.”
Scales embodies just that.
With 17 years of experience in social services, Scales, 41, has always been a source of strength for others. From dealing with college students who report rape to investigating child abuse cases as an investigator for child welfare in Texas, Scales has faced difficult situations head on.
As a young woman, a friend confided that a family member had sexually abused her. Helping her friend led her to a social justice career.
“I want to do something that brings awareness about men who do that kind of thing to their daughters, and so when I got into college and began to look into fields … I began to think about that, and that was probably when it really started — when I really wanted to do something to bring awareness of child sexual abuse and issues and when it comes to women and young girls,” she said.
Scales boldly passes her strength to others, whether it is by planning a workshop program to educate women on negotiating salaries, Start Smart, or being a confident in serious situations.
“When women come here and disclose that they’ve been raped here on campus or sexually assaulted, I’m able to get them the help that they need to help them succeed, graduate and feel supported while they are here during that time,” she said unwaveringly.
To remain courageous within, Scales is driven by the “little bitty tidbits of ‘you’ve helped me.’” For example, she helped a child abuse victim who went on to email her that she was going to college.
With a huge smile and an energetic demeanor, it is hard to imagine her feeling burned out or stressed. She explained she is happy “by choice.”
“I think I’ve done this long enough that I’ve learned … not to take [the stresses of work] home; I literally trained myself. At lunch time, you may find me closing my door, eating my lunch and just watching my favorite show to de-stress,” she said, gesturing to her computer that had emails pinging in every few minutes.
With these tactics and her passion for social good, Scales takes on the challenge of helping others.
Scales has always had the greater good in mind. As a child living in Berkeley, Calif., Scales and her parents have always been “big into church and assisting people” through donating clothes and working at soup kitchens.
“It doesn’t surprise me that I’m in the field that I’m in because I knew whatever field I wanted to go into I wanted to bring awareness in some kind of way or assistance to help human nature. That’s always been a part of me,” she said, punctuating each word confidently.
She goes one step further by volunteering or serving on the boards of multiple community projects, such as The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Her mother and father not only rooted her interest in social good, but also in gender equality. Growing up in liberal Berkeley in the 1970s, Scales saw her mother become an activist for women’s rights.
“That was one of the things that sparked it,” Scales said, with a light behind her eyes. “My mother will tell you in a heartbeat … ‘You can do that, too,’ ‘What do you want to do?’”
Her father and mother pushed her with the understanding that she could do anything regardless of her gender. The idea has spread into her own parenting of seven-year-old son, Isaiah.
“I teach him respect, respect, respect,” she said, mentioning her niece is part in that as well. “[I tell him], she can do anything you can do, and guess what, you can do what she can do as well, and you guys are equal on those planes.”
She considers herself not only a feminist, but also something much more than that — an advocate.
Her advocacy comes in the form of knowledge, which she cites as “the key” to not only power but empowerment.
“If people don’t know, then they won’t do anything about it, but if they know and have knowledge about it, they know how to address it,” she said.
She instills this in her niece and the students who walk in her office, with something as simple as the idea that women should know their own identity without makeup and dresses to complete it.
“You can wear whatever you want to wear and still be a woman,” Scales said passionately. “And a successful one.”
Scales ensures the Center is a place for all students to feel supported.
Committed to bringing “social change, knowledge and awareness to the community around social welfare issues,” Scales launched a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an annual rape awareness walk for men participants and Start Smart at the campus.
“One of the things I want to leave here is programming and events that brought awareness to what women go through and how we can succeed as women … placing the tools in front of women,” she said.
Some of the tools are in the form of inspiration, for example, the Women’s History Month schedule of events.
“It’s so important for us to honor women — for those trailblazers like Anne Sullivan, Sojourner Truth, Sally Ride — those women who have forged the way for us today. To recognize those women that have done great things that has brought us here. And also to honor the great things women are doing here currently on campus,” she said, tapping the small button pinned on her shirt of Sojourner Truth, this year’s honoree.
Scales is one of those women we should honor, too.
March does not conclude Scales commitment to social justice nor does it conclude the efforts on behalf of the June Anderson Center.
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