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Women’s Circle originated through a partnership between The Ohio State University (OSU) Honors & Scholars Center and the Girls Circle Association.
OSU implemented a service learning project using the Girls Circle model. College women who were facilitating the circles for girls in their local communities began to participate in their own Women’s Circles using the same format and were convinced by the impact. A team of six OSU staff with Master’s Degrees in Higher Education & Student Affairs and Counseling partnered with the Girls Circle Association to present the Women’s Circle activity guides now available for women everywhere.
Girls Circle Association’s passion and purpose to promote girls’ resiliency, confidence, and connection
is now proudly expanding to offer
gender responsive programs for women!
An Integration of Relational-Cultural and Student Development Theories DOWNLOAD THE PDF VERSION
Women's Circles promote women’s growth and development. The circle itself positions each woman in equal relationship to each other in recognition that empathic relationships and inherent connectedness are the key factors in healthy growth and development. Women’s Circles represent an integration of theories of development that rest upon and are encompassed within Relational-Cultural theory, which recognizes that "people grow through and toward relationships throughout the lifespani".
Healthy relationships are at the core of human development from a Relational-Cultural perspective. “People need to be in connection in order to change, open up, shift, transform, heal and grow”ii (Jordan & Hartling, 2002). Relational-Cultural theory emphasizes empathic, caring relationships as dynamic processes that build health and wellness. These processes begin with a bond between people that develops through attentive and empathic listening.
When women come together in Women’s Circle to share, listen actively, and participate in gender-relevant activities and discussions, the bonds they form are a foundation for their continuing growth across all developmental domains including: physical, intellectual, relational, social-emotional, occupational and spiritual development. Where genuine connections form, women’s capacities increase in skills including authentic exploration, self-expression, risk-taking, reflection, as well as interpersonal skills.
Upon this foundation of healthy connections, Women’s Circle developers have integrated and applied the recognized student development theories and theorists when selecting themes, activities, exercises, and discussions.
An Overview of Student Development Theories
By Susannah M. Turner, Office of Student Life, The Ohio State University
Women students between the ages of 18 and 24 develop in many ways during their college and life experiences.
We may not know for years that a single lecture or conversation or experience started a chain reaction that transformed some aspect of ourselves. We cannot easily discern what subtle mix of people, books, settings, or events promotes growth. Nor can we easily name changes in ways of thinking, feeling, or interpreting the world. But we can observe behavior and record words, both of which can reveal shifts from hunch to analysis, from simple to complex perceptions, from divisive bias to compassionate understanding. Theory can give us the lenses to see these changes and help them along.
For further explanation on the student development theories and theorists utilized, please click on any of the links below.
- The Seven Vectors, Arthur Chickering
- Women's Ways of Knowing, Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule
- Identity Formation (Majority-Minority; Racial-Cultural; Sexual Orientation, etc.), Multiple theorists including G. R. Atkinson et al, Cass, Poston, Helm's, Root, etc.)
- Cognitive Theory of Development, William Perry
Women’s Circle curricula utilize these theoretical models in conjunction with an ongoing attention to: a) the quality of the relational experiences among the circle participants, and b) an exploration of how the participants’ various beliefs, emotions, behaviors and connections impact their relationships, and c) what impact their relationship experiences have on their beliefs, emotions and behaviors.
Relational-Cultural theory asserts that it is through mutual empathic connection that growth is set into motion. In this way, development in the areas of competence, integrity, emotional regulation, purpose, interpersonal relationships, use of voice, inner and outer knowing, sense of self and other, identity development with respect to ethnicity and culture, gender identification and sexual orientation, and cognitive development are fostered and supported in Women’s Circles.
[ii] Jordan, J.V., & Hartling, L.M., (2002). New developments in relational-cultural theory. In M. Ballou & L.S. Brown (Eds.), Rethinking Mental Health and Disorders: Feminist Perspectives (pp.48-70.) New York: Guilford Publications.
2011-2012. Sponsored by the University Honors & Scholars Center
||The Girls Circle Project at Ohio State is a service-based, year-long immersion project that trains college women to become Girls Circle facilitators and run Girls Circles in Columbus-area schools or agencies with middle or high school-aged girls.
This project gives college women the opportunity to grow, learn, and challenge themselves through training, facilitation, and experiences working with adolescent and teenage girls.
Sessions on access education, diversity issues, and learning to manage group dynamics are all parts of training for The Girls Circle Project. Research opportunities are also available as part of this experience.
The experience is limited to 24 – 30 women each year. Requirements of Girls Circle Project Participants:
1. Participate in a 2-hour Women’s Circle facilitated by an OSU staff member who is a certified Girls Circle facilitator.
2. Participate in the 2-day Girls Circle Facilitator Training in December – most likely the Friday and Saturday of finals week.
3. Meet every 3 weeks for additional training sessions that will further prepare the women for the types of girls they will be working with in Girls Circles in the Columbus area during Winter and Spring Quarters (the service component piece)
1. Meet every 3 weeks for group reflections and/or applicable presentations
2. Placement in and facilitation of a Girls Circles in a Columbus schools and agencies
1. Take service learning course associated with The Girls Circle Project (Women’s Studies 389)
2. Continue running Girls Circles in assigned school or agency
3. Continue to meet in circles to process experiences
On average this will be a 3 – 6 hour time commitment each week (3 in the Fall; 4 - 6 in the Winter and 4 - 6 in the Spring when you are actually running Girls Circles of your own).
Accomplishments of The Girls Circle Project:
Since Fall of 2008, 64 OSU college women have been trained to be Girls Circle facilitators. Since Winter of 2009, 63 Girls Circles have been run in schools and agencies in Columbus and contiguous counties
40 college women in the current pipeline to run Girls Circles:
Fall, 2010 – 5 Girls Circles running in 5 schools
Winter, 2011 – 16 Girls Circles running in 12 schools
Spring, 2011 – 18 – 20 Girls Circle running in 15 + schools
For more information on starting a similar service-learning program or implementing Women’s Circles on your campus contact:
The Ohio State University
“Women's Circle is probably one of the best things that I have ever become a part of at Ohio State.”