Gift to Tech Awarded to CDAC/WST Menstrual Product Program

The CDAC/WST Menstrual Product Program, a pilot program offering free menstrual products to campus, is the 2019 Gift to Tech winner. The project will receive approximately $30,000 for programmatic support.

Gift to Tech funds come from over 6,000 Student Alumni Association (SAA) members, with $5 of every yearly membership contribution going toward Gift to Tech. The Georgia Tech student body chooses the top three project submissions, and the SAA members select the final Gift to Tech project winner. Gift to Tech is facilitated by the Georgia Tech Student Foundation.

The Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology (WST) is partnering with students involved in the Cultural Diversity and Affairs Committee (CDAC) of the Student Government Association (SGA) to establish the program.

“We were all very excited when we found out we won,” said Carol Colatrella, professor and associate dean for graduate studies, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and co-director of WST. “It really was a collaborative effort between WST and CDAC. The CDAC students were the intellectual architects of this project, with WST graduate partners leading the publicity.”

The program began to take shape when Niveda Shanmugam, William Harrer, and Alex Casado, co-chairs of CDAC and vice president of Student Life, heard from people who menstruate saying that they had trouble affording menstrual hygiene products. The three said they realized the problem was rooted in unfair gender inequality, so they decided to make a difference in this space. In turn, they led the development of the strategy, funding, execution, and logistics for the initiative to provide sustainable, biodegradable, easily accessible, and free menstrual products for the campus community.

In creating a plan, the organizers worked with a number of campus departments including Health Initiatives on a survey to gauge the need; Facilities Management regarding advice on installations, refilling, and inventory; and with Student Life and building managers to determine where to place the dispensers of menstrual products and how many are needed. CDAC identified certain buildings as likely locations for the dispensers — the Scheller College of Business, the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, Klaus Computing Building, the Student Center, and the Instructional Center.

CDAC also established a relationship with Aunt Flow, an organization that provides tampons and pads that are organic cotton, biodegradable, comfortable, and free for students on campuses across the country.

The Gift to Tech funds will cover most, if not all, of the overhead costs of the program for one year.

“At the end of this one year, we hope to have data to reflect the success of this pilot, community support, and momentum with this initiative so we can work with facilities, administration, and building managers across campus to see if we can add these products as a line item on the yearly budget,” said Shanmugam. “This is the process in most other universities that have a similar program in place, so we aim to accomplish the same at Georgia Tech!”

Aside from refining the logistical details, the organizers also hope to inspire other colleges across the Southeast as well as Tech’s peer universities to provide the same support to their students.

“We would love to serve as collaborators or mentors to such efforts, and hope to receive constructive feedback to have this program reach its full potential,” Shanmugam said.  

Getting the Word Out

WST graduate partners Katherine Bennett, Danielle Schechter, and Monica Marks collaborated with CDAC leaders Shanmugam, Harrer, and Casado to design and distribute publicity materials to help create awareness of the program among students voting on the Gift to Tech nominees.

“We integrated data and graphics from the Free the Tampons Foundation and tailored this information from the national campaign to fit the Menstrual Product Program that CDAC initiated specifically for the Tech campus,” said Bennett, who led the design team. “I worked closely with Niveda, Alex, and William to make sure that the language and graphics on our posters, flyers, monitor images, and stickers represented CDAC’s vision to bring free and sustainable menstrual products to gender-inclusive restrooms at Tech. I’m happy that our designs are truly collaborative, with equal involvement from both partners in the project,” Bennett said.

Members of WST and CDAC used the publicity materials to reach student voters through the use of social media, physical locations around campus, and tabling events before and on Giving Day.

The Gift to Tech award will be presented during a ceremony on Tuesday, April 16, at 11 a.m. in the Student Center’s Peachtree Room.

Previous Gift to Tech winners are: The LGBTQIA Resource Center, Tech Ends Suicide Together, Excel at Georgia Tech, Student Mental Health, Klemis Kitchen, GT Band, Dean Dull Endowment, and the Office of Solid Waste and Recycling.

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