Pomerene Hall: A piece of women's history

By Alyssa Schafer

As you take a walk around the Historic Mirror Lake District, it’s hard to miss the beauty that surrounds it. The nostalgic stone steps of Browning Amphitheater, the picturesque grotto and flawless landscape, and of course, the historic Pomerene Hall.

The building’s first years of use in the early-mid 1900s catered mostly to the female students of the University and served as their gym and student union. As the number of women grew on campus, however, so did their desire to have more space. It was soon recognized that one single “Gab Room,” or social room in University Hall, was not going to accommodate for their growing population. Thus, in the year 1917, the Women’s Council stood before the board of trustees and sought money for the construction of a new women’s building. This building became Pomerene.

Howard Dwight Smith, an architecture professor at the time, designed Pomerene and the building was constructed in two phases. The 1922 portion contained a gymnasium, where women’s physical education classes were held, and gathering rooms. The second phase was started in 1927 and added a kitchen, natatorium, lounges, and refectory.

Following the construction of the Ohio Union in 1951, Pomerene Hall lost most of its original functions and purpose, but many of the women’s physical education classes were held there until the late 1970s.

Many years later, it is now home to the University’s state-of-the-art analytics hub, the home of the data analytics major, and the Translational Data Analytics Institute that comprises two floors of the building. Although its main purpose isn’t to serve the women of Ohio State, there is still significance to female students.

One student organization on campus has been granted a designated space inside of the Translational Data Analytics Institute: the Big Data and Analytics Association.

BDAA Vice President Elizabeth Gilbert

Their vice president, junior Elizabeth Gilbert, can’t help but show her pride to be a woman in big data as she emphasizes, “Being actively mindful about supporting other women in analytics and taking initiative for myself is and has been an important part of my experience in analytics.” With six women serving on their executive board, it is clear that a female’s role in analytics has become an essential part of a cohesive group.

Unmistakably, the multi-million-dollar renovation to the space has not erased the impactful history that started when the women of Ohio State wanted to have their own space on campus. Female students have still found a way to have leadership as a result of the events that take place in Pomerene. Gilbert goes on to note, “The space has allowed us to host social and career fair events at a central location and…has led to significant attraction for student and company engagement.” BDAA’s former president, Rehgan Avon, founded the BDAA Career Fair, which is now in its 6th year, and later went on to establish the Women In Analytics conference that is held downtown Columbus.

As the years have passed one thing holds true for the women of Pomerene Hall: they never stop pushing their boundaries to work towards a bigger cause.

Alyssa Schafer is a student employee of the Translational Data Analytics Institute.

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