April 29, 2014

WICE Volunteers: Spotlight on Jill Bourdais

For the WICE Blog’s Up Close and Personal series, long term Member and Volunteer, Jill Bourdais, discusses the origins of WICE and shares her experiences  as the organization has evolved over the years.

Jill receiving flowers at a Gala from Carol Allen, a former WICE President.
Originally, WICE was formed in the late 1970’s with a mission of expanding career opportunities for women.  As the women’s rights movement made strides and gains in the US, many of the English speaking women in Paris were trailing spouses, who remained isolated from these progressive changes.   WICE grew out of this need for women in Paris to join the battle for equal rights and to learn the steps and tools that they needed to get into the work force.

A WICE member painted the mural pictured 
in the former WICE Office's inner courtyard
Before today’s conveniences of the internet, home computers and printers, and smart phones, WICE offered a goldmine of career information and support for its members.   Women could easily go to the WICE office with its resource center and learn resume writing, interviewing skills, French, getting working papers, job hunting, and other skills such as starting a business.  Jill began volunteering for WICE during these early years because she really wanted to help other women learn what they needed to improve their lives in Paris.

Over the years, WICE’s purpose and mission gradually changed.  As WICE grew more successful, culture-based courses, such as Art History, French History, and Creative Writing, were added to the career-based curriculum.   As these courses grew in popularity, WICE opened up to men and began to serve the entire Anglophone expat community in Paris.    Simultaneously, the world changed too.  With the proliferation of personal computers and widespread internet access, it was no longer necessary for people to seek out a resource center for information.   Information that had been previously difficult to obtain, now became available at a click of the mouse.   As it also became easier for women to find jobs and pursue their careers, WICE’s focus on career development for women was no longer a priority.
Today, WICE’s mission has evolved to providing cultural education and social events to its members.

A WICE member created this view of
the former WICE Office
Volunteering for WICE has been a rewarding experience for Jill.  It’s exciting for her to take on responsibility and be useful to the organization.  Jill has seen and been involved with many changes in the organization, such as separating from the American University in Paris, moving office locations, and implementing and ultimately discontinuing the TEFL certification program.   But among the highlights of her experiences with WICE were the Gala events that were held in the ‘90s.  Held in prestigious locations like the George V hotel or the Automobile Club de France, these annual Galas were the premier fundraising events for WICE.  One year’s theme was a Celebrity Auction where people could bid for personal items of famous stars, such as their shoes, bags, or articles of clothing.   Jill really enjoys being a part of an organization that has helped so many people throughout the years.  In addition to the members learning valuable skills, many volunteers and instructors have been able to use their experience at WICE to further their own careers.

Jill’s long term commitment as a WICE volunteer has led her to hold various positions within the organization, such as President, Board Member, Vice-President, Program Coordinator, and Membership Director.  With these experiences under her belt, Jill provides an invaluable source of history of the organization, and gives astute insight to decisions affecting the future of WICE.  For Jill, an additional benefit of volunteering for WICE has been the aspect of teamwork which led her to create many lasting friendships. 
WICE volunteers enjoying Spring Launch 2014

***Want to join WICE's dynamic team of Volunteers?   
Check out all of the available positions here: wice-paris.org/volunteer

Post by Veronica Kugler