When Jake Rowe found out that she had won a Woman & Ally of Distinction award, she felt confused. Jennifer Keller had to read through the announcement email multiple times before she understood. Amanda Reichert called a professor, wondering if it was correct.
This is one of many common threads between the Woman & Ally of Distinction award winners. Being recognized was humbling for them, sometimes to the point of disbelief.
“Being an ally or supporting women doesn’t feel like something I should be recognized for,” Rowe said. “It’s how I live my life every day.”
The five winners will be honored at the Woman & Ally of Distinction Mentoring Dinner on Tuesday March 29 at 5 p.m. in the Robert M. Smith Student Center (SSC) ballroom.
Elise Michaux, winner of the alumni category, is a Council of Trustees member who also works in higher education, photography and digital design. As an SRU student, she was a student leader, and the skills she learned proved to be useful in her professional life. Now she encourages and supports current student leaders.
“It’s important to me that I foster these relationships and maintain them, because no one has done anything good by themselves,” Michaux said.
As an advocate, she strives to represent as many voices as possible, not just her own.
“It’s important for me in my professional and social life to go above and beyond and find ways to serve others,” Michaux said. “Advocacy is a great way of doing that.
“It goes such a long way to those you’re helping, and it makes impacts that sometimes you’ll never know.”
Amanda Reichert, winner of the staff & administration category, is a second-semester senior. She has a double major in psychology, and gender and diversity studies, with a minor in cognitive science. She has held many positions in the psychology and gender studies departments, as well as being on the counseling center student advisory board.
As a student leader, Reichert’s goal is to uplift and mentor other women. She has watched previous professors and mentors receive the award, and describes receiving it herself as “a full-circle moment [and] heartwarming.”
Jake Rowe, winner of the ally category, is a first-semester senior majoring in cybersecurity. To her, allyship is about rejecting hate and recognizing the value in everything.
Growing up as a transgender woman, Rowe never saw a gender barrier between herself and her female friends.
“[I see people as] who they are, and less of what they physically are,” Rowe said. “Breaking the status quo involves ignoring things like sex and gender and race.”
As a CA, she does her best to create an open environment where anyone who needs support can find it.
Achieving the award reminded Rowe that “being a woman isn’t about fitting into stereotypes or following the status quo, it’s just about being yourself.”
“No matter who you are, no one should tell you that you’re not woman enough,” Rowe commented.
Christine Pease-Hernandez, the first winner in the faculty category, is an associate professor specializing in communication and culture. She is on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) faculty development committee and is one of two advisors for the Student Organization for Latinos/Hispanics and Allies (SOL).
“As a professor of intercultural communication, I am a firm believer that the more you expose yourself to differences, whether it be traveling or meeting people from different backgrounds, the more you grow as an individual,” Hernandez said.
Living in northwestern Pennsylvania, a place that lacks diversity, it can be difficult to encourage people to learn about different cultures. To her, the process is “challenging, but gratifying” when students learn from their experiences.
Jennifer Keller, the second winner in the faculty category, is a professor and chairperson for the department of dance. Her teaching focuses on improvisation, partnering and collaborative practices. Physical and emotional safety is her top priority during class.
“I try to create spaces where students can feel comfortable with themselves and with each other,” Keller said.
She appreciates the “diversity of viewpoints, opinions and motivations” among dancers, and describes her feelings toward current and former students as “continuous admiration.”
Keller placed emphasis on her gratitude toward role models and supportive colleagues in her department and across the university; her goal is to pay it forward.
“One of the gems of Slippery Rock is the strong community that we have here,” Keller said. “It’s the students, but also all of our colleagues working together [and] I feel fortunate to be in a field where this seems to be valued.”
Many common threads unite the Woman & Ally of Distinction award winners. They make advocacy a part of their everyday lives. Many strive to be role models. All five brought up the community aspect, the networks of people who include, support and uplift each other.
“It bears repeating, no one has done anything good by themselves,” Michaux said. “You are who you surround yourself with, and I’ve done a pretty good job of curating my people.”