On Monday, July 9, Ariel Owens joined the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) staff as the assistant director for Women and Gender Programs.
A 2016 graduate of NIU, Owens is excited to take on the position. The assistant director is responsible for supporting educational events, campus education and student-lead programming related to topics impacting women, issues related to gender equity, and overseeing GSRC events related to women and gender with an intersectional lens.
Related to these roles, Owens states, “It’s important that students at NIU are being offered programming that centers on topics relating to women and gender – for me, an essential component of my role will be to ensure that women, men, and LGBTQ students and allies – regardless of their race, class, ability levels, size, immigration status and any other salient pieces of their identity – feel represented in our programs and spaces. Students are multidimensional and our initiatives should be reflective of that complexity.”
Owens returns to NIU with a Master of Science in Education: Professional Development with an emphasis in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In her graduate assistantship role, she worked in housing, supervising undergraduate resident assistants. Owens also advised the Mixed-Race Student Union, was a teaching assistant for a “Diversity in Higher Education” graduate course and an instructor for in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program.
At NIU, Owens received a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her undergraduate student leadership experiences include serving as director of public affairs within the Student Association, being the founding president of United by Diversity, writing as a columnist for the Northern Star and serving as a community advisor. She credits her NIU experiences for her success in her graduate program and in building her enthusiasm in returning to NIU as a professional.
On her return, Owens states, “It’s a bit surreal that many of the professionals I admired as an undergraduate student are now some of my colleagues. I often credit NIU – specifically, women- and gender-related programming and spaces – for playing a large role in the development of my critical thinking, advocacy and leadership. I consider my homecoming as an extraordinary opportunity for me to serve, inspire and empower students in the same ways that I was. ‘Lift as You Climb’ is a motto that guides my life, and this role feels like the perfect way for me to do just that.”
As NIU and the GSRC prepares for the arrival of returning students and new freshmen and transfer students, Owens has jumped into her role, meeting with collaborative partners and developing plans for further outreach.
“NIU is full of talented professionals and students. I am impressed and inspired by the folks I’ve had opportunities to meet with during my first week. I am eager to continue building relationships and for collaboration among cultural centers and across campus!” Owens shared.
About Owens joining the staff, Director of GSRC Molly Holmes is also looking forward to the potential the new assistant director has. “Ariel brings a depth of experience and knowledge to this role. She has background connecting with students in the classroom and knows how to contribute to their critical thinking outside of the classroom. She is passionate about women and gender topics, and a great addition to our team.”
In alliance with the vision and mission of NIU, the GSRC acknowledges the historical impacts of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer identities. We are a home away from home for all persons, inclusive of sexual and gender identities, and all forms of masculinity and femininity.
The GSRC serves as a central location for resources and support where acceptance of intersectional identities is encouraged and celebrated. Through student leadership development, advocacy, campus and academic engagement, and professional development opportunities, we collaborate with community, state, and national partners, alumni and other stakeholders to challenge societal constructs of gender and sexuality norms and promote social justice.
Ariel Owens can be reached at [email protected] or 815-753-4772. The GSRC’s first event of the fall semester is the annual “Meet and Eat,” taking place Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 12-3 p.m. at the GSRC, 105 Normal Road.