Q&A with Women’s Center Director Alicia Johnson

Photo Courtesy of UW Oshksoh

Alicia Johnson has been the director at the Women’s Center here at UW Oshkosh for two years. While there are many tasks and projects Johnson oversees and is a part of, her mission through her work is simple: gender equality for all people.

Q: What is your position and involvement with the Women’s Center?

I am the director here. I do a lot of advocacy and communication about the Women’s Center and the work that we do. I help develop programs and events that we put on or host in collaboration with other students and other faculty and staff. That is always really fun. I do a lot of mentoring students in terms of career development, or if they are curious about gender issues. We have a lot of conversations about that, which are always great and fun. It is one of the best parts. I also work with the administration to see where they can improve in gender equity.

Q: What is your favorite part of your position?

I really enjoy watching students grow in their understanding in how gender impacts our everyday life. What I really love and appreciate is how it is not just women asking these questions. Working with students and seeing their success and growth and being part of an entire journey, instead of just seeing the end results, is my favorite part of my position.”

Q: What kind of programs does the Women’s Center put on?

We put on a wide variety of programs about challenging gender norms. This week, with it being President’s Day, we are discussing masculinity of the Oval Office. Our program [Women of Color] Ally Wednesday helps people grow in their alliance with African American women on campus and other groups of women of color. A lot of our programs cover popular culture portrayal of sexual violence in the mass media and trans women on TV.

Q: What purpose does the Women’s Center hope to have at UWO?

Thinking about it structurally, we are housed under the Division of Academic Support of Inclusive Excellence, so we are a part of academic affairs. I think that is great because we get to raise awareness of different gender issues but also advocate how this impacts academics. For example, one thing we are trying to help people understand is how toxic masculinity impacts academic success for those who identify as men because they are less likely to ask for help and are too late to recover academically. We had put on this workshop last semester on supporting survivors of sexual violence in the classroom. This semester we are doing a workshop on how to support student parents.”

Q: What about the Women’s Center are you most proud of?

One of things I am most proud of is seeing our Feminist Gaming Initiative start to grow and starting to see an inclusive space to discuss these issues while creating a safe space.

Q: With all the recent revelations that have come out from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the sexual assault cases at UWO, what steps can UWO take in bettering themselves?

I think the administration has been approaching this in a proactive way; I am optimistic they are doing so. Since UWO is part of the UW System, we aren’t at liberty to [change policies]. I know that UWO is focused on making all incoming students have to do sexual violence training working online. I know that the University is reviewing the policies, consensual relationship policy and sexual violence policy. They are looking for anyone to give feedback. Not that there isn’t any areas of improvement, but I believe that the leadership here is doing a good job.

Q: Do you think there are many women at UWO who are afraid to come forward about sexual assault cases?

Yes, I think so because it is a global issue still. There is a lot of rape culture still happening on college campuses. [Victims] decisions to disclose information to our campus isn’t easy, and the only way it will get better is if we support them and listen to the ones who do come forward. However, I don’t want survivors to be the ones to always to lead the conversation.

Q: Have you found an increase in participation at the Women’s Center over the years you have been here?

Yeah, we have grown a bit in the time I have been here. We have been collaborating with classes for quest three. Students have learned more about what we do in their classes and have remained engaged in the Women’s Center after they are finished with the class.

Q: What should any college student know about the Women’s Center that you don’t think they know?

All people of all genders are welcomed here. We can’t create change unless we have all genders seeing eye to eye. We want gender equality for all people.”

Q: What event or program are you looking forward to the most?

“Can I say all of them? Because I think there is something I learn at every event, even though I am the one planning them. I get excited to learn from all of them.”