A New Director Arrives at the Women’s Center

Alex Nemec

UW Oshkosh hired Dr. Alicia Johnson as the new director of the Women’s Center, where she will focus on women’s equality issues on campus.
Johnson just finished her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee in sport socio-cultural studies with a cognate in cultural anthropology and certificate in Women’s Studies. Half of her time will be spent as the Director, and the other half lecturing women’s studies, gender studies and kinesiology.
Johnson said she was initially applying for faculty positions, but was pleased when this job opened up.
“I thought it was a nice combination of my background as well as my education,” Johnson said. “So I pursued the job and I’m very happy to be in the position.”
Johnson said the new tagline she created for the Women’s Center, “Intersectional innovation for gender equity,” was very purposeful for her.
“The intersectional part is looking at women from a diverse perspective,” Johnson said. “Looking at things like race and sexuality and ability…. Innovation is such a broad term so we can look at it in different ways, like social innovation or trying to innovate around technology.”
Program assistant Eliza Farrow said Johnson brings energy, passion and knowledge to her position, which is going to be critical in the future development of the Women’s Center.
“My initial impression was that she is motivated, engaged, well researched and confident,” Farrow said. “She has been an amazing supervisor and has implemented many amazing ideas in her first few months here.”
Johnson said there is a great energy on campus and the leaders go beyond language.
“They’ve committed to following through with actions and are really supportive,” Johnson said.
Johnson said sexual assault and how universities deal with it are among the most common problems women face today.
“How do we help them cope after [an assault]?” Johnson asked. “It’s not the one-time incident. It’s how it carries with them for the rest of their life.”
Farrow said catcalling and modern covert sexism are prevalent throughout our campus community.
“I have been whistled and yelled at out of cars, told to smile, and been harassed for not responding to an uncomfortable comment about my appearance in the name of ‘giving me a compliment or being nice,’” Farrow said. “It’s not a compliment. It is threatening and uncomfortable.”
UWO student Jeanine Carroll said there is an equality issue when it comes to women on campuses nationwide.
“There’s definitely some issues in other places,” Carroll said. “I haven’t really seen it much here.”
Carroll said a big issue is the reduction of sentences for convicted rapists to help their school careers.
“What about the women that now their school career is ruined?” Carroll asked.
Johnson said she was impressed that UWO had a student victim advocate when she arrived.
“She’s able to walk through the entire process with the victim or survivor,” Johnson said. “That’s, I think, pretty unique. That’s a collaboration between the University and Reach Counseling.”
Johnson said the Women’s Center is excited about their new Feminist Gaming Initiative, which helps their cause to innovate around technology and remove the practice of women getting harassed online when they play games.
“It’s to provide a safe space for female gamers,” Johnson said. “Also to create community around technology and bring people of all genders together.”
Johnson said the Campus Center for Equity and Diversity is a PokéStop and that Farrow came up with the idea to give away prizes.
“We have in the trainer kits: lanyards donated by the bookstore, a granola bar, Fruit Roll-Up, and then we have water and flavor packets that go with each team color, so red, blue and yellow,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the Women’s Center has a computer lab, gaming area, feminist library with texts supporting and critiquing feminism and a study area.
“I think that’s what I want to bring as the trademark of the Women’s Center, that we’re open to everyone, not just women,” Johnson said. “We really want to create a diverse community where everyone is welcome. So I think that is how we’ll focus our programming.”
The Women’s Center has a new entrance attached to the Campus Center for Equity and Diversity and is located at the intersection of Cherry Street and Irving Avenue.