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More than 300 OHIO women participate in group photos (PHOTO ESSAY)


Tuesday, June 23, marked a historic day at Ohio University as a segment of the Bobcat family gathered to celebrate a tie that binds them all together – their pride in being OHIO women employed at the University.

More than 300 women who work on the Athens Campus answered the call to participate in a celebratory group photo of female faculty and staff that will be featured as an online supplement to the summer print edition of Ohio Today magazine, themed “OHIO women.” Event organizers were overwhelmed by the response, especially since many faculty and staff take advantage of the summer months to conduct research off campus and to travel. According to OHIO’s Office of Institutional Research, there were 2,214 women employed on the Athens Campus in the fall of 2014. Based on that number, the women who participated in the photo shoot represent nearly 14 percent of the campus’entire female employee pool.

And, the pride shared by the women on the Athens Campus was matched by those at the University’s regional campuses, nearly all of which organized their own OHIO women photo shoots.

“What a party!” said Pete Szatmary, editor of Ohio Today. “We’re ecstatic but not surprised by the number of women on the Athens Campus and scores of others on the regional campuses who honored the green sisterhood. That these women took time from their day to engage – in the summer and when it rained for part of the day of the shoot on the Athens Campus – speaks to the goodwill and collaboration they bring to OHIO.”

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Eleni Zulia, associate director of annual giving at the Ohio University Alumni Association, prepares one of the check-in tables at the Schoonover Center prior to the ohiowomen photo shoot, which was held in front of the iconic Class Gateway on the Athens Campus.

The photo shoot was hosted by ohiowomen, an initiative designed to build upon OHIO’s former Women in Philanthropy program. The ohiowomen initiative launched this past spring, and last Tuesday’s photo shoot marked one of the initiative’s very first events.

ohiowomen is working to engage all women affiliated with OHIO: alumnae, faculty, staff, students, emeriti,” explained Ann Brown, assistant director of special initiatives at University Advancement. “We hope to support and encourage new connections and relationships between OHIO women, and between them and the University. We want to acknowledge the contributions of our diverse, interesting and dynamic women; to honor and celebrate them; and to connect OHIO women to share their experiences and knowledge.”

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Several OHIO women from the Athens Campus and wearing special T-shirts provided by Ohio Today walk to the Schoonover Center to participate in the ohiowomen photo shoot. Many of them carried umbrellas as rain that fell shortly before the start of the photo shoot threatened to move the festivities indoors.

“The photo shoot on Tuesday was an affirmation of the interest and need for this program,” Brown continued. “The level of excitement and enthusiasm was electric. A number of women told me how they felt empowered by the experience. This is what we want: engagement, connection, supporting one another, community.”

And community there was as female employees from every corner of the Athens Campus – from faculty members to administrative staff to classified employees – gathered in OHIO’s Schoonover Center prior to the photo shoot to socialize, celebrate and enjoy refreshments. The women filled the center’s lobby, reconnecting with one another, snapping selfies and group photos, and filling in message bubbles on T-shirts provided by Ohio Today and worn during the photo shoot.

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Athens Campus ohiowomen gather in the lobby of the Schoonover Center to socialize and enjoy some refreshments prior to the start of the photo shoot.
 
The T-shirts proclaimed “I’m an ohiowoman” with a blank message bubble beneath the text, allowing the women who participated in the photo shoot to write a word or phrase that best described them. Messages ranged from the titles they hold professionally to other descriptors, such as “beautiful,” “banshee,” “survivor,” “chief cook and bottle washer,” “sassy,” “healer,” “global thinker,” “team player” and “feminist,” Szatmary noted.

Dawn Hill chose a simple three-letter word, but one that carries a lot of meaning, for her T-shirt: “Mom.”

“That’s my No. 1 priority,” explained Hill, who has been employed at OHIO for three years and serves as an administrative services associate in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Office of Institutional Assessment and Accreditation.

A mother of five, Hill added, “I love the fact that working here allows me to balance my home and my work life. … Ohio University allows me to have a great job, pursue a wonderful career, work in a great place, but it still allows me to pursue my No. 1 interest in my life, and that’s being a mom to my kids.”

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Myca Haynes, assistant director of development in gift planning, helps a fellow OHIO woman fill out the message bubble on the T-shirts provided by Ohio Today for the photo shoot.

Alicia Boards penned several words on her shirt, including “mom,” “leader,” “advocate” and “educator” – all surrounding the word “phenomenally.” An assistant director for multicultural programs at the Heritage College, Boards noted the influence Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” has had on her life.

“That’s something that’s always been in the back of my head and has empowered me throughout my journey through school, through career, being a mother,” she said. “OHIO has given me a lot. I’ve been here eight years. It’s where I’ve grown up as a professional, as a woman and as a mother, and I’m going to continue that journey through obtaining my doctoral degree. I have to give OHIO credit for that because I’ve learned so much from being here in Ohio and at Ohio University and being surrounded by women who have their PhDs, who are great mothers, who are great leaders, who are great advocates.”

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As the activity moved from the Schoonover Center to the Class Gateway, OHIO women could be seen taking selfies, group photos and individual photos prior to the official group photo shoot.

Jessica Henry, a third-year doctoral student in the counselor education and supervision program at the Patton College of Education who works as a graduate research assistant in the dean’s office at the college, used her T-shirt to share her personal story.

“I am an OHIO woman with multiple sclerosis,” Henry explained, noting that after being diagnosed in 2012, she was told she would not be able to persevere through a doctoral program. It was a challenge she met. “I will be Dr. Jessica in less than a year, hopefully,” she said.

Henry noted the many reasons she’s enjoyed her time at OHIO, which she described as the most historic campus she’s ever seen, full of beauty and culture.

“I came out today (for) the opportunity to be with other women who are fighters,” she said. “An OHIO woman stands for being courageous and being willing to fight and work for the community. … We make OHIO what it is because of the work that we do, by our culture, by our devotion to each other as a community, and that’s why I wanted to come out today – to be with other women who thought the same.”

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These OHIO women take a moment to smile for the camera.

That sense of community and of pride in being a part of the OHIO family is what drew many women to this first-of-its-kind event.

“I have pride in Athens and Ohio University and our jobs. We love our jobs,” explained Lula Ford, an Athens native who has been employed for 15 years as a baker at OHIO’s Central Food Facility. “The campus is a place where everybody wants to come back to; once you’ve graduated or you’ve worked here, you always gravitate back here.”

Ford mentioned a particular source of OHIO pride that she carries, noting that she and her significant other have received domestic partner benefits through the University for the past nine years – something, she said, that is not very common in Ohio.

“But the laws are changing, and Ohio University is very progressive,” she added, noting that she and her partner recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to be married.

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(From left) Erika Peyton and Erin Morgenstern who both work in OHIO’s Career and Leadership Development Center stop to take a selfie.

An OHIO alumna who now works at the University, Suzette Wells had double the reason for attending Tuesday’s photo shoot.

“What a great way to show our pride in being a part of the University,” Wells, a 2009 graduate of the Patton College who serves as an academic services coordinator in eLearning, said. “To be an OHIO woman is a great thing. ... Being a graduate from here, it’s a great thing to be able to come back and work for the University. You go to school here and you take pride in it, so it’s a great opportunity to be able to come back and work and help make a difference in the lives of others who go to school here.”

“OHIO is a very special place,” added another OHIO graduate, LeaAnne Keirns, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish last month and who has been employed for 12 years as a custodian with Dining Services. “I really enjoy working here at the University.”

Becky Caesar is looking ahead to next March when she plans on retiring from the University after working for nearly 35 years as an administrative services associate in University Advancement. When asked why she chose to participate in the photo shoot, this third-generation OHIO employee and proud mother of a Bobcat said, “To be with all the ladies at the University – pretty exciting!”

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Ann Brown, assistant director of special initiatives at University Advancement, uses a bullhorn borrowed from OHIO’s Marching 110 to direct the more than 300 women who participated in the ohiowomen photo shoot.

The excitement of the day extended to the individuals who helped to organize and facilitate the photo shoot.

“I’ve worked at OHIO for 15 years and have always enjoyed those moments when we’ve paused to come together to celebrate: the Administrative Service Awards, Founder’s Day, the faculty and staff appreciation events,” said Jenn Bowie, executive director of communication and marketing for University Advancement and an OHIO alumna. “This photo shoot feels, to me, like one more chance to come together and to celebrate the work that we do for OHIO and for our students.

“I hope that the women who participated walk away from the photo shoot with a sense of encouragement and of community, and of pride in Ohio University,” Bowie continued. “I hope that we can build on the momentum of this moment to share great stories about the work women are doing at OHIO – students, faculty and staff, alumni and friends – and to come together for future ohiowomen events.”

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The more than 300 women who work on the Athens Campus and who participated in the photo shoot arrange themselves for the official group photo.

“When we picked the theme for the summer edition, ‘OHIO women,’ one element I felt important to include was a tribute to female employees, who comprise more than half of the University workforce,” Szatmary said. “A fun idea became a cherished moment – for us, yes, but even more vitally, for the participants.”

OHIO women can expect more cherished moments to come as the ohiowomen initiative is in the process of planning several events and programs to engage, connect and support all female Bobcats. Plans include quarterly newsletters and a new stand-alone publication, ohiowomen, both designed to showcase OHIO women and their accomplishments; local and regional events that will highlight interesting and topical programs focusing on women and their interests and needs; and identifying women for University award and board nominations.

“We want to make sure that we value and build on the strong foundation of our Women in Philanthropy program, but that we carry it forward to a new level, a new concept and a new program,” noted Brown. “We are thrilled at the outcome of the photo shoot and look forward to continuing the momentum and continuing the connection.”

“The summer 2015 Ohio Today theme of ‘OHIO women’ paints an even fuller portrait of female Bobcats thanks to the hundreds of colleagues who wore their special T-shirts and communed with each other, laughing and hugging and visiting,” said Szatmary. “They whooped after the last click of the camera – with good reason. History was made.”

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Pictured is a small segment of the more than 300 women featured in the ohiowomen photo shoot, with Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones at the center. The entire image will be available later this summer.

The fruits of Tuesday’s efforts – the group photos taken on OHIO campuses throughout the state – will all appear as online complements to the upcoming print edition of Ohio Today, which will be released this summer. Stay tuned for the photos at http://www.ohio.edu/ohiotoday/.

A colorful and collective celebration

By Peter Szatmary

“We want to be part of history,” proclaimed Susie Abbott, a records management specialist in student services in the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University.  

“Anything that promotes women is a priority for me. And when you play a part at an institution, you must stand up,” explained Beatrice Selotlegeng, MBA ’08, academic advisor and director of the Junior Executive Business Program for Diverse Students in the College of Business.  

“I was born and raised in Athens. I went to OHIO for both my degrees. I’m very proud of my University,” added Mary Beth Brown, BFA ’94, MS ’06, head academic advisor for the School of Nursing.

More than 300 female staff and faculty praised their gender and supported their school when convening at the iconic Class Gateway on Tuesday, June 23, for a one-of-a-kind event: a celebratory group photo of female Bobcats who work at the University. Regional campuses also participated from their sites.

 
The mass portraits of OHIO women will appear as online complements to the summer print edition of Ohio Today, themed “OHIO women” and featuring a photo of women in senior leadership roles at the University. The school’s new philanthropic and support initiative ohiowomen hosted the Athens Campus shoot and provided refreshments. Ohio Today distributed free T-shirts, emblazoned with the logo, “I’m an ohiowoman” for attendees to wear at all campus shoots. Participants were asked to tag themselves in the online photo at the Athens Campus shoot, and participants at all campuses could answer an optional question online: What do they like about working at OHIO?

Muggy heat—86 F when the camera clicked—didn’t deter participants at the Athens Campus, nor did overcast skies early in the morning and rain around the scheduled start. Women toted umbrellas. A downpour that threatened to move the photo location indoors ceased. More than one attendee thanked Mother Nature.

Women had arrived by themselves, in pairs, and as small groups for the 30-minute shoot. Some showed up in advance to visit; others hurried last-minute. Smiles and hugs abounded. Tears of joy also trickled down several cheeks. People took selfies and video. Chat in the lobby of the Schoonover Center—where T-shirts were distributed and lemonade and cookies served—reverberated to such a decibel that ears rang. Several men checked things out with looks that appeared quizzical, amused or interested.

More than 300 women—out of approximately 2,200 female OHIO employees on the Athens Campus—registered for the commemoration. T-shirts were delivered in advance, with some shirts slated to be given out at the Schoonover Center and others kept in reserve for those who forgot to register or just got wind of the bash. Millennials to Boomers, the next generation to the eternally young, all spanning backgrounds and ethnicities, smiled for the camera.

Some women came wearing their T-shirts; others changed on the spot, not only in bathrooms but also in public amid the sea of gatherers. The single-color pastel tops—think a personified bag of Bobcat Skittles—included a blank circle in the middle in which women were encouraged (but not required) to write a message. Lots of participants did their calligraphy beforehand, appearing with the motto already written, or even drawn. Others penned in right then and there. Or their de facto sisters did so for them. Notes ranged from “feminist” and “mom” to “creative” and “visionary” to “sassy” and “beautiful” to “doc specialist” and “academic coordinator.”  

A quartet of four work friends confabbed outside the Schoonover Center after picking up their T-shirts a few hours prior to the hoopla. Paula Morrison, administrative associate for the film division, held up her green T-shirt. “Isn’t that the best color in the world?” she said. “I came because of the University collaboration, bringing everyone together.”

Barbara Fiocchi, assistant to the director of development at University Libraries and a former employee in dance, film and theater, agreed. “This is a really awesome positive idea to show how many women really run OHIO,” she said.

Fiocchi walked a miniature Schnauzer, “my ex-boss’ dog.” She and Morrison exchanged pleasantries with Debbie McAdoo, assistant to the director of dance, who joked that she said yes for the free T-shirt, and Treva Nichols, an accounting specialist for theater.

At another juncture, Myca Haynes, assistant director of development, gift planning, in University Advancement, wrote “inspired” on her T-shirt. The fourth-generation OHIO employee, who assisted at the T-shirt booth before the shoot, intended to—and did—stand next to her mother, Jan Haynes, administrative coordinator for the dean of students, for the pose.

Parul Jain, an assistant professor in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, thought a T-shirt hadn’t been delivered to her in advance and got a replacement in the Schoonover lobby. Turns out, the original had been sent and was in her office. She returned the second, even when told she could keep both for upholding the honor system.

“I’m relatively new here,” she said about her motivation to attend. “I’m a Buckeye. But still. It’s an Ohio women thing!” She mulled two options to write on her T-shirt: “Athens rocks” or “Scripps School is awesome.”

Suzanne Roberts Borchard, BFA ’74, MEd ’88, youth outreach supervisor at WOUB Public Media, went home to change into pants because she had worn a dress. “It’s a neat thing to honor all these women,” she said.

And Sarah Vaughn, BA ’09, CERT ’09, MPA ’12, assistant director of external relations for the Ohio University Alumni Association, chose “swammer” for her T-shirt mark—she swam for the University for four years. “I see women in power and women being empowered,” she observed. “This is another great first step for ohiowomen.”

Senior University photographer Ben Siegel, BSVC ’02, took the ballyhooed photo. He stood on a ladder because the weather made a bucket truck too dangerous to use. Ohio Today art director Sarah McDowell, BFA ’02, provided input. And the Marching 110 lent its megaphone.

The crowd cheered at the final of the many shots taken. After the session, some participants went on their way, waving goodbye. Many others lingered, continuing to congregate for a bit.

Peter Szatmary is editor of Ohio Today magazine.