1. List some of your awards, achievements, honors you would like to highlight.
- Columbus Business First Champion of Healthcare Award, 2017
- Columbus CEO Healthcare Achievement Award, Executive Finalist of the Year, 2017
- Columbus Business First Forty Under 40 Awardee, 2013
- OSU College of Social Work Alumni Spotlight, 2103
- Stonewall Columbus Pride: Allies & Equality, Honored Ally, 2012
- Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Rio Grande, 2011
- Fellow with the Fellowships in Arts and Culture: The Next Generation of Leaders, 2009-10
- Lifetime Achievement, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Region V, 2010
- Social Worker of the Year, Ohio Chapter National Association of Social Workers Region V, 2007
- Staff of the Year Award, Columbus AIDS Task Force, 2002, 2008
2. What made you choose to pursue a college education at Rio Grande?
I wanted to attend a school that was more intimate and allowed me to easily acclimate into college culture. I graduated high school with a class of 72 students, and a small campus was appealing to me for my undergraduate program. I was very fortunate to be awarded an Atwood scholarship which paid for the majority of my tuition. I remember being told that I wasn’t going to go to college primarily because of the cost, At that time, the idea of college was a foreign concept. I also remember thinking “Watch me.” I’m a little stubborn.
3. How were you involved on Rio’s campus?
I lived on campus for two years, and I soaked up the independence of being away from home for the first time. I wasn’t involved with many of the organized groups on campus; however, I worked on several social justice and social work related projects which will always be where my heart lies.
4. What did Rio offer you besides an education?
Rio offered me opportunity, an amazing career, a home, a place to figure out who I was, and an open mind. I can’t say enough about how Rio gave me the space to be me and to make friends who were different than me.
5. What are some of your favorite Rio memories?
Some of my favorite memories are from the freshman dorm. Never leave someone in your room unattended should have been my motto. If you do, all your furniture will be moved to another room or all your stuff will be duct taped to the ceiling. Freshman year was amazing, fun, eye-opening, and exciting.
My more serious favorite memories are almost all around social work. I found my home in social work. The values of the professional spoke to my soul, and that has only continued to grow.
6. Was there any teacher, advisor, coach, etc. that made an impact on your life? How?
Paul Dovyak changed my world. He introduced me to social work when I didn’t even know what it was. He pushed and prodded and made us all think about biases we had, introduced ideas that most of us had never considered, and made me want to be the best social worker that I could be. He made sure we were educated on LGBT needs and had another professor who was gay talk with us. To this day, it was one of the most inspiring presentations of my life, and it opened my eyes. Since my career has been serving the LGBTQ community for a long time, I owe Paul and that professor a debt.
One of my funny stories about Paul surrounds his need to make sure we can all spell. Good lesson in hindsight. For one of our classes, we had to write the definition of generalist practice on every test, and I’m sure there 100 of them. The book definition had the word repertoire in it. He counted the definition wrong if you misspelled repertoire. I am still proud of the fact that I just used different, easier to spell words while others kept getting the answer wrong for misspelling that word!
I had several professors that expanded my world view and my understanding of who I was. Arlie Peck made me want to write better, be more creative, and just be better in general. Barry Thompson made me intrigued by his subject matter. He was so excited by the topic that I had to be excited by it. I still have this notebook that I won from a contest in his class. Ray Matura was a no-nonsense professor that fascinated me because he could take one look at you and you knew he saw through whatever thing you were trying to sell. That’s a skill.
7. What did you learn about yourself during college?
I learned who I was and who I wanted to be. I’ve always cared about helping people, being a good person, and making the world a better place, and Rio taught me how to focus my energies in a way that made sense for me. My experiences there opened my mind, taught me about human rights, educated me on true freedoms and on how hate and bias can kill a community or a country. Rio was my first home away from home.
8. Tell us about life after Rio.
After I graduated from Rio, I came to Columbus to get my get my MSW, and my internship was with the Columbus AIDS Task Force (now called Equitas Health). I’ve worked there for 20 years. I’ve spent the last 22 years working in the HIV and LGBTQ communities.
About 4 years ago, I also obtained my Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Franklin University. I hope I always remain a lifelong learner!
9. How did Rio prepare you for your career?
It gave me my life’s calling. Sounds a bit dramatic, yet true! The professors, classes, and assignments were more advanced than most undergraduate social work students get. I was incredibly lucky to have graduated from such a challenging program and from a university that taught me to be an independent thinker. I appreciate that more than anything else.
10. Why are you proud to be a Rio Alumna/Alumnus?
Rio gave me a safe space to learn and grow intellectually. I am proud that I was part of the history of Rio because I met amazing people, I learned new and exciting stuff, I was challenged to me more and to be better, I was afforded the opportunity to find my path in life, and my Rio days still make me smile.
11. Do you have any advice for current students?
Take advantage of all that Rio has to offer. Talk to professors and to other students-and not just those in your immediate sphere. Be part of campus even if you don’t live there. Participate in something. Soak up the opportunities. If you don’t have time or inclination to be all over campus networking, pick one person who inspires you. Ask them how they got there. Be intrigued. Be knowledge hungry. And find moments to laugh.
12. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Rio helped this shy girl come out of her shell. That was the miracle that I found at Rio. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.