YSU Revisits Women’s Center Idea with New Initiative: Part Two

By Elizabeth Lehman

As the Youngstown State University Women and Gender Resource Initiative progresses toward becoming a center on campus, Megan List, assistant professor of teacher education, has been hired as interim director for the center.

Provost Martin Abraham said List was recommended for the role by her colleagues.

“As it became clear that we needed an interim director to get this initiative underway, I talked with her about her interest and vision for what this could be,” Abraham said. “I agreed with her vision so offered her the opportunity.”

List teaches an LGBTQ issues course on campus and has an undergraduate degree in history and social studies. Being a transgender woman, List has been interested in gender since she was young.

Michael Jerryson, associate professor of religious studies at YSU, announced List’s hiring as director in a recent email to colleagues. In the email Jerryson said List is, to his knowledge, the first transgender director of a women’s center in Ohio.

List said trans identity is not widely accepted in the Mahoning Valley, largely due to unrealistic mainstream portrayals of transgender individuals.

“I mean, if we look at the TV, who do we see on TV? We see ‘Law & Order,’ we see trans women prostitutes and drug users and murderers,” List said. “And then if we go into reality, kind of our spokesperson right now is Caitlyn Jenner … She is this super affluent, super privileged individual who was able to transition through a lot of money. Most trans women don’t have that kind of funding.”

List said because many people are only exposed to the fringe of the trans demographic, they believe everyone is like that.

“I like to be out for that reason,” List said. “I’m much more Midwestern housewife than Caitlyn Jenner … We’re just your regular, average family.”

List said the prospective women’s center will work to finding ways to help students feel safe on campus and will help fill holes where need meets reality.

“Right now we do have a lot of procedures and things in place on campus to take care of things, but it’s not necessarily clear what students should do in any given situation,” List said.

Whether a student feels they are being stalked, discriminated against, or if they are dealing with suicidal thoughts, crisis or sexual assault, the center will help address these issues, she said. The center will work with other departments to coordinate resources as well.

Linda Tessier, extended teaching service faculty of philosophy and religious studies, was, at one point, the director of women’s studies and also director of a previous women’s center on campus.

Tessier said by hiring an academic faculty member as director instead of someone with student services experience from outside campus, the university is trying to save money. She said although she is sure the faculty member will do an excellent job, a faculty member does not have the student services training that is part of the role.

“The director will have to learn on the fly, just as I did, and if my experience is any guide, the director will have to do it with virtually no support, except from all the other hard-working faculty members who have continued the struggle to support both women’s studies and the women’s center,” Tessier said.

Abraham supports List as director and said he hopes people within YSU and also in the community will support her as she develops her vision for the center.

“I need someone to help us build a vision that is appropriate for the future of the university. I believe that Dr. List has those qualifications and fully support her efforts,” Abraham said.

List said in December, everyone involved in the process will evaluate whether or not they need to shift titles or roles.

“And then the work is going to continue through the spring,” List said.

Abraham said the administration is prepared to increase its investment in the project and see it expand. He said he is committed to its success, and will work with List and the team she assembles to help them to achieve their goals. He said the administration will put resources into activities as needed.

“I fully expect this to become a vibrant university center, something of which the entire Youngstown community can be proud,” Abraham said.