Q&A with Summer Steib, Director of the LSU Women’s Center
BATON ROUGE - As the director of the Women’s Center for nearly nine years, Summer Steib works to close gaps that impact women and further gender equity. In addition to that role, she also teaches Women and Gender Studies classes at LSU, serves on the University Council on Gender Equity and is a trained advocate with The Lighthouse Program.
What is the Women’s Center and who can access those resources?
Despite our name, the Women’s Center is available to all campus and community members outside of LSU. In addition to our physical location, where we hope to return to full operation soon, the Women’s Center provides programming, initiatives, resources, referrals and support related to issues impacting women. Since women make up the majority of our campus population, it is hard to find any issues impacting women that do not also impact our entire campus community.
The Women’s Center provides resources and referral information on a broad range of topics and issues. We work closely with multiple campus and community organizations that provide services for students, faculty and staff, and we will work to facilitate connections. The Center also works with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors to connect them to campus and community resources.
What are some of those programs and initiatives?
Some of our programs and initiatives include:
- The Period Project provides free emergency-use period supplies at locations across campus. We also have three locations on campus where we provide a complete change of clothing for emergency situations.
- Lactation Spaces, in collaboration with the Pregnancy & Parenting Program, are provided across campus for use by students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.
- Breakfast Break is a monthly program that takes place during the academic year that provides networking and professional development opportunities for graduate students, faculty, and staff.
- Awareness Month/Day programs for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October), Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (February), Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (February), Women’s History Month (March), Girls and Women’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March), Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) and more.
- The University Council on Gender Equity (UCGE) is a group made up of student, faculty, and staff representatives working to address issues related to gender equity at LSU.
- Safer Sex Supplies are provided at no cost at the Women’s Center. We are an approved site by the Louisiana Department of Health for condom distribution and we also provide other safer sex supplies.
- We maintain an extensive resource library at the Women’s Center with brochures, pamphlets, flyers, etc. for a wide range of campus and community partners. In addition, we have an extensive resource guide on our website that provides information for campus, local, state, national and international resources.
What is the Center's mission?
While we have a formal mission, my mission for the Women’s Center is to effectively close all existing gaps impacting women so we no longer need a Women’s Center at LSU.
Our official mission is: The LSU Women's Center, a unit under the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, promotes the advancement of women's issues and gender equality through its services, advocacy efforts, and educational programs. The Center also provides support, referral, and information to students, faculty, and staff on issues and concerns related to women.
What makes the Women’s Center unique?
There are approximately 250 Women’s Centers across U.S. campuses. Women’s Centers vary greatly from campus to campus in terms of what services they provide, who they serve, and what space they occupy. Some specifically focus on issues impacting women, some also include services for LGBTQ+ campus members, and some double as academic departments.
The LSU Women’s Center focuses on supporting students, faculty and staff with a major focus on programming/initiatives, resources, and support. The LSU Women’s Center is unique in that we are one of the few fully freestanding Women’s Centers.
As we saw in the Husch Blackwell report, there are a number of changes to be made
and work to be done, what changes do you look forward to seeing being enacted on campus?
I think that the Husch Blackwell report gives us a good foundational blueprint on how to move forward in a way that holistically centers survivors. While there any many good recommendations, many of which we have already seen implemented, I think that one of the themes that's repeated throughout the Husch Blackwell report is the need for training at all levels of the campus community. My professional background is in prevention and intervention of interpersonal trauma, with expertise in dating/domestic violence and sexual violence, and I know how critical ongoing training is for anyone who interacts with survivors.
How can we as a community work together to make LSU a better, safer, more inclusive place?
A first step to achieving this is to work with the campus community, including those who do not feel safe or included. Changing culture is incredibly challenging and it takes a dedicated commitment from the whole community to be successful.
Is there a time or experience at LSU that stands out to you?
One of the things that I love and appreciate about LSU is that there are opportunities for growth and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. So, with that in mind, I will share a few highlights of my time at LSU.
In April of 2013 we moved into our current space in the Union Square Parking Garage. While I was not part of the design of the space, I have had the opportunity to shape the space. When we moved, the center was literally a blank canvas, but over the past eight years, I have had the opportunity to transform the space into what it is today. We have an amazing collection of art in the center, dedicated spaces for resources, classroom/presentation space, an incredible library, and so much more. Sometimes I look out the window in my office and just appreciate how lucky I am!
Another highlight of my time at LSU came in the fall of 2016 when I taught my first section of Introduction to Women’s & Gender studies. I have the opportunity to teach a section each fall, and it continues to be a highlight for me. I teach the class in the Women’s Center (except for last fall when we Zoomed) and it is an amazing opportunity bridging my role as the director of the Women’s Center with my academic and training. Teaching is another way that keeps me connected to students and gives me an opportunity to further explore many of the issues we address though programs and initiatives of the Women’s Center.
For those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I would say getting to hear Maya Angelou and Representative John Lewis speak are on the top of my list. Especially now that both have passed, those are experiences that I will forever cherish. Though they visited campus years ago, I remember things that each said, and I remember the awe I felt being in the same room as them.
Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations