Prior to joining 21st Century Scholars in 2013, Jen was one of the first-ever projectionists at the IU Cinema. They were also an associate instructor for the Department of Sociology for several years and continue to adjunct teach in sociology as often as possible.
Jen earned a Master of Arts in sociology from IU and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the American University in their hometown, Washington, D.C. In 2019, Jen received the "Staff Spirit Award" from the IU LGBQT+ Alumni Association for their current work in advancing diversity and inclusion at IU Bloomington.
Left: Jen and partner, Gender Studies Professor Stephanie Allen, enjoy a day in Louisville during Spring Break 2023. Top: Bottom: Bloomington Courthouse, Fall 2021. Jen loves old buildings and city squares. IU Beck Chapel, Fall 2022. This is one of Jen’s favorite places to take photos on campus, especially with the changing leaves in the background.
Q: You’ve been in Bloomington for about 19 years now. What led you to the sociology department here – and what led you to make this your home?
A: Honestly, I chose IU sociology because it was highly ranked. I was also ready to leave D.C. (even though most folks are trying to get to D.C.) and try a new place in the country. Indiana happened to be it! After completing my MA, I realized that a Ph.D. was not the best fit for me at that point in life, but I was invested in the community and decided to find a professional staff position and make B-town home. I found academic advising, and it was a great fit and opened me up to a different experience within the university. I could still engage in the academic community and impact students in a different way – “advising is teaching.”
Q: What do you want people to know about the 21st Century Scholars Program that they might not know?
A: Two things:
- There are only three states in the entire country that have programs like 21CS and provide tuition funding for low/middle-income and first-generation residents, and ours is the longest running.
- There are so many 21 Century Scholars on campus and alumni that you most likely know at least one scholar or alum. I always enjoy interacting with other professional staff and having them share that they were scholars!
Q: Tell us about your experience with the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program for academic advisors and the ways you incorporate what you learned into your work at IU.
A: The Emerging Leaders Program has been an amazing experience to help me realize who I am as a professional and a developing leader. Being matched with an amazing mentor from another institution has helped me feel supported in a different way and allowed me to grow into the type of leader that fits me, not that I assume others expect. By feeling more confident as a leader, I have taken more initiative to get engaged in conference presentations, return to school to complete a doctorate in Higher Education and Student Affairs in the School of Education, and feel more confident in myself — which translates into how I envision our advising program and lead our advisors in supporting scholars at IUB.
Q: What, if anything, about your own college experience, do you wish had been different? What are some of the success tips and support resources you offer students who perhaps are the first in their families to attend college?
A: I believed in myself in college, but not as much as I should have or could have. I think if I believed more, I would have carried more of that confidence into my post-college adulthood.
As hard as it is to believe in myself sometimes, it is okay to ask questions and to ask for help. It is also important to find at least one person at the university you feel safe with — however you define safe — whom you can ask questions and who can help you get the answers you need, even if they don’t have them. I also encourage students to hold onto their authentic selves, even in a space that feels like they must be another “self.” You are valuable! Your story, your experiences, and your journey are all important to who you are, and folks need to know that. Don’t let yourself be silenced!
Q: What are your favorite spaces and times of year on campus? In Bloomington?
A: IU Bloomington is definitely one of the most beautiful campuses I have visited, and its beauty is partly why I decided to come here and stay. It is also why I like to take pictures around campus. The best season on IU’s campus: autumn, with spring as a close second. The best place to take pics on campus is The Sample Gates, even as cliché as it may seem. I also love the architecture of Lindley and Kirkwood halls, as well as the Chemistry building. And Beck Chapel is also a great place to catch beautiful views.