Women's Center continues 'Her Story' lecture series

Female campus leaders share personal and professional successes

By Hannah Lentz | 3/12/14 5:37pm


Her Story with Jo Ann Wassenaar. GVL / Marissa Dillon

By sharing personal journeys and stories of success, women at Grand Valley State University are working to end stereotypes about females in roles of power. As part of a year-long series at GVSU, Jo Ann Wassenaar, associate director of the Women’s Center, presented her version of the “Her Story” lecture.

GVSU first caught Wassenaar’s attention when the university announced it was opening a Women’s Center on campus.

“I wanted to work for a place that was doing this kind of work and willing to be so transparent in the things they were trying to accomplish,” she said. “My work with the Women’s Center has included a lot of firsts.”

Wassenaar started as the first graduate assistant of the Women’s Center and over the years moved up to become the first assistant and associate director.

“While life at times presented obstacles, I had many privileges that were given to me,” she said. “Don’t take life for granted and take time to enjoy your life today.”

More than 50 students gathered to watch the presentation to gain insight into the triumphs and accomplishments of the GVSU leader.

“The lecture showed that everyone goes through hard times and you have to work hard to overcome them and move forward in your life,” said Katie Ennis, a freshman at GVSU. “It was inspirational in the fact that she continued looking toward her future rather than dwelling on her past.”

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, Wassenaar was exposed to the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Women’s Rights Movement and the Watergate scandal. Being raised in a time that encompassed such great change and growth, Wassenaar said she wished to be a part of something that made a difference in other’s lives.

“I believe that a person is not only shaped by the community they grow up in, but by the things that they are surrounded by as they grow up,” she said.

During Wassenaar’s childhood, women began entering the work force, which impacted Wassenaar’s ambition to move forward in her career path. In addition, her parents strictly enforced the idea that their children would go to college and obtain a degree.

“My mother always said ‘life’s not fair, cry about it later and tomorrow will be a better day,’” Wassenaar said. “I’ve used this sort of ambition all throughout my career to make sure I never set limitations for what I wished to achieve.”

During Wassenaar’s next phase of life, she hopes to enjoy her new role as a grandmother and take a biking trip from coast to coast.

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