Q&A with Cassie Pegg-Kirby, Women's Center Director
Office of Sustainability Newsletter March 2021
What sparked your interest in the advocacy of issues that impact women?
I was blessed to grow up in a family full of strong women and it just seemed to make sense. Women should have the same opportunities, resources and access as men. It’s interesting because I don’t think my grandmother and great grandmother, great aunts, etc saw what they were doing in terms of advocacy or feminism, they were/are just headstrong and fierce women who expected and demanded nothing less. They cared for their families and communities as well as themselves. That is what is at the core of this work. How can I make this a better place, experience not only for myself but for the greater community.
What is your favorite part of your position?
Having the opportunity to grow and learn along side our students is such a rush. They are teaching me new things every day. I love the moment when you see the realization that even thought it’s not easy and change doesn’t happen overnight, its worth it. It’s hard for students who are here for 4 years to realize they are part of the journey, it doesn’t always begin and end with them. Many times they are planting the seeds or getting us to the next step. It also makes you realize that we didn’t just arrive here in this space, we need to recognize and honor those that did the work to get us here.
What are your favorite accomplishments or projects you have worked on so far?
I’m really excited for some of the event for the 25th Anniversary. It’s not just the events themselves but what people will experience as a part of them. All of the events are a way to gather together in community to address and recognize some of the inequities that are faced by women and other gender marginalized populations. We are doing this through conversation, reflection and community. I love the African Proverb “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”
I am so proud of the Women’s Center that has been a place to gather together and recognize needs and opportunities in our community and then do something about it. Recognizing the need to address Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence in our community, under the leadership of Heather Adams and Dean Tondiglia, the SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) was developed which inspired the creation of the Center for SRVSS (Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services) as a separate Center under the leadership of Jennie O’Connell.
We also started a pantry in 2010 to address the needs we saw in our community. Since then, Kent Campus Kitchen Project was created to help support issues of food insecurity and with food insecurity being recognized a priority, the Women’s Center pantry was moved the Student Center and is a part of the larger Cares Center initiative. There are numerous things I could mention but I think the Women’s Center functioning as an incubator of ideas, seeing what the needs of the community are, holding space for the idea and then sharing them or handing them off when they are ready to become part of the fabric of the larger institution.
How does sustainability manifest in what you do at Kent State?
This is a topic I have been exploring more lately as I come to understand more about our responsibility (and neglect) in caring for the Earth. I have been doing a lot of reading on Indigenous cultures and am inspired by the idea of reciprocity and am concerned about how the pervasive culture seems to prioritize the individual and is concerned only with what will benefit them without consideration to the cost of those actions. At the Women’s Center, we work and encourage a more collaborative model where our goal is to provide opportunities and connections where everyone benefits. We are really focusing on modeling what we promote. If we believe it is important to take care of our community, how do we do that in a way that not only gets us to the goal but does it in a way that doesn’t detrimentally affect others but benefits the greater community.
A tangible example is our Days for Girls Club where we make reusable menstruation products to provide a sustainable way for menstruation management and to help remove barriers for girls education. Another example is when the pantry was housed at the Williamson House, we also utilized t-shirt bags as part of our commitment to sustainability. We partner with Sustainability to provide a warm up station and a bra drive, utilizing our community to share what we have to benefit those who don’t, at the same time repurposing materials that might otherwise be thrown away.
I also think about sustainability when it comes to people and how do we not use people up for our benefit but feed into them as part or our practice. Considering this idea, we have partnered with Kent State of Wellness to provide weekly meditation as part of our internship program. We also provide professional development as part of our Women’s Center Action Council meetings. We are asking so much from our colleagues and students. We also need to make sure we are giving back to them as well.
What do you want the people of Kent State to know about you and your position as a Director of the Women’s Center (or any other roles you have)?
It is because of our community at Kent State that we are able to accomplish all that we do at the Women’s Center – so thank you for all your support. I also want to remind people that our Center is for everyone (not just women). We all benefit when we create a more equitable environment for everyone and I am eager to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone interested in addressing inequity and gender bias no matter what your identities.
What do you want the people of Kent State to know about the Women’s Center?
The heart of our work is focused on challenging gender inequity, centering the most marginalized voices and modeling what we promote. We are always looking for ways to collaborate and work together to create a more equitable environment for all. We couldn’t do this work without all of you. Thank you for your continued support!
Can you tell us more about how you and/or the Women’s Center is advancing sustainability?
Coming back to the idea of reciprocity, we can only advance our work if it is not at the expense of others. We always need to think of the impact of our work and be open to learning how to do it better. I have been inspired by the Office of Sustainability to consider not only what we do but how we do it. There is always an impact to our actions and are we using our area of influence to model processes and programs that support the values of sustainability and not only taking care of ourselves but prioritizing the needs and resources of our greater community. My favorite saying as a mom and appreciating my work at the Women’s Center is “Respect your Mother!”. We wouldn’t be here without our mothers… and Mother Earth will take care of us as long as we do our best to take care of her… coming back to the concept of reciprocity.