Beth DeAngelis: A Warm Welcome to the Bowman Center's New Director

Though it’s only the second full month of the semester, Beth DeAngelis, the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women’s new director, has started off her time at Siena with a passionate push for social change and the compassionate betterment of all people. She has worked to improve the capabilities of women and girls both around the world and in the city of Albany and has brought this passion and these experiences to the work of the Bowman Center. Her genuine laughter and smiles will help to guide the work that the Center is doing for gender equality both on Siena’s campus and in the community on the whole.

Beth DeAngelis

Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women

Education:    

Bachelor’s Degree in History and Spanish with a minor in International Relations

Master’s Degree in Interpersonal and Intercultural Communications             

HC Siena: Can you tell me about your journey to Siena?

Beth DeAngelis: I was working with international development, particularly for women, in the capacity as a volunteer. I was on the board of a couple of organizations working in sub-Saharan Africa. It gave me an opportunity to see in the field how women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty, that sort of things. I became really moved by the resilience of these women and these girls and their spirit and how they were capable of moving mountains and accomplishing amazing things. I saw them doing all of these amazing things with so little and really inspired me to say, “If these are all these things they can do living in poverty, what could we be capable if we had support? What could we do if every girl and woman could truly flourish?” It just got me really excited! So from that point, I decided as my children grew older, that I wanted to go back to work full time, and I realized that the place I wanted to do that was at an all-girls’ high school called the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany. I started teaching social justice. I was allowed to create the curriculum because it’s a private school. I started teaching it around the development of women in a global perspective with UN data. Over the course of this time while I was working here, one of the projects we were working on was fair trade. I was actually in communication with Dr. Shannon O’Neill and Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly and worked on their fair trade committee six years ago. We would share information because we were doing similar things at different schools. Through friends, she notified me that this job was available, and I wasn’t looking for a job, but I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to do what I am passionate about. As fate would have it, I’m now here, doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

HC Siena: What is your vision for the Bowman Center?  

BD: The vision for the Center is that we have some things that we’re fairly consistent on always. I think the primary themes are fair trade practices, domestic and dating violence awareness, human trafficking, healthy body image, and our Grow Girls program, which is a mentoring program for younger women, and of course our Dominican Republic service trip that we do every February. Those are the absolute staples of the Center, but of course we do much more! We talk about what is really needed on campus or happening in the world that we want to address or we have women contacting us, who need our support, and finding how we can be sisters to them. We have the foundation in place, but there is absolutely what the school needs, what the community needs, and what the world needs woven into it. This is more of the nuance of the Center.

HC Siena: What needs have you noticed at Siena?

BD: The first need I noticed was the important work going on about sexual violence to keep people safe. I think students are feeling that a lot of talk about human trafficking and the difficulties of that, it’s a lot to hear. A lot of students are looking for a way to take care of themselves when they’re dealing with such difficult issues. For instance, this year we’re working on self-care and mindfulness projects. We take the time in the Center to do this together. We’re recognizing that to be the best people we can be, all of us need to take better care of ourselves. The other thing I noticed is that some of the leaders here wanted to delve a little deeper into the work going on already. We’re working on some curriculum building for Grow Girls, which is in Troy, and systematizing it to make it more sustainable. We’re doing trainings on suicide awareness and de-escalation tactics. There’s some real skill building that’s going on with the leaders.

HC Siena: What are some ways that the Center partners with other on-campus organizations?

BD: Dr. John Harden, the Director of the Writing Partnership, reached out to me this past summer and mentioned a desire to form a partnership with them. There’s a younger group of girls in the refugee group, and two of our students have taken on a leadership role there to create a new chapter of Grow Girls for the middle school. We’re creating curriculum around this, which is really exciting. There is a collaboration between the Social Work Department, the Nursing Department, and the Center for mindfulness training and connecting it to our mission. Another collaboration is with Campus Ministry and Kate Kaufman-Burns on a Spirituality for Women program. What I like about it is that is a support network for women wherever they’re at in their faith journey. Some women are agnostic, some women are Catholic, some women are Muslim, some women don’t know but are interested in the exploration. It’s developing a sort of sisterhood. The Fair Trade Coalition and the Center, as well as AVI, work together on some of our programming.

HC Siena: What advice you would give to the Siena population?

BD: The advice I would give is that gender equality is for everybody. It’s not exclusive to women. It’s critically important that we, in some way, understand that we belong to each other and are responsible for ourselves and for each other. Equality is how we are all best served when everyone has what they need - men, women, however anyone wants to define themselves - that that’s how we get the best outcome for every person, when everyone is treated with equality. Be open to jump in. Read some articles. Ask how you can help and take care of ourselves and then each other.

HC Siena: The process of promoting the general betterment of all can sometimes be very long and challenging. What advice would you give to people who want to work to promote this but are sometimes daunted by the challenge?

BD: I would suggest that great things have happened in this world because someone rolled up their sleeves and said, “How can I help right now?” There’s never a perfect time to start. Don’t wait until you have your Ph.D. Don’t wait until you have a million dollars. Don’t wait until next week. The time is now. Just show up and say, “Hello, how can I help?” That may be for two hours; that may be for ten years. Just get started, and see where it takes you. You don’t have to have it all figured out! Most of us don’t.

HC Siena: Is there anything more that you would like people to know about the Bowman Center?

BD: Yes! Please like and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages and look at our website to see the events we have.