Dr. Rose-Marie Avin awarded Board of Regents diversity award

Dr. Avin was recognized for her work in equity, diversity and inclusivity at UW-Eau Claire and plans to use her award to establish an intersectional women’s center on campus.

Claire Schoenemann

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. these women are businesswomen, they don’t come here because they’re lost puppies. I have two PHDs working with me.”

The UW System’s Board of Regents awarded three UW System faculty members with the Regents Diversity Award last Friday, Feb. 11. Rose-Marie Avin, a nominee representing UW-Eau Claire, was awarded for her work in equity, diversity and inclusivity over the past 35 years.

Rose-Marie Avin is the director of the women’s, gender and sexuality department at UW-Eau Claire and has been a professor at UW-Eau Claire for 35 years. Originally from Haiti, Avin has spent her career working towards an inclusive and discrimination-free environment.

Beyond that, Avin has led immersion programs to Argentina and Nicauragua. She has also been awarded two Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Awards to conduct research with students abroad in Brazil and India. 

“The goal is basically to expose students to a wide array of experiences, to help them develop their own empowerment and be engaged not only at UW-Eau Claire, but also outside the U.S.,” Avin said. 

In her 35 years on campus, Avin has created and taught some of the first courses addressing issues of equity, diversity and inclusivity on campus. 

Courses such as “Women and Economic Development” and “The Experiences of Minoritized Groups in the U.S. Economy” are some that have been introduced by Avin. 

Dr. Kong Pheng Pha, assistant professor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, spoke about Avin’s mentorship and work in equity, diversity and inclusivity throughout her career. 

“She is doing a lot of mentoring for students, these are students who are historically underrepresented in higher education,” Pha said. “Women students, LGBTQ students, students of color, who historically have not had access to higher education.” 

Pha then said how important it is to get students into supportive spaces and educate the larger university about issues in equity, diversity and inclusivity. 

According to Pha, Avin has played a big role in providing supportive spaces for intersectional groups and bringing awareness to EDI issues on campus, through both mentorships and introduction of programs. 

“She really goes out of her way to mentor students, but also faculty of color too. We are at a university where faculty of color are also historically underrepresented” Pha said. 

According to Pha, the importance of EDI and intersectionality is only growing. This issue spans much further than women’s, gender and sexuality studies at UW-Eau Claire, and is something that all of us should be aware of. 

“The concept of intersectionality is very important…you need to understand how race, class, gender, (and) sexuality intersect to shape people’s experiences,“ Avin said.

According to Avin, it is necessary that students understand the concept of EDI in order to become activists, not only on campus but also in the greater community. 

Although Avin wasn’t able to attend the Regents Diversity Award ceremony in person, she said she was able to attend virtually and speak on the importance of students finding a home on campus, regardless of their background. 

“It is very important for mentoring and to create a home, to make a home away from home for them, so that they know that they belong,” Avin said. 

Creating a home for students is precisely what Avin plans to do with the Diversity Award funding that she received. 

In collaboration with the Women Uniting and Fighting Coalition, Avin plans to use the $7,500 she was awarded to finish renovating and provide programming for the intersectional women’s center being put into place on campus. 

The intersectional women’s center will be located in the women’s gender and sexuality studies wing on the third-floor of Hibbard Humanities Hall. The center will provide a safe space for anyone who identifies as a woman. They plan to officially open the center in the fall of 2022. 

Pha said Avin is very deserving of her diversity award and will make a difference with it. 

“Her impact is definitely wide ranging … working towards creating a better campus climate, working towards the needs of different intersectional students,” Pha said.

Avin said she is grateful for being nominated for the award, especially as there are so many people who do EDI work on campus and throughout the UW System. 

For more information regarding the growing intersectional women’s center, visit their information page. 

Schoenemann can be reached at [email protected].