Two honored

Photo Portraits of Cherne and Engen.Beth Cherne, left, and Grace Engen will receive awards from UW System.

Cherne and Engen earn diversity, inclusion kudos from UW System

Two UWL colleagues will be honored this fall for their contributions to women of color and LGBTQ people.

Grace Engen will receive the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award and Beth Cherne will be honored with the Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ People.

The award for Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, created in 1994, honors women of color from around the state for their leadership in making a significant and lasting contribution to their campuses and communities. Each UW System institution is invited to select one woman to receive the recognition.

The UW System and the LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative established the annual Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ People in 2008. It honors UW System faculty, staff and students for excellence in advocacy, research or service efforts on behalf of LGBTQ communities. Each UW System institution is invited to select one person to receive the recognition.

The awards will be officially presented during the 2018 ceremony at Gordon Commons in Madison on Thursday, Nov. 8.

Outstanding Woman of Color Award — Graciela Engen

Engen began working at UWL in December 2011, but has impacted the region since 2005. When Engen earned a master’s degree in higher education, she wanted to work with underrepresented students.

As the university’s institutional researcher, much of her work is computer-based, but she does what she can to find ways to support the success of underrepresented students through service and volunteer work. Engen is a founder of a group that supports parents of young children in the community. She’s also a coordinator of the English Lutheran Church Welcome Center, has been a Centro Latino volunteer, and was an organizer of Comunidad de la Esperanza, a series of family-oriented gatherings focused on Spanish-English speaking community members.

Engen became involved with these events because she was interested in finding others in the greater La Crosse area who shared some of the cultural aspects of her upbringing. Although it is not as obvious, her work as an institutional research analyst also influences the success of underrepresented college students.

“Grace is committed to student success and she is using data to help us understand where we can improve for students and where we should continue our progress,” explains her colleague, Natalie Solverson, director of Institutional Research. “She has advanced our campus’ use of data for examining and discussing equity gaps in education. She is a valued colleague, dedicated and hard-working. She is also fun, kind and a joy to have as part of the UWL community.”

Engen is also a member of the Inclusive Excellence Assessment Team, a founding member of the Equity Liaison Initiative Steering Committee and an Institutional Research representative at conferences such as the Wisconsin Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers and the Association for Institutional Research of the Upper Midwest.

P.B. Poorman Award — Beth Cherne

Cherne, a native of northern Minnesota, lived and directed plays in the Twin Cities for several years before completing a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. She has taught at the University of Minnesota-Morris, University of Oregon-Eugene, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Cherne, a professor of theatre arts retiring this year, was one of the founding members of the LGBT Seven Rivers Resource Center, now known as “The Center” in La Crosse. She has been a strong advocate and voice for organizing LGBTQ events on campus and in the community. Some examples include LGBTQ film festivals, the Pride Festival, ballroom dance lessons for LGBTQ+ people and the “Thank you La Crosse” event to thank La Crosse voters for rejecting the ban on LGBT marriages.

Cherne was a member of the UWL faculty and staff LGBQ group, and directed the play “Transfigurations” in a staged reading in La Crosse. She also created artist-in-residence and visiting artist events on campus with two queer artists, Scenic Designer Steen Mitchell and Performance Artist Patrick Scully.

“Beth Cherne is a gentle spirit with a beautiful and caring heart,” says Theatre Department Professor Mary Leonard. “She does not waver in her support and advocacy. She is compassionate and dedicated. She is a wonderful colleague. She is humble and will not always call attention to herself. She believes in making the world a better place.”