Connected to BGSU’s values

Katie Stygles already is putting her doctoral degree in higher education administration to good use

By Bob Cunningham

Katie Stygles had her first introduction to Bowling Green State University in 2003 as a member of AmeriCorps Serving Northwest Ohio, when she came to present for BGSU’s World AIDS Day programming, and it didn’t take long for her to become enamored with the campus.

Stygles would return to campus in various roles through 2012 when she decided to pursue her doctoral degree at “an institution that aligns with my personal values.”

Now, not only is Stygles graduating with a Ph.D. in higher education administration, her connection with BGSU is continuing as the coordinator of LGBT Programs. She started in her new role Dec. 5.

“Together with the phenomenal LGBTQ+ and ally student leaders, the Office of Multicultural Affairs staff, and all of our partners and collaborators on campus, I am committed to living out the BGSU mission to ‘build a welcoming, safe and diverse environment’ for all members of our community,” Stygles said.

Stygles grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and earned her undergraduate degree at Xavier University. While she attended school in Cincinnati, her parents moved to Perrysburg. During a visit, she accepted a job with AmeriCorps, placed at an AIDS service organization, to work with high school and college students to educate them on risk reduction for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

“I spent a lot of time here on campus presenting in the residence halls, doing programs in the student union,” she said, “and I just really enjoyed the atmosphere here and being on campus.”

So began a long relationship with the University and the surrounding community.

“The higher education and student affairs faculty were so supportive of me and always welcomed my kids to come to events, and all of them know my kids by name. The kids will see one of my professors, Dr. Mike Coomes, and run up to him and give him a big hug. It was just a very close-knit group.”

After pursuing her master’s degree in counseling at Spring Arbor University in Michigan, she was the volunteer coordinator for Bridge Hospice in Bowling Green. She developed a service learning partnership with BGSU’s gerontology department and was able to co-teach with one of the gerontology professors through that connection.

“Still, I found that I really loved Bowling Green State University and working with students here,” said Stygles, who lives in Bowling Green. “That professor I worked with, Dr. Nancy Orel, encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. here.”

Stygles was an adjunct instructor at the University in 2012 and then worked for three years as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Ellen Broido and as a graduate assistant and graduate student employee in the Center for Community and Civic Engagement until she was hired in her current position.

“My area of focus has been in social justice issues in higher education,” Stygles said. “I really feel called to work with diversity and inclusion issues. Without my experience as a student and teaching assistant in the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs, my assistantships as Dr. Broido's research assistant and later working with co-curricular civic engagement programs in the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, and the leadership and involvement opportunities available to me here, I am not sure I would have had been hired to stay at BGSU as the new coordinator of LGBT Programs. For that I am so grateful.”

Stygles has yet another connection to the University.

She is the mother of two sets of young twins, Robert and Lyndon, who are 9 years old, and Molly and Emmett, who are 5. The older twins were born six weeks premature and spent three and a half weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mercy Children’s Hospital in Toledo.

That’s how Stygles got involved with BGSU’s Dance Marathon fundraising event starting in 2014. In 2015-2016, she held a leadership role on the Dance Marathon at BGSU steering committee as the chair of faculty, staff and graduate student relations.

“Robert and Lyndon are kind of champions now for the work that Children’s Miracle Network does and the care that we received at Mercy while we were there,” she said.

All the funds raised from the Dance Marathon go directly to Mercy Children’s Hospital. In 2016, $452,000 was donated over a year of fundraising, she said.

Stygles said she was fortunate to have a big support system as she worked to obtain her doctoral degree.

“I’m very privileged to have a lot of people in my social support network: my parents, my wife, and my kids’ dad, and I just have a lot of people in my life who were helpful, and just good time management skills,” she said. “The higher education and student affairs faculty were so supportive of me and always welcomed my kids to come to events, and all of them know my kids by name. The kids will see one of my professors, Dr. Mike Coomes, and run up to him and give him a big hug. It was just a very close-knit group.”

Stygles said she couldn’t be happier to have been associated so long with BGSU, which has fostered such a welcoming environment.

“Personally, I feel with things like Not In Our Town and the work of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the University really has created this kind of climate where I think people can feel safer being who they are and feel welcome at BGSU,” she said. “I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience here.”