Otterbein Professor Wins 2021 Ohio LGBTQ+ Leadership Award from Ohio Diversity Council

Posted Jul 02, 2021

By Catie Duzzny ’21

Otterbein professor Suzanne Ashworth was awarded the 2021 Ohio LGBTQ+ Leadership Award from the Ohio Diversity Council at the annual LGBTQ+ Unity Summit on June 4, 2021. This organization offers the opportunity to engage, learn, and share diversity and inclusion practices with other organizational leaders and businesses.

Suzanne Ashworth
Professor Suzanne Ashworth

“We were definitely in a challenging moment because of the pandemic. To get the award at that time, I felt like it was really validating, inspiring, and reaffirming. LGBTQ+ recognition is so important. There is life in recognition,” said Ashworth.

Ashworth is a professor in the Departments of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Otterbein University. Her areas of interest, research, and expertise include American literature, LGBTQ+ literature, gender and sexuality studies, and film studies.

Ashworth’s service, leadership, and diversity work on campus has been an amazing contribution to the Otterbein community. She has been a faculty advisor for two student organizations on Otterbein’s campus that are integral to the climate for gender and sexual plurality on campus — Freezone and Tri-Iota.

Along with being a faculty advisor for student organizations, she co-coordinated the launch LGBTQ+ Student Emergency Fund, co-founded and now coordinates Otterbein’s Team Consent and SafeZone programs, and directs the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

Suzanne has been the organizing force behind Otterbein’s annual LGTBQ+ Awareness Week and Lavender Graduation.

“One of my favorite queer theorists says that the most important question we can ask another human being is, ‘Who are you?’ Because through our ability to really hear the answer, the other person will get heard, seen, and understood. For me, this award means that some pocket of the world has heard my answer. My ‘I am,’” said Ashworth.

Ashworth encourages Otterbein students to learn and experience different opinions and perspectives. She thinks that having hope and believing in a better world is something humanity should strive for together.

“There was a point when I was really struggling in grad school with feeling different. A mentor told me to embrace your outsider status. It’s your asset. It’s your strength. You will see things differently. You will do things differently. This is good,” said Ashworth.

She encourages Otterbein students to be their authentic selves and never undervalue themselves.

Ashworth is excited for what the future has in store with new upcoming projects for the Otterbein community. She is currently working with James Prysock, Tammy Birk, and The Office of Alumni and Family Engagement to establish an LGBTQ+ Alumni Group that will strengthen connections between our alumni and current students personally, professionally, and academically. Additionally, Ashworth has worked to establish a central space, a house on campus for the Otterbein Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Resource Center (WGSRC).

During fall 2021, she will teach a class called “Against Violence” that is allied with the WGSRC, and she is continuing to work on sexual violence prevention with the help of students and colleagues on campus.