Laura Schultz is the Assistant Director of the Violence Awareness and Response Program here at Minnesota State University, Mankato, but that’s not all she does for the university. Schultz also leads an employee meditation group on campus, is in a local band called Good Night Gold Dust, is working on a solo project, and has directed a choir at MNSU in years past.
Schultz first attended the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and got a degree in social work and minored in Gender and Women Studies. She came to MNSU to pursue a graduate degree in Gender and Women Studies and went on to do more training to be a confidential advocate. Schultz started working as a faculty member here at MNSU about six years ago.
“I started working here as an Interim Violence and Response Coordinator,” Schultz said. She first worked in the LGBT Center before being moved to the Women’s Center in the CSU. “I wanted to work here because I love working with students. I love the energy that they provide.”
Now as the Assistant Director of the Violence Awareness and Response Program Schultz says, that the Violence Awareness and Response Program (VARP) has three main goals: programming, education and confidential advocacy.
The programming portion of the program puts on certain events. Last month, October, was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and VARP had several events going on around campus. There was a candlelight vigil for those lost to intimate partner violence, conversation circles—which happen every semester, not only in October—where students can have discussions about healthy relationships, and the Clothesline Project.
“There [were] paper shirts that people cut out and put who they were decorating a shirt in memory for,” said Schultz on the Clothesline Project. “The idea behind that is that we’re kind of airing the dirty laundry of violence and abuse.”
Schultz also has a graduate assistant who runs the PEACE group, which goes through several scenes about dismantling violent language, bystander intervention and victim-blaming. The idea is that other students will act out what they would do in a similar situation.
“We can say ‘I know what I would do in this situation’ until we’re blue in the face,” said Schultz, “but it doesn’t mean that we actually know what we would do or how we would react in that moment.”
Schultz is also a certified confidential advocate.
“The advocacy that I’m able to provide really varies from person to person,” said Schultz. “We refer to it as victim-centered advocacy.”
Schultz says she sees about 70 to 100 students per year and she’s actually expecting more than that this year in particular.
“I don’t need to know exactly what happened to you,” said Schultz on her advocacy. “I’m not an investigator.”
Schultz says that instead of specific details, students can let her know that they’re struggling with things, such as paying attention in class, having troubles sleeping, etcetera, and she is able to assist with that. She can also be there when a student reports to the police if they want her with.
Along with being the Assistant Director of VARP, Schultz directs choirs at MNSU.
“Over the course of two months, a group of about ten of us would meet,” she said of the choir.
They performed “I Can’t Keep Quiet” and Schultz said she wants to direct another choir this year for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. Schultz says bringing VARP and music together made her “feel like a whole person.” She is also in a band called Good Night Gold Dust and she has a solo project called Kielo that she is working on.
Laura Schultz is an all-around talented and kind person. Her work at MNSU has helped to improve the lives of hundreds of students and staff. But she says that “it is a difficult field.” She says she has to practice some self-care to continue her work here, which is part of why she leads a meditation group for employees on campus.
If you ever need to speak with Laura about anything, her office is in the Women’s Center which is on the second floor do the CSU, room 218. Don’t be afraid to come forward with things that are bothering you—she is here to help!