Susan Iris Jennings Lantz works at West Virginia University, just like her mom did.
Lantz’s mother, Iris, worked at the University during the late 1960s. But when she was pregnant with Lantz, she faced societal pressures as she taught in the Department of English.
Then, it was illegal to teach while pregnant in West Virginia.
“Thirty-five years later, when I worked at WVU and was pregnant, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by colleagues, mentors and supervisors whose support has made being a working mother at WVU a dream,” Lantz said. “I hope that like whoever changed the arcane pregnancy law, I will be able to continue to constructively challenge and enhance the system for the next wave of women to come along.”
It’s fitting that Lantz would be selected for an award that is named for her mother’s co-worker, Mary Catherine Buswell, who advocated for women’s equal rights and supported students and co-workers facing personal and workplace challenges. Her mother told her that Buswell would have been pleased to know Lantz was selected.
Lantz is this year’s recipient of WVU’s Mary Catherine Buswell Award, which honors faculty, staff members or area residents who have provided outstanding service to women at WVU. She will be recognized during Honors Week April 8-17.
Formerly the parent advocate in the Office of the President, Lantz is now the assistant director of Student Employment in WVU’s Division of Human Resources. Also at WVU, she is currently earning a Ph.D. in English that is focused on feminist film criticism and images of children in film.
Lantz began at WVU as a student and went on to serve as a graduate assistant, a visiting lecturer and advisor. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member in various departments and courses. She was associate director of the Career Services Center. During her career, she began the Gold and Blue Ambassador program. She began an electronic parent newsletter while serving as the parent advocate.
Chad Proudfoot, program coordinator of WVU Extension’s Community Resources & Economic Development Program, wrote in the award nomination that Lantz was a role model for many women and mothers as she grew successfully at WVU.
“In every position she has held, she has worked closely with women to hear their concerns, feel their pains and help them through the toughest of situations.”
Cheryl Torsney, former associate provost for Academic Programs, wrote that Lantz worked effectively with students’ mothers as parent advocate.
“She can take a volatile situation and defuse it with tact and sensitivity,” she said. “While it’s true that she serves everyone, perhaps her most important constituency is the mothers of our students, who are students themselves in learning to let go of their children.”
Tom Sloane, senior associate dean of students, said Lantz has been particularly attentive to the needs of students in crisis, such as when they are faced with sexual assault or abuse. Through her work on the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council, she worked to make the University and its environs safe for women.
“I think that her service to women is great, and that by virtue of being so caring and competent, she can convey an empathy to those who contact her on a daily basis with problems they alone cannot solve,” Sloane said.
Lantz said she believes it’s been the mentoring of students and employees at WVU that has been her most important contribution.
“I have made it a point to visit and talk about student jobs with everyone from the commuter student groups to the BiGLT (Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender) students to traditionally black sororities, in order to level the playing field,” she said. “It has been my goal to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to work in some of the great jobs that WVU and the Morgantown area has to offer.”
Buswell Award recipients are chosen because of excellence in their field as it relates to the advancement of WVU women, community and civic activities that serve and advance women, or significant pioneering activities that improve the status of women.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.