New Women’s Center director aims to open dialogue with students, faculty


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

The Women’s Center, 2000 Sheridan Rd. Sekile Nzinga-Johnson joined the center as its director in early September.

Elizabeth Byrne, Assistant Campus Editor

Sekile Nzinga-Johnson said working as a social worker in the Baltimore City Public School system opened her eyes to the issues many young women face and motivated her to turn to a new way of combating these struggles.

“I realized that many of the issues that the girls were facing were not of their own, they were a lot more systemic or institutionalized,” Nzinga-Johnson said. “I realized it was more of the institutions and the systems that were failing and the structural barriers that were at play.”

After her time as a social worker in Baltimore, Nzinga-Johnson said her experience motivated her to pursue a Ph.D. in human development. She also spent time teaching and researching women’s studies and gender studies.

Nzinga-Johnson, who joined the Women’s Center as its director in early September, said her initial plan is to continue meeting students’ needs while reflecting on the history of the center and figuring out how it will move forward.

“I’ve always been a fan of the non-academic units that complement the larger intellectual life of a campus,” she said. “I’ve always been attracted to that work and the Women’s Center is one of those spaces here at Northwestern.”

Alecia Wartowski, the center’s director of programs who also served as interim director before Nzinga-Johnson’s arrival, said she was excited for the new director to join the center.

“(Nzinga-Johnson) has been really incredible about talking to us, learning from us and acknowledging both that she has new ideas and some fresh perspectives, but also that we have some deep knowledge about how the work has gone on on this campus,” Wartowski said. “I really feel like we’re working in partnership.”

She added Nzinga-Johnson is experienced in navigating tough subjects such as intersectionality, racism and sexism due to her background in women’s studies and social justice.

Colin Clayton, communications chair for Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, said SHAPE supports the Women’s Center and its mission on campus, and will continue to do so with Nzinga-Johnson at the helm. Clayton said SHAPE hopes to partner with the Women’s Center to look at various issues on campus, especially the possibility of reviving counseling at the center.

“I hope that they’re looking to increase their role of supporting women on campus in all different aspects, whether it be if they’re seeking support because of discrimination or dealing with various women’s issues,” the Weinberg senior said.

Looking forward, Nzinga-Johnson said she plans to listen closely and have dialogues with students, faculty and staff to figure out what the Women’s Center can do to meet the needs of the campus community.

Nzinga-Johnson said she looks forward to being with the center as it marks its 30th anniversary.

“I am so delighted to be coming in at the 30th anniversary to celebrate all the things that the Women’s Center has done for the Northwestern community,” she said. “It has transformed this institution and it has transformed the lives of the people who walk through our doors.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @lizbyrne33