Getting to Know OWHE PDX

Inspired by our 2016 Annual Conference, Portland State University (PSU) created their own campus chapter of OWHE one year ago. We reached out to the institutional representatives, Ann Mestrovich and Sarah Kenney, to find out how they got started and what their plans for the future of the PSU OWHE chapter are.

How did you get involved with OWHE?

Ann:  Being new to higher Ed and wanting to create a stronger network, I attended my first OWHE conference three years ago. After coming back from 2016’s conference, I felt inspired by the women around me to continue to pursue the professional development we were all seeking. So I volunteered to be a campus liaison and love working with my new friend Sarah!

Sarah: I learned about OWHE from my  PSU colleague Jana Faro, a former OWHE Board Member. I attended the 2014  annual conference in Corvallis and loved the experience, so I stepped up to assist former Board Member from University of Portland, Kelly Carder, plan the 2015 conference in Bend. I’ve attended four conferences now and am always impressed that the conference has a diverse array of sessions and new colleagues to connect with.

What inspired you to create your own campus chapter?

We both independently responded to an email from the OWHE Board during the summer of 2016 asking for institutional representatives. Once we learned that we both had an interest in getting involved with the organization we met over Starbucks and decided to join forces and take on the role together. Having never worked together before, it has been a great experience to share this process with someone else and to learn from each other.

How did you start your chapter?

We decided to create a core membership by contacting people at PSU who we knew might be interested, so we created a spreadsheet of the names and email addresses of over 170 people at PSU we thought might be interested in joining. It’s amazing how many people you know once you start thinking about it!

Once we had our list, we decided the easiest way to let people know about us was via email, so we created a newsletter that we sent out in August 2016. Since then, we’ve sent out emails on a monthly basis and our membership list has expanded to over 270 people. Not everyone opens our emails, but we average a 60% open rate, which we are quite proud of!

What type of events have you held?

Given that the role of OWHE Institutional Rep. is outside of our full time positions at PSU, we made it our goal to have events every two months  - not so often that it would become overwhelming for us to organize, but often enough so people remember who we are!

Our first event was a simple welcome with some snacks and networking games, and we followed that with an event where we showed a TED Talk and had people debrief in groups. Our most successful events have been those where we invite guest presenters - we had PSU’s OWHE 2017 Conference Presenters give a 90 minute workshop earlier this  year moving departmental change forward and we also had a 90 minute workshop on navigating professional journeys. Each session had between 20-35 attendees.

Less successful was our “Coffee Connect” event - we aren’t sure if it was due to the weather (a miserable winter afternoon) or because our members felt they couldn’t justify taking the time away from the office for a less structured event. Either way, it gave us something to think about, and our plan from now on is to offer more structured events where attendees can justify the time out of the office as professional development/networking if they need to.

Tell us about your book club!

We received feedback through a survey in our newsletter that some members were interested in joining a book club. Neither of us have much experience being involved in book clubs, but we thought ‘why not’ and we jumped in with the help of our colleague, Dr. Mary Oschwald, who has experience attending and leading book clubs.

We sent out a survey to our members that included some fiction and nonfiction titles and asked people to vote and also share their own choices. The two books that our members selected were:

Laura Vanderkam - I Know How She Does It

Marie NDiaye -  Three Strong Women

We had a small turnout for our nonfiction meeting, but we learned from that meeting that people may not have attended if they hadn’t read the entire book or even started it. Our goal is to encourage people to join us regardless, so that will be our marketing plan for our fiction meeting later this month.

We encourage everyone to check out the Facebook Page that Sharece Bunn, OWHE’s Director of Education, created. This is a space where people can read along with us and post comments about the books.

What are you goals for the coming academic year?

We want to keep expanding our network and adding more people to our email list. Based on feedback from members, we know people are interested in discussing topics such as workplace assertiveness, navigating work and motherhood, and career development planning, so we hope to schedule workshop sessions related to those areas.


Sarah Kenney is the Executive Administrative Coordinator for Planning, Construction & Real Estate at PSU and Ann Mestrovich is the Assistant Director of Advising & Career Services at PSU. 

Both can be contacted via email at and respectively. 








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