Meet the faces behind the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity


The Sloss Center’s staff introduce themselves during the Feminist Friday event.

Claire Hoppe

This week’s virtual installment of Feminist Friday gave viewers a chance to meet the behind-the-scenes staff members of the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity events — the Sloss Center’s staff. 

The virtual open house presentation began with an overview of the history of the Sloss Center and their mission.

The Sloss House was built in 1883 and is located between Curtiss Hall and the Gerdin Business Building. The house was named after Dr. Margaret Sloss because she was the first woman to gain admission and graduate from the Iowa State Veterinary Medicine program.

Next, Ruxandra Looft, director of the Sloss Center, discussed how and why the Sloss Center was formed. 

“The Center itself was established in 1981 by a group of women faculty and staff who wanted to address the gender and equity issues on campus,” Looft said. 

Looft then explained that by going through the Sloss Center’s archives, she was able to determine that the problems with women and gender equity that we face today are some of the same problems that existed when the Sloss Center was established in the early 1980s.

The Sloss Center offers programming, events and resources that focus on the better understanding of gender equity, support and advocacy and leadership. Similarly, the Sloss Center’s vision is a campus community that works collaboratively to create an environment that supports and promotes gender equity and social justice at Iowa State. 

“We define feminism as a movement that aims to ensure that people of all genders have access to what they need to be successful, as well as their need for community,” Looft said. “It is also a response to masculine-centered society or societies, often referred to as a patriarchy.”

The presentation then shifted toward introducing each person on the Sloss Center staff.

Looft also holds a faculty affiliate role in the women’s and gender studies program. Looft’s background is in German and comparative literature, and it was her work in feminist literary criticism that led her to begin work in gender equity. From there, Looft worked for eight years as a professor of world languages and cultures, and she currently serves as the Sloss Center’s director. She then went on to share her love of family, art and spending time outdoors.

Looft also touched on her current project of digging into and researching the Sloss Center’s archives in preparation for their 40th anniversary.

Next introduced was Andra Castle, the assistant director at the Sloss Center. Castle’s background is in large and digital event management, which helps them to do event programming and supervising at the Sloss Center. Castle also is the main host of Feminist Fridays.

Castle then went on to introduce a project called the Gender Equity Initiative Communities of Practice. This project includes narrative-based discussions geared toward Iowa State faculty and staff that focuses on gender and gender equity. They then went on to talk about their favorite pastimes that include roller derby and spending time with their pet tarantula.

Next to be introduced was Sabrina Gloria, an Iowa State alumna of civil engineering and the administrative assistant at the Sloss Center. Gloria is in charge of working with students and organizations to help them reserve a space in the Sloss Center for events. However, due to COVID-19, she now works more in the background and offers support work and assistance to the rest of the staff. Gloria also expanded on her love of baking, cooking and reading in her free time.

Taylor Lee, a graduate student in education, is the equity and social justice coordinator at the Sloss Center. Her main projects include helping with the virtual salary negotiation workshops and advising the Women of Color Network, which will be holding events soon.

“We want the women of color to thrive, not survive, on campus,” Lee said.

Lee expressed how she loves to spend time with family and friends. She also reflected on what she learned and loved about her study abroad experience in Uganda. 

Next to introduce themselves was Nancy Gebhart, a former Iowa State educator for visual literacy and learning for university museums, is a graduate student in the school of education. She is focusing on social and cultural studies and minoring in women and gender studies, all  while completing the Education for Social Justice Graduate Certificate and serving as an equity and social justice coordinator. Gebhart said she has been a long-time fan of the Sloss Center. Gebhart also was an adjunct lecturer in the College of Design, where she developed the course Diversity in Art.

At the Sloss Center, Gebhart serves as the graduate adviser for the Society for the Advancement of Gender Equity (SAGE). She is also the coordinator for the Me and White Supremacy Book Reading Circle, an event hosted by the Sloss Center. As well as coordinating for SAGE and the book reading circle, Gebhart is coordinating a program called A Primer on Protest Art that will feature local artists and mediums that support and enhance protests. 

Outside of her work, one of Gebhart’s favorite pastimes is traveling throughout the United States and adventuring outside with her family.

Isis Walker, a graduate student in the Higher Education Student Affairs program, is the gender equity initiatives practicum student. Walker explained that her work as a practicum student at the Sloss Center serves as class credit and enables her to gain great experience. 

In particular, Walker loves to work with the We Lead Conference, with the theme this year being We Are the Change. She is also involved in the Gender Equity Initiative Communities Practice.

Lastly, Jo Allen, a senior in journalism and mass communications with a minor in women and gender studies, is the PR and communications intern. At the Sloss Center, Allen manages all of the social media accounts. She also hopes to be able to photograph for the Sloss Center events in the future.

Aside from her studies and work at the Sloss Center, Allen is a cofounder and head of social media for the Ames Black Lives Matter organization. She was inspired by her love of protesting to establish the Black Lives Matter organization in Ames. 

Some of Allen’s favorite past times are protesting, photography, and spending time with her cat. 

The Sloss Center will be providing many virtual events this semester, such as Feminist Fridays; Queer and Trans People of Color monthly dinners; salary negotiation workshops; the We Lead conference, which focuses on empowerment and leadership; and many more that can be found on the Sloss Center’s webpage.