Jacobsen takes over Hamre Center, leaves sexual respect position open


Estelle Timar-Wilcox, Editor-in-Chief

Last month, former Director for Health Promotion and Sexual Respect Jen Jacobsen moved into a new position as the Executive Director of the Laurie Hamre Center for Health & Wellness. Her promotion leaves her old position in Health Promotion and Sexual Respect vacant, and Jacobsen will be leading the search for her replacement this semester. 

Though the Hamre Center started this year’s work virtually and with an ongoing pandemic to contend with, Jacobsen said the semester has started smoothly. 

“I’m really fortunate to have a really strong leadership team,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve had so much time to adapt, and again, it speaks so well to the whole Hamre Center team… they have the telehealth piece down.”

While Jacobsen’s old position remains vacant, she and other Hamre Center staff are sharing the responsibilities to carry out that work. Two Health Promotion staff who are usually part-time are now working full-time to help fill in the gaps. 

The Director of Health Promotion and Sexual Respect facilitates workshops and conversations about health, wellbeing and consent with groups on campus. Jacobsen approached that work with a focus on reaching campus culture and communities on campus. She refers to a “socio-ecological” model of health promotion — instead of just telling people what choices they should make, she says it’s more effective to change policies and structures to make those choices possible.

“We can think about systems-level things that might actually make [the healthier choice] an easier choice to make,” Jacobsen continued. 

Jacobsen facilitated conversations like this about health and community needs with sports teams and Macalester’s student Sexy Trainers. In her role with sexual respect, she focused those conversations specifically on consent.

Jacobsen’s work with new student orientation, athletics teams and Sexy Trainers is mostly front loaded at the beginning of the year, she said, which makes her transition out of that role easier. As she searches for her replacement, Jacobsen is continuing some of those activities, like meeting with spring sports teams. 

The sexual respect work often overlaps with work in the Title IX office, which is in the midst of its fourth leadership change in three years following former director Regina Curran’s departure last September. 

As the search committee looks for a new Title IX director, Caitlin Gehlen is serving in the interim role. Gehlen works for Lathrop GPM, a law firm partnered with Macalester. Since coming into the interim role last fall, Gehlen has worked with Jacobsen on the Title IX Advisory Committee. 

“Given that we are an interim place, I think it’s been handled as well as it possibly could be,” Jacobsen said.  

Chair of the Title IX hiring committee Duchess Harris directed questions about the committee’s progress to Employment Services Director Bob Graf, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

This work overlaps with a Department of Justice grant for sexual violence prevention that Macalester received last fall. Curran applied for the grant but left before it came in. Jacobsen is overseeing the project, which will bring local advocates to campus to work with students, faculty and staff who are looking for support related to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence and stalking. Advocates will hold on-campus office hours and will be confidential. 

Advocates will also connect people to resources both on and off campus. The college will look for advocates who represent diverse backgrounds and experiences, as part of the project’s goal to increase accessibility for students who are often marginalized in Title IX and sexual violence prevention and response; specifically BIPOC students, international students, students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students. 

“We live in a city with really rich resources,” Jacobsen said. “We should be collaborating more with those resources.”

Macalester recently hired a grant manager who will work with Jacobsen on this project. Once Jacobsen finds a replacement for her old position, that person will work on this project too. 

In her search for a new Director of Health Promotion and Sexual Respect, Jacobsen is looking not only for someone familiar with public health and sexual respect, but also someone who’s worked with college students. 

“Macalester students always want to know why, which is actually what we expect — it’s exactly what we train you to do,” Jacobsen said. 

Jacobsen is looking for someone who is excited about having those conversations with students, and who enjoys engaging with them about the ‘why.’ 

Jacobsen hopes to bring her ideas of community health and wellbeing to her new position, too. Along with Joan Ostrove and Ebony Adedayo in the Serie Center, Jacobsen is working to implement another grant from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. With this grant, Jacobsen will be co-hosting a workshop for faculty over the summer to help professors design classroom environments that prioritize students’ health and wellbeing. 

Jacobsen is also working on the college’s strategic plan as a Champion. She hopes to encourage the strategic planning process to think about student health and identify places on campus that could help support it. 

Jacobsen believes a culture of wellbeing and health promotion supported across the campus would improve the student experience.

“People work so hard, and there’s so much family sacrifice, to get students at Macalester,” Jacobsen said. “I really want them to engage with and enjoy their four years here. I don’t want people to feel like they’re relieved to have just made it through and just survive. We want students to be able to thrive while they’re here.” 

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