For the new University of New Mexico Title IX Coordinator, her time on campus is coming full circle.
Angela Catena will assume her new position for UNM’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) in December, after she finishes up her semester teaching as a clinical associate professor at Arizona State University. However, this is not her first stint at UNM.
Catena moved to Albuquerque in 2012 to get her doctoral degree in counseling. She graduated in 2016 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where she teaches counseling and counseling psychology.
She said she heard about the open position from friends whom she had worked with before at UNM.
“I love faculty life, but there’s something that’s missing,” Catena said. “What used to pull on my heartstrings was a lot of the stuff I did here before. So, I applied.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Catena went to Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisc. for her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s in community counseling at Argosy University in Chicago.
Heather Cowan was the Title IX coordinator since 2015 and resigned in August for a position at the University of Michigan. OEO Compliance Manager Sara Cliffe was appointed in the interim.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title IX is a federal statute protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex in education or activities that receive federal funds.
Catena said she sees her role as working with investigators to ensure Title IX compliance, provide resources and support individuals in understanding the statute.
According to their website, OEO investigates complaints of discrimination — including sexual harassment — age, religion and disability among others. The OEO also ensures the University is compliant with federal laws that require equal treatment.
OEO has five investigators that talk with individuals who bring complaints regarding discrimination.
OEO Director Francie Cordova said the committee to hire a new coordinator unanimously voted to hire Catena. She said Catena’s unique skill set in making connections and her vision for building advocacy skills for students, faculty and staff.
“We’ve bolstered the investigation piece, but we aren’t doing as well at making sure everyone’s needs get met, in either side whether they’re respondents or complainants,” Cordova said.
Cordova said navigating any sort of a Title IX case is difficult for both parties and often requires negotiations if they live in the same building, or go to classes.
“All of those big issues that have been meaty for us, have been difficult for us, I think Angela (Catena) brings that counseling perspective, the Title IX background to help us develop on campus,” Cordova said.
While at UNM, Catena was a graduate assistant for the Women’s Resource Center where she started their Gendered Violence Prevention Program. Catena also was a founding developer of Gray Area Training and the Sexual Misconduct and Assault Response Team.
During the 2014 Department of Justice Investigation into UNM sexual harassment reporting practices that were found to not be compliant with Title IX Catena was interviewed for her work on sexual assault training. She left before the agreement was implemented in October 2016.
Catena said a unique thing she brings to this job is her background in clinical psychology, and her experience listening to people in difficult situations.
“I can foresee this not being an easy job,” she said. “I have those skills to be able to open up that space to listen to people, and see what their concerns are without reacting emotionally.”
“What I would really want to do is create relationships to get everyone else on board so that Title IX compliance isn’t just one person’s responsibility, it’s on us, it’s on all of us.” Catena said.
Catena said that working to “protect the pack” comes down to every person, faculty, staff and student.
“A lot of what I’d want to see is maybe some bystander intervention and other things,” she said. “To just change the culture altogether.”
Danielle Prokop is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ProkopDani.