MENOMONIE, Wis. (May 7, 2021) — Grace Novie Stolen visited University of Wisconsin-Stout to attend the statewide inclusivity summit Including U while still earning her associate degree from UW-Stevens Point in Wausau.
“I really liked UW-Stout,” said Stolen, of Waunakee. “It felt like a really queer-friendly campus. There were all-gender bathrooms. The policies seemed friendly. There was a very visible queer community. I felt comfortable and I saw that others felt comfortable.”
When Stolen decided to continue her education and earn a four-year degree, UW-Stout fit her needs as a home with a climate of caring for equity, diversity and inclusion. Stolen graduates Saturday, May 8, with a bachelor’s degree in applied social, science with a history and politics concentration.
Stolen picked the major because it is an interdisciplinary program.
“It gives you the opportunity to look at things differently,” Stolen said. “You are being exposed to different fields and disciplines, giving you multiple different angles on theory, policy and other concepts that make you more well-rounded in general. You get a holistic view of things.”
Her major makes her feel prepared for just about anything, Stolen said. “It goes back to that interdisciplinary approach of my major,” Stolen said. “You can jump into a number of different careers or fields — higher education, nonprofits, government and business. Once you have experience in applied research and qualitative and quantitative analysis, you can dive into any research or market analysis. You are also steeped in communication skills.
“At Stout I learned it is about the broader perspective and learning to look at issues from a different angle,” Stolen said. “It is what education is at its best.”
Stolen is a lead student at the Qube, helping to organize events for UW-Stout’s LGBTQIA+ resource center. The Qube offers support, resources and safe space programming that helps educate faculty, staff and students about the LGBTQ+ community, helping to reduce micro-aggressions and increase understanding, Stolen said.
“It really felt like people cared and valued the work I’ve done,” Stolen said. “Sometimes in the moment, it is hard to see if what you are doing is making an impact. This year especially with the pandemic has felt very isolating.”
Jennifer Lee, Memorial Student Center associate director, said Stolen had a tremendous impact on the Qube and the organization’s programming.
“She joined the Qube team as a lead with no experience and hit the ground running,” Lee said. “She brought strength, organization, joy, advocacy and structure to our group in a difficult time. She has a way of asking the right questions and the ambition to move things forward.”
Stolen is powerful, yet subtle in how she uses her words, Lee said. “She is gentle, but effective, provocative and kind,” Lee added. “She is a very effective leader; she will be successful in all she does, and she is awesome at helping others be successful too.”
While at UW-Stout, Stolen has been the director of communication for the Stout Student Association.
“I like it because I get a chance to advocate for other students,” Stolen said. “Students may not know where to go if they have questions. We get to answer the questions they have. I get to help students and advocate for policy changes.”
Nicole Eastman, program coordinator for the LGBTQIA+ program, said Stolen takes the time to talk with everyone she meets and gets to know each of them.
“It’s hard to find people on campus who don’t know Grace in some capacity,” Eastman said. “Grace has been a great advocate for people at Stout and continuously works to make it a better place for underrepresented students. It’s impressive how much she’s done in only two years after transferring here.”
Through SSA Stolen has been involved in Diversity Week, Eastman said. “Her diversity work has increased the educational opportunities for student, staff and faculty allies to learn how to better support our LGBTQIA+ community, while her social events have helped create community among our LGBTQIA+ students and help them meet and get to know each other,” Eastman said.
‘I need to be doing work that is meaningful’
In high school, Stolen planned a career in music education. She was part of two folk bands, played in many ensembles, pep band, jazz band and orchestra. Stolen played the viola, clarinet and alto saxophone. “I loved the artistic expression,” Stolen said of music. “Playing music literally grows your brain. It uses a lot of different pathways.”
Stolen is part of Proud Theater Art & Soul Innovations, serving as vice president of the board. It is a statewide fiscal sponsor for queer youth theater with programming chapters in Wausau, Green Bay and Madison.
While in high school, Stolen was part of a Dane County partnership with 4-H and UW Extension that allows youth to apply to serve on county board standing committees. Stolen was part of the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee. That experience helped influence her decision to study applied social science.
“I learned a lot getting involved in local government and learning how it works,” Stolen said. “I always knew I was interested in policy and development.”
Stolen starts Monday, May 17, in the marketing and communications department at Northland College in Ashland as the creative services coordinator.
“I want to work in a place that I feel has a mission and where people are community-minded whether that be in government, a nonprofit or in higher education,” Stolen said. “I need to be doing work that is meaningful and isn’t about just making a profit.”