Staff Spotlight: Joy Conway
October 2, 2012
By Chris Terry (MFA '12)
Joy Conway's creative streak and passion for activism converge at her job as coordinator of Columbia College Chicago's LGBTQ Office of Culture and Community. "It's super cool that I get to work with students who can use their art to add voice to queer narrative, thought, and expression," she says.
Conway, who says she likes to go by her last name only, advocates for Columbia's LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) community, working with the people who run the school's systems and make the policies, making sure that everything is equitable for LGBTQ students. For example, Conway says, "Transgender students are wanting to come here and use their chosen names, as opposed to the names on their legal documents."
Conway and her office create events and programs for the benefit of the LGBTQ student population, such as Gender Fusions, the annual showcase of LGBTQ student performances. "It gives students a platform to practice their art and be in front of an audience," says Conway.
The 2012 Gender Fusions was Conway’s first since starting her job in January. It featured student burlesque and drag acts, plus a mashup of three Suzan-Lori Parks plays that were dropped into a queer paradigm. As if that wasn't enough, Conway plans to expand students' roles in producing and planning the event. She adds: “Since Gender Fusions is so performance heavy, we're thinking about creating an opportunity for students to do story writing, playwriting, and film or visual art like photography and painting.”
Conway also develops community on campus and advises the Common Ground LGBTQ student organization. Many students want chances to bridge the gap between LGBTQ and straight students, so Conway plans to use October, LGBTQ History Month, to continue those conversations by collaborating with other Columbia offices, encouraging "opportunities to create art, dance, and celebrate - and also have conversations about social justice and change on campus."
Conway has a master’s degree in education from Loyola University. Before coming to Columbia, she was working at a New York nonprofit called Day One, helping college students create arts activism campaigns to end intimate partner abuse between young people. Art has always been integrated into Conway’s life. She started training as an artist at the age of four, while growing up on the South Side. She says, “I always tell people that Chicago’s my motherland.”
When asked the one thing that she would tell an LGBTQ student entering college, Conway says her answer applies to everybody: "College is what you make it. Be hungry for knowledge and out-of-classroom experiences, and make it work for you. Sit down and think, 'When I graduate in four years, these are the things I want to have accomplished.'"
Photo: Jacob Boll ('12)