HerStory series highlights women leadership

GVL / Marissa Dillon
Maggie McCrystal

GVL / Marissa Dillon Maggie McCrystal

Maddie Forshee

On a personal level, getting to know faculty and staff is not something that everyone has the chance to do. Luckily, the Women’s Commission has created an event to highlight women in leadership positions across campus to share their personal stories.

The Grand Valley State University Women’s Commission has been around since 1996 and, according to their website, is committed to advocating on behalf of all women on campus by acting on their issues and promoting social justice.

HerStory, a series which began in 2002, features female faculty or staff members who tell stories of what it’s like being in a leadership position, and how those experiences have led to their success. The event is held every few months and has featured such speakers as the director of public safety and the dean of university libraries.

“The Women’s Commission found that there were women across campus with great stories,” said Keri Becker, a member of the Women’s Commission. “Whether it was the path to where they’re at now, moving up the ladder to leadership or working through adversity.”

This month, there will be a HerStory event on Oct. 30 at noon in the Kirkhof Center. The speaker is Maggie McCrystal, the director of staff relations for Human Resources.

Originally from Sandusky, Ohio, McCrystal moved to Michigan almost 30 years ago to get her master’s degree from Central Michigan University. Her first postgraduate job was in Muskegon, but McCrystal had always wanted to live in a bigger city, namely Grand Rapids.

She worked in human resources for the city of Grand Rapids until she began working at GVSU, where she made the transition 12 years ago.

In her position, McCrystal collects bargaining agreements from groups on campus, manages the performance development team, handles staff-to-staff disputes and does conflict resolution in the workplace.

McCrystal said there hasn’t been a single experience that drove her to be in the position she holds today. She has always had a desire to help people, be fair and see that fairness prevails.

“Grand Valley is a phenomenal place to work,” McCrystal said. “Everyone seems to be singularly focused on the students. If there are things that we can do to help students become better educated, better members of their community, we all want to do it.”

The Women’s Commission holds other events such as Fireside Chats, which promotes unity between women of all cultures, and Celebrating Women Awards, which showcases students from the GVSU community who have made an impact on the lives of women. HerStory, however, is the longest running event that the Women’s Commission has been part of.

“People see a title and know that that person made their way up the ladder,” Becker said. “(HerStory) provides the human element behind the title.”

McCrystal said she attends HerStory hoping to find out more about the women who speak on a personal level, where usually it’s more professionally.

“When people see me here, they know me in a certain way,” McCrystal said. “They’ll learn more about me as a woman and a human being… what my interests are, what my strengths and weaknesses are.”

When she speaks, McCrystal wants people to take away that everyone is a leader, no matter what strengths or weaknesses a person may have.

“Don’t be scared. You just have to burst through that initial fear,” she said. “Once you do, you’ll be a million times better off than if you didn’t try at all.”

HerStory is an event that lends itself to breaking down myths about women in leadership positions, such as the myth that leaders have perfect lives.

“Everyone has their struggles,” McCrystal said. “It’s more about how you deal with them and try to put them all together.”

McCrystal will be speaking in Kirkhof Center Room 2204 on Oct. 30 at noon. For more information about HerStory and a calendar of future events, visit gvsu.edu/wcommission.