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Cheyna Roth '10

Published on

By Bridget Gibley

Cheyna Roth graduated from Aquinas College with an English degree in 2010. This year, she returned to AQ to teach WS200: Women, the Law, and the Courts. Now, she looks back on her time at Aquinas as a student and reflects on teaching this course.

While she was an AQ student, Cheyna won the AQ Outstanding Woman Award for outstanding student. This award still means a lot to her, as “Aquinas is filled with over the moon, outstanding women. To be named one of them was a real privilege.”

She definitely carved out a spot for herself alongside these outstanding women. As a student, Cheyna wrote and directed “The Jane Doe Project,” a performance based on interviews with Aquinas community members about their experiences with rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Looking back, Cheyna says, “It will likely always be in the top five most important things I’ll ever do.”

After graduation, Cheyna got a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law and was a prosecuting attorney for a little over a year. She realized quickly, however, that this was not what she wanted to do. “There were parts that I liked,” she says. “I like the small amount of investigative work I was able to do, I liked fighting for victims, I liked working with law enforcement. But I missed telling stories, I didn’t like that I was only ever able to stand for one side of an issue, when, as I learned very quickly, crime is a lot more grey than black and white.”

So Cheyna went back to MSU to get her Master’s degree in journalism. She now works as a Capitol correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network and freelances for NPR. She covers everything from state politics to policy to education.

Throughout this time post-graduation from AQ, Cheyna always had a goal to come back to teach. She says for years, she would mention this goal to professors she knew, saying she wanted to teach anything: “I would have learned physics if it meant I could teach at Aquinas. Luckily, they found a class that was much more in my skill set.”

This class was Women, the Law, and the Courts-- a class that examines women’s rights in America through historical, legislative, and legal perspectives. On the importance of this class, Cheyna says, “To know our laws and the history of how our laws have treated women is to really see the progression of women’s freedom throughout the years. And as we’ve gone through the course we saw history very clearly repeating itself over and over… Unless we recognize those reactions in the moment and know how to respond to them, we won’t be able to progress further toward equality.”

When asked how she sees AQ differently as a professor than as a student, Cheyna responded, “The parking is easier!” She goes on to describe the unique feeling of nostalgia that comes from switching roles in a situation so radically: “I feel like I have this sort of outsider looking in perspective now. I like seeing the students run around and overhear them talking about classes and it’s interesting to see my old friends and my old self in the current students.”

Cheyna has a few pieces of advice for current Women’s Studies students. “Try everything,” she says. “If something interests you in the slightest (that isn’t harmful to yourself or others and isn’t illegal) give it a try.”

“Give everything a fair shot. Keep your chin up and VOTE. Be an intelligent citizen of the world who votes and encourages everyone she knows to vote-- because we will never make any progress if we stay home on Election Day.”

And her final piece of advice for busy women who will one day change the world? “Always carry a granola bar, extra gum to share, and a pen and paper.”