Commentary: Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Rachel Friederich, ICSEW Communications Chair

ICSEW members standing at the Washington State Capitol in 2019

March is Women’s History Month.  Since 1995, US presidents have issued annual proclamations for this month, to celebrate contributions women have made in American history and recognize their achievements.

As tumultuous as the past year has been, women—in state and national government have made history.

Nationally, we saw the first woman of color become vice president– the second-highest government office in the land.

In Washington state, our Supreme Court became one of the most diverse in the nation, with the appointments of Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis as first Native woman and Helen Whitener was the first Black woman to sit on the state’s highest court. Women have more representation in our legislature. T’wina Nobles was the first Black senator elected in Washington for more than a decade—and only the second black woman to serve in the chamber. The House also gained three new Black women: Jamila Taylor, April Berd and Kirsten Harris-Talley. (Read about them on CrossCut.) Voters also chose Marilyn Strickland as its first Black member of Congress. In another first, Laurie Jinkins became the state’s first woman and out lesbian Speaker of the House.

ICSEW Making History

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women has made history, too. This March has marked one year since we began holding our meetings and events exclusively online. We’ve stepped up to master tools like Zoom and Facebook Live. Many of us learned new skills outside of our comfort zones. We will continue our virtual interactions with our membership—at least for the immediate future.

Though conducting business online threw us a learning curve, we’ve adapted. And the virtual world has a silver lining. Since we’ve started streaming our meetings and archiving our videos, they’ve gotten thousands of views—way more than any number of people who have attended our meetings in person. It’s given state employees who don’t work in the greater Olympia area—and may not have had the opportunity engage with ICSEW—access they likely never had before. No other time in our 58-year history has attending our meetings been so easy.

Even when we eventually start meeting again face-to-face, we will continue streaming our meetings and many of our trainings online.

ICSEW also launched its first-ever mentorship pilot program for ICSEW representatives. The pilot had about 40 participants from various state agencies. The project is coming to a close, but we’re actively working with partners and taking steps to make the pilot available for all state employees. We’ll be providing updates on our progress at future meetings and on our blog.

Making My Own History

Women’s History Month is also important to me.  As a daughter of Filipino immigrants, there were lots of things my mother wasn’t allowed to do after arriving to the US after escaping a country that was on the verge of martial law in the early 1970s.

I am the first woman in my family to have certain rights and opportunities that my mother didn’t have. (Read: Nine things Women Couldn’t Do in 1971)

When my mother immigrated to the US, women weren’t allowed to keep their maiden names after marriage. (This did not occur until 1976). Women weren’t allowed to have their own bank accounts (This also did not occur until 1976.) In the early 70s women couldn’t get credit cards in their own names nor serve on a jury or attend an Ivy League school.

I couldn’t afford to attend an Ivy League, but I did attend a state college and was the first person in my family to graduate from a university and go on to a professional career.

Though we’ve made a lot of progress in achieving gender equality, we’re not there yet. Women are still underrepresented many lines of work, but especially in STEM fields and law enforcement. Men still outnumber women in Congress and there are still elected officials trying to legislate women’s rights to their own bodies.

There’s still a lack of women in senior leadership positions in the business world.  And in our nation’s 200+ year history, we have yet to close the gender wage gap.  The Center for American Progress lists the US gender wage gap at 82 percent (meaning women earned 82 cents to every $1 their male counterparts earn, as of 2019). However, in our state, the gender wage gap has actually widened. Recent numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by KING 5 shows that women in our state earned 81 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 2014, but the number fell to 75.4 by 2019.

One of the reasons I decided to join ICSEW was for the opportunity for leadership, personal and career development trainings and to be around other strong, female professionals who were very few and far between when I was growing up. It’s given me the confidence to talk to supervisors about opportunities to advance in my career. (something I had never been taught to do) The trainings ICSEW offers have taught me to spot systemic issues that play into gender inequalities, like implicit biases and micro-aggressions. And how to advocate to put a stop these issues.

Resources

As we ease into Women’s History Month, I invite you take a look at some resources about Women’s History in the State of Washington and civic involvement.

  • Washington State Historical Society’s page on the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement. Though the centennial was last year, and all of its in-person events were cancelled, the site has virtual exhibitions, curricula, and links to videos.
  • Washington State Women’s Commission: Its mission is to improve the life of every woman by ensuring equitable opportunities and removing systemic barriers through engagement, advocacy, public policy, while being inclusive of diverse populations. The organization has many events, and which can be attend virtually on women’s issues.
  • ICSEW’s About page gives a brief history of how the ICSEW evolved from a response to President Kennedy’s National Commission on the status of Women and its work we continue today.

I’d also invite you to attend our next meeting on March 16 to learn about what ICSEW does and to be a part of our mission of bettering the lives of all state employees through advocacy, outreach and opportunity, by advising the Governor on issues that impact state employed women. I emphasize all state employees, because issue that impact the ability of women to thrive in the workplace, will impact everyone’s ability to thrive.

It’s certainly impacted mine.

ICSEW Chair Josefina Magana to Talk Mentorship at OFM Lunch and Learn March 3

Results from ICSEW’s Mentorship Pilot Will be Highlighted

portrait of Josefina Magana
Josefina Magana

ICSEW Chair Josefina Magana will talk about accomplishments and lessons learned from the committee’s mentorship pilot program at a virtual lunch and learn hosted by the state Office of Financial Management.

The hour-long lunch and learn, ICSEW Stands Strong in 2021: Advocating Through Mentorship will take place at noon Wednesday, March 3 via Zoom.

The ICSEW presentation is part of OFM’s virtual Lunch and Learn gatherings that will highlight the work of Washington State’s Business Resource Groups, BRGs. Meetings are one hour long on Zoom attendees will be able to participate in a live question-and-answer session.

BRGs bring together groups of employees and their allies who have a common interest or characteristic. Members bring their unique knowledge and perspectives, making them an asset to state business needs, recruitment and retention.

Magana has served on the ICSEW since 2017, most recently as the committee’s vice chair. Magana previously served as the committee’s mentorship chair, where she worked with a group of subcommittee members to launch the ICSEW’s mentorship pilot program. Under her leadership, the mentorship subcommittee built a business case, identified key stakeholders, conducted surveys, and planned the curriculum to launch the first interagency mentorship pilot program.

The pilot launched in July 2020 and had approximately 40 participants from different stage agencies. Magana will share some key points the ICSEW learned while launching the project, and how ICSEW is working with partners to create a statewide mentorship program for all state employees.

Registration Information

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcucu2oqTkqEtJiRF-fxGGMbYt0UtgUv16D

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the meeting.

About Josefina Magana

Josefina Magana is a manager of safety and health projects at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

She describes herself as “a passionate leader who motivates and empowers people to find their true talents and become effective agents of positive change.” Professional development, finding ways to acquire knowledge and being innovative have always been at the forefront of her personal and professional career.

Magana has a master’s degree in international relations from the Brussels School of International Studies and a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University, where she studied Spanish and Sociology. After graduating from Western, Magana pioneered bilingual programs in Spain that allowed students to learn English as a second language.

Magana was a 2020 Leadership Thurston County program participant and is a member of the Washington State Career Development Association

About ICSEW:

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW is made up of governor-appointed state-employees from various agencies. The ICSEW seeks to better the lives of state employees through advocacy, outreach, opportunity, and by advising the Governor and agencies on policies that affect state-employed women.

Mission: To better the lives of state employees by advising the Governor and agencies on policies that affect state-employed women.

Vision: Enriching lives through advocacy, outreach, and opportunity.

For more information about the ICSEW, visit, https://icsew.wa.gov.

To learn about Washington’s various Business Resource Groups, please visit https://ofm.wa.gov/state-human-resources/workforce-diversity-equity-and-inclusion/statewide-business-resource-groups

Upcoming Training: 2021 Women’s Summit

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women is proud to once again sponsor the Spring Women’s Summit, hosted by Cornerstone Coaching & Training.  The Summit is designed for women of all ages & stages in life to become confident communicators in an inclusive, supportive environment.

Regular cost for registration is $117, but ICSEW representatives and alternate representatives can get $30 off their registration (Just use the code ICSEW30 at checkout).

Speaker sessions are designed to be interactive, inspiring, and allow participants to come away informed, highly motivated and compelled to take action.

Spring Summit Topics will Include:

  • Understanding and overcoming negative implicit bias
  • Self-care, and building resilience
  • Joy and grit
  • Telling your story
  • Empowering action and moving forward 
  • And more…

The event will be LIVE via Zoom from a high-tech conference room at the Washington Center for Women in Business (WCWB).

For more details and registration information visit:   https://bit.ly/3nnbFaX

Karen Johnson Named Director of State Equity Office

Dr. Karen Johnson
Dr. Karen Johnson
OLYMPIA–Gov. Jay Inslee this week named Karen A. Johnson, PhD, director of the newly created state Office of Equity. The Office of Equity, established by the Legislature, was signed into law by Inslee in April of 2020. The office will work with agencies to increase access to equitable opportunities in order to bridge opportunity gaps and reduce disparities. The office will also work with communities to develop the state’s five-year equity plan.Johnson is currently the equity and inclusion administrator for the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), where she works to incorporate equity, diversity, inclusion and respect (EDI-R) into DOC policy and practices. She also represents DOC on the statewide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

Johnson’s career includes working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, serving in roles ranging from regional equal employment opportunity (EEO) program manager to chief administrative officer of the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center. She then served as the director for Tri-Love Ministries in Seattle, working to ensure equitable access to resources and services for Black children and their families in King County before transitioning to local and state government work.

“Karen brings extensive experience working to transform local and state government systems to more equitably serve Washingtonians,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “She has oriented her entire career around helping disadvantaged communities and instituting lasting systemic and institutional change for generations to come. I have every confidence that she will be an excellent, effective director. I am looking forward to working with her collaboratively to ensure that our state is one that supports all Washingtonians. The Office of Equity is an exciting opportunity to reframe how state government works.”

“Governor Inslee has boldly announced Washington’s historic commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism and I am excited to join his team at this time,” Johnson said. “We will work to develop a new state culture that centers equity in all of its work and provides all Washingtonians with an opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“The Office of Equity Task Force benefitted tremendously from the great experience and strong moral force that Dr. Johnson brought to the table,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, who sponsored the Senate companion to the legislation creating the Office of Equity. “As director of the Office of Equity, she will be a strong and inspirational champion for creating a future that we want our children to live in.”

“After several years of community conversations and traveling across every corner of this beautiful state, I am so pleased that the Washington state Office of Equity will open with its new director, Dr. Karen Johnson,” said Rep. Mia Gregerson, prime sponsor of HB 1783. “The Office of Equity will increase access to state services and programs while also improving outcomes and opportunities for all Washingtonians. I am truly grateful for the people who stewarded this process and the thoughtfulness that has been taken in every part of this journey. It takes all of us to create a livelihood where everyone can fully participate and thrive with dignity. I am hopeful that this significant step forward will get us closer to realizing a healthier and prosperous Washington.”

“This is a giant leap forward and shows that Washington state is moving full steam ahead in how we address inclusion by dismantling racism,” said Rep. Melanie Morgan, who sat on the Office of Equity Task Force. “This isn’t just lip service; this is going to bring positive change throughout the state. I am overjoyed and proud to see the Office of Equity become a reality and appreciate the governor making all Washington residents a priority. Disparities in Black/African American, Native/Indigenous and communities of color exist. The Office of Equity shows we are serious about diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Johnson has served as adjunct faculty at The Evergreen State College, teaching courses in dismantling racism and identifying bias in public service settings for the master of public administration program.

She holds both a PhD and Master of Public Administration from Old Dominion University, and earned her bachelor of science from Utica College of Syracuse University. She has also earned a Certified Diversity Executive certification.

The appointment is effective March 8.

Registration is Open for Our March 2021 Meeting

March Meeting Preview: How to Get Your Cup Filled: Overcoming Burnout

By Julie Hyde, Washington State Department of Health

hands holding a coffee cup
Image from Unsplash

We’re now a year into this pandemic. We’ve adapted to new working challenges. Though some of us have been able to start getting vaccines, it’ll still be a while before we can go back to ‘normal’ activities. In the meantime, we’re still navigating new challenges, and the stress that goes with it.

ICSEW is continuing its series of trainings in how to be our best selves in this ‘new normal.’

You’re invited to join the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women from 8:30 a.m. to noon on March 16, 2021 via Zoom for a couple presentations on stress management and self-care.

All regular ICSEW meetings are free and open to anyone, regardless of gender or employment status.  ICSEW members should register for the meeting on EventBrite. After registering on EventBrite, you will receive an email with the Zoom link. The general public will also be able to view the meeting on Facebook Live.

There will also be a 30 minute breakout sessions for subcommittee groups. ICSEW members who attend the meeting via Zoom will be able to select their subcommittee breakout room during the meeting.

The regular meeting will adjourn at noon. A board meeting will convene at 1 p.m. The public is welcome to join the meeting. It will be conducted via the same Zoom link.

The Presentations

How to Get Your Cup Filled

Are you feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, worried or stressed during this COVID-19 crisis?

Are you having trouble keeping up in your professional and personal life?

In this presentation, Linda Tilson and Jared Bull will share with strategies to overcome burnout. 

Coping With COVID-19: Behavioral Health Trends, Workforce Impacts and Resources

COVID-19 has impacted all of our daily lives. It’s not uncommon those impacts to be in ways we might not recognize. Dr. Kira Mauseth will address the specifics about where we are on a larger scale with our behavioral health responses in the contest of the pandemic as a natural disaster across the state and how our brains and bodies function accordingly at home an in the worklplace. Mauseth will discuss:

Common nuerological and physical responses at the current phase of the disaster response and recovery cycle, common symptoms and experiences, challenges we’ll likely face in the coming months and what we can do to prevent burnout and increase resilience factors as the pandemic continues.

Specific ideas will be provided about how to communicate and interact more effectively with others in the context of COVID-19, and increase our own sense of resilience.

About the Presenters:

Linda Tilson

Linda Tilson has led a team of accountants and professional staff for over 13 years as an accounting services manager for the Department of Labor and Industries. She recently completed her project coordinator certificate. Tilson is passionate about empowering individuals to take actions that lead to personal and professional success through her active leadership in mentoring, coaching, and teaching partnerships.

Jared Bull

Jared Bull is a transformational coach an entrepreneur. He works with other coaches, executives and entrepreneurs from around the world both online and offline to give them the inner tools and external resources to help them bring inner visions to life. His work has been showcased on five different continents, has a YouTube channel of 25 thousand, and has consulted within Fortune 500 companies such as Principal Financial Group. He is dedicated to showing entrepreneurs and business owners the inner and external tools to be outwardly and inwardly successful despite the volatile environments around them.  

Kira Mauseth

Dr. Kira Mauseth is a practicing clinical psychologist who splits her professional time between seeing patients at Snohomish Psychology Associates, teaching as a Senior Instructor at Seattle University and serving as a co-lead for the Behavioral Health Strike Team for the Washington State Department of Health. Her focus is on resilience and recovery from trauma as well as well as disaster behavioral health. She has worked extensively in Haiti with earthquake survivors, in Jordan with Syrian refugees and Jordanian relief workers, as well as with first responders and health care workers throughout Puget Sound the United States. Mauseth also conducts trainings with organizations and educational groups about disaster preparedness and resilience building within local communities.

AGENDA

View the agenda here

Event Brite Link

For more information about ICSEW please visit our website at www.icsew.wa.gov

January 2021 Meeting Recap: Survive, Revive and Thrive in the New Year

By Tanyah Williams, Washington State Patrol

fireworks
image from Pixabay.com

Stress and unexpected curveballs in our personal and professional lives were the norm of 2020 because of a pandemic with impacts not seen in similar proportions since the Spanish flu over a century ago. We all had to adapt to incredible changes last year, and it looks like they’ll continue throughout 2021.

January’s ICSEW meeting offered multiple presentations on how to take those challenges head on and be the best we can be. The following are some of the key takeaways from the sessions. Supporting documents are on our meeting minutes and materials page. A recording of the entire meeting can be viewed on our Facebook page on the ‘videos’ tab.

Survive, Revive and Thrive Ann Hiatt

Leadership consultant Ann Hiatt  gave a presentation on how Survive, Revive and Thrive professionally during and after a crisis. Three key points for any situation, according to Hiatt:

  1. Survive – The world is collectively in survival mode.  It’s difficult to make an informed decision and plan when no one knows where the finish line lies.  There are three things to help regain a sense of control during these very stressful and ambiguous early stages of adjustment.
  1. Get Clarity – It’s essential to understand the ways in which ways, deliverables and expectations have shifted.  You cannot assume previous job description or tasks have transference into this new situation.  Here are a few essential steps to get clarity.
    1. Set up meeting
    1. Build trust
    1. Don’t be afraid to manage up
  • Adapt– Without knowing when this will end it’s hard to budget our time, resources and energy accordingly leading to exhaustion.  Three things that help regain a sense of control are:
    • Accept that you cannot do it all
    • Remember Parato’s Principle – 80% or our results come from just 20% of our efforts.
    • Master the pivot
  • ResilienceSet a sustainable paceBe the sense maker and meaning finderPerform random acts of leadership
  • Revive – Eventually we will get out of survival mode and into the rhythm of the new normal.  Critical steps in the revive phrase are:
  1. AmbitionTake a look at your current role and set some goals beyond current responsibilitiesMake a goal list of ambitionsFocus on what give you hope for the future
  • TrustOut care everyoneBe  credible and reliableInvest in beneficial relationships
  • ReboundReorient yourself in a competitive environmentPredict and be proactiveOperationalize your dreams and vision
  • Thrive – Just a repeat of the cycles above even when times are more certain again.

Building Resilience to Manage Stress: Kari Uhlman, Employee Assistance Program

woman sitting in front of laptop chewing a pencil
image from Pixabay.com

Since the onset of the a pandemic, the Department of Enterprise Services Employee Assistance program has been hosting webinars on COIVD-19 stress-management and resiliency. For a complete list of upcoming webinars, or to listen to past webinars on demand, please visit https://des.wa.gov/services/hr-finance/washington-state-employee-assistance-program-eap/webinars

Key Points:

Building Resilience

Finding meaning – In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.

Optimism

  • Identify what you have control over
  • Seek the positives
  • Reframe & replace negative thoughts

Self-awareness – Try the Strength Assessment at www.marcusbuckngham.com

  • Increase you understanding of your own unique identity
  • Identify tools and practices you can use to increase your self-awareness
  • Identify triggers & create a plan

Self-care – Can include clearing clutter, to taking care of self financially, to unfollowing friends on social media. 

Find the Self-Care Wheel at www.olgaphoenix.com

Support

  • Use the buddy system – check in with each other
  • Seek & utilize support systems

The EAP offers support in so many areas. It’s free to you and your family.  Locate EAP at www.eap.wa.gov or call at 877-313-4455 for a list of all their free resources.

ICSEW Bill Alert: HB 1047 Mandating Coverage for Hearing Instruments

As part of its work, the ICSEW Legislative and Policy subcommittee provides Bill Alerts during the current legislative cycle. Its purpose is to inform state employees of pending legislation that may impact them.

As state employees, we cannot use state time or resources to lobby for or against legislative proposals in accordance with RCW 42.52.160 and RCW 42.52.180, laws concerning ethics in public service and use of public resources for political campaigns.

ICSEW asks that you share opinions in an ethical way, using your own personal time, phone, computers, devices and resources.

January 2021 Meeting Preview: Resolve to Survive, Revive and Thrive

image of fireworks courtesy Pixabay.com

by Julie Hyde, Washington State Department of Health

It’s a new year, and most of us are looking forward to fresh beginnings and hope for better things after the unprecedented events of 2020.

For the first meeting of the new year, ICSEW will have presentations on building resiliency after a crisis and how to successfully manage stress.  We’ll also have a news update from the Washington State Women’s Commission.

You’re invited to join the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women on Zoom and Facebook Live from 8:30 am to noon on January 19, 2021.

Attendees should register via EventBrite. When you register on EventBrite, you will receive an email with Zoom instructions.

All regular ICSEW meetings are free and open to anyone, regardless of gender or employment status.  A 1-hour ICSEW executive board meeting immediately follows the regular meeting, which is also open for attendees to observe.

Descriptions of the presentations are below:

How to Survive, Revive and Thrive Professionally in a Crisis

Are you feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, worried or stressed about your professional life during this COVID-19 crisis? You are not alone! We are not only facing a health crisis but also an economic crisis that the world has never experienced before.

It’s OK not to know what to do when your very survival is threatened. However, once we can move ourselves and our loved ones into a safe environment and have a moment to breathe, there are some simple tools that will give you a professional advantage during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In this presentation, Ann Hiatt, will share with us some extraordinary insights about how to SURVIVE, REVIVE, AND THRIVE Professionally in the midst of crisis. 

Washington State Women’s Commission Update

The Washington State Women’s Commission improves the life of every woman by ensuring equitable opportunities and removing systemic barriers through engagement, advocacy, and public policy, while being inclusive of our diverse populations.

The Women’s Commission recently appointed Regina Malveaux as its new director. Malveaux will speak about very important topics including the impact of COVID-19 on women and internet access crisis for families working from home.

Building Resilience to Manage Stress

During these challenging times building resilience is key to managing stress. In this presentation you’ll learn how stress can impact you, ways resilience can help you weather life’s ups and downs, strategies to build and maintain resilience, and supports and resources available.

About the Presenters

Ann Hiatt

Ann Hiatt is a Silicon Valley veteran who received her initial business training during 15 years as the Executive Business Partner to Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and Chief-of-Staff to Eric Schmidt (CEO and Executive Chairman at Google/Alphabet).

Her very first job was at 16 when she worked at a startup in Redmond, Washington called MusicWare – back when no one knew what a startup was. Growing up in Seattle during the original dotcom boom, surrounded by companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, was a master class in innovation and it changed the course of her life.

Hiatt  now consults with executives and companies across the globe to reverse engineer their moonshot goals and get results by applying the lessons of innovation, ambition, growth at scale and forward-thinking leadership she learned at Amazon and Google. Aside from this, Hiatt is committed to democratizing the internet and bringing underrepresented voices to the forefront

Hiatt  is a sought-after international speaker, angel investor and sits on several boards in the UK. Ann has recently relocated from Silicon Valley to Europe and brings with her a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed in business today. Ann is also the author of Bet On Yourself which will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.

Regina Malveaux

Appointed to Governor Jay Inslee’s cabinet as Director of the Washington State Women’s Commission, Regina Malveaux has served as one of our nine inaugural Commissioners for the past two years. Malveaux  has over 20 years of experience as a tenacious advocate for women and children as a non-profit executive, victim’s services provider, community leader and policy advocate.

Malveaux served as CEO of the YWCA, Executive Director of the YWCA South Hampton Roads, Legal Advocate at the YWCA San Diego and founder of the Women’s Legal Center. Through her work with the YWCA, she established a national reputation as an aggressive advocate on issues related to gender-based violence and funding supports for families experiencing poverty.

Malveaux  holds an undergraduate degree in Social Policy from San Diego State University, a law degree from Howard University School of Law and a certificate in Non-profit Management from the Harvard University School of Business. During law school, she worked in both the White House and in Congress, for First Lady Hillary Clinton and the Honorable Maxine Waters respectively.

She has worked to train a new generation of advocates as an adjunct professor in Political, Women’s and African American studies at San Diego State University, the Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Old Dominion University, and Whitworth University.

Malveaux  has served on a number of boards aimed at advancing racial justice, economic empowerment and victim safety including the San Diego NAACP, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and the YWCA USA. Malveaux  is the mother of two adult children and currently resides in Olympia.

Kari Uhlman

Kari Uhlman is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor for Washington State and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She supports public employees and family members in identifying and resolving personal and workplace concerns and provides EAP presentations on work/life topics throughout Washington State.  Prior to becoming a counselor, Uhlman was in the field of training, leadership, and organizational development for 20 years in healthcare and higher education.

Uhlman has a special place in her heart for foster and adopted children as she previously specialized in working with these families. 

A First Responder for the Heart and Soul: DOC Employee Launches Non-profit Organization to Train Chaplains for Wilderness

Department of Corrections Employee Katjarina Hurt. Hurt is also the founder and executive director for Wilderness Chaplains.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on The Washington State Department of Corrections’ website.

By Rachel Friederich

OLYMPIA, Washington—As an avid mountaineer and volunteer police chaplain, Katjarina Hurt knows firsthand the mental and emotional toll frequent exposure to trauma can have on first responders.

In urban settings, there is usually a chaplain, a staff psychologist or someone from the clergy to provide mental and emotional support following a critical incident. But for those who work in wilderness settings, this is often not the case.

That’s why Hurt, a Washington State Department of Corrections human resource consultant and former community corrections officer, started a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rescuers who work in remote environments, give and receive compassionate crisis care.

“Chaplains are like the first responders for the heart and soul,” Hurt says. “I like that I can come up to someone whose life has collapsed all around them, and by the time I leave, they’re starting to put the pieces back together.”

It’s the driving force behind Hurt’s organization, Wilderness Chaplains. The Puget Sound-based organization provides training, education and resources to chaplains so they can deploy to emergencies in remote areas. Hurt is the organizations founder and executive director.

The pandemic put a hold on an in-person wilderness chaplain academy. However, Hurt is arranging virtual trainings and building a network of interested chaplains who will eventually be able to deploy to incidents in the wilderness.

It Stemmed From Grief

Katjarina Hurt and Stephen Kornbluth

Wilderness Chaplains came about as an indirect result of the death of Hurt’s best friend, Stephen Kornbluth, following a 2018 climbing accident in Mount Rainier National Park.

Hurt, who was working as a curriculum designer for DOC at the time, had backed out of a scheduled climb with Kornbluth and other friends because she wasn’t feeling well the night before the trip.

When the accident happened, her friends had called local mountaineering authorities. One of the people they talked to didn’t know much about addressing critical incident stress or immediate resources to gather for the survivors. So that person called Hurt.

“They didn’t know it was my best friend who had died and when they called me, I collapsed on the floor sobbing,” Hurt said. “But I also knew I had to go into chaplain mode because I know what needs to be done. God help me, I wished there was someone else who knew what needed to be done, but I didn’t know where to find another one of me.”

In the days that followed, Hurt did things that chaplains do. She delivered the death notification to Kornbluth’s girlfriend, arranged support plans for the survivors, and brought in another chaplain to provide a critical incident stress debriefing. Critical incident stress briefings are specific techniques designed to help people deal with physical or psychological symptoms associated with trauma exposure. She found professionals who could listen to the survivors and let them express whatever emotions they’re feeling. Grief. Sadness. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. All to let them know that even after their world had been shattered, they weren’t alone. Hurt found resources for herself, too, knowing she would not be able to get through the loss of her best friend alone.

Word about Hurt’s actions and her unique background spread through the search and rescue community. She began getting calls from people all over the area wanting to know if she could train them and how to find chaplains who specialize in responding to non-urban incidents. It’s what inspired Hurt to start Wilderness Chaplains.

Exploring Public Safety Careers

Katjarina Hurt on Ski Patrol at the Summit on Snoqualmie

Providing solace to others overwhelmed by grief wasn’t always something Hurt considered as a career path. Hurt had at first set her sights at a career in advertising or journalism. In fact, she earned her first bachelor’s degree in communications from Gonzaga University. When she graduated in 2009, it was in the middle of the recession. Entry-level job openings were nearly non-existent, so Hurt had to figure out a Plan B.

When applying to jobs, Hurt relied on her experience as a first responder. Hurt was born in the Pacific Northwest, on Vashon Island, so she said it was only natural she and her family would work in the wilderness. Hurt’s mother was a ski patroller. Hurt regularly volunteered for the patrol in high school and college, providing first aid to injured skiers and helping search and rescue teams look for lost skiers.

The ski patrol experience came in handy when she got a job as a public safety officer at Seattle University. While she worked the graveyard shift at the university, she attended classes during the day. She studied theology, because “it seemed interesting.” But she didn’t yet know how studying religion and working in public safety would shape the rest of her career.

One fateful night in October 2009, Hurt overheard some chatter over the police scanner that would have a lasting impact on her. She heard screaming and an urgent distress call in which a police officer described what the community would soon learn was the shooting death of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton.

Hurt and her co-workers began response protocols, in case the shooter tried to hide on campus. As she listened to the sirens and the babble over the scanner, Hurt noticed a drastic shift in tone in the officers’ voices.

“You could tell this burly cop was crying on the radio,” Hurt recalled. “I thought ‘Who goes out there and takes care of the cops? Who is there with the family of this guy who has just been killed?’ Who is the one out there making sure these guys are OK as they process the body of their brother?’ That’s when it started nagging at me that I don’t want to be the one out there looking for the bad guy. I want to go out and hug all of these officers because they sound so devastated. That’s when I learned what chaplains were and found my calling.”

Help is Not Always ‘Sunshine and Roses’

Hurt earned a master’s degree in Theology and Ministry from Seattle University in 2013 and also got a chaplaincy certificate from a police and fire chaplain’s academy in Burien. Around this time, Hurt married a soldier who got stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.

After moving to Missouri, Hurt found a job as a probation officer for the Missouri Department of Corrections, where she managed a caseload of over 100 people including interstate compact cases and pre-sentencing investigations. As a pre-sentence investigator, Hurt’s interviewed victims and their family members and the perpetrator, then worked with attorneys to recommend sentencing ranges to the judge prior to someone’s sentencing.

Working as a probation officer made Hurt realize getting people the help they need often isn’t pleasant, and you often don’t know the final outcome of the service you provide.

For example, Hurt once had to go to court to ask a judge to revoke the community supervision of a drug-addicted mother. The constant drug use and frequent arrests made the mom a danger to society and her children’s safety. When Hurt met her, she was facing a multi-year prison sentence.

“She absconded, lied, and fought tooth and nail every step of the way,” Hurt recalled. “I remember the woman’s mother came up to me. She already had custody of the children. She said ‘It’s going to be really hard for them to not have a mother for the next several years, but I think you’re going to be saving her life, and these girls won’t wind up motherless.’”

The decision to revoke her supervision made Hurt want to cry, but “Making a difference is a tough pill to swallow sometimes, because we can’t always make a difference with sunshine and roses.”

Corrections employees rarely know if a client succeeds in turning their lives around once they are off department supervision and are no longer required to check in. Hurt says the uneasiness of not knowing how it all turns out is part of the job description. But she said one of the most cathartic ways to deal with those difficult feelings is to talk them out with someone you trust.

“It challenges us to learn to navigate the feelings of discomfort and lack of control,” Hurt said. “Sometimes getting the unclear thoughts out in words is the best thing we can do because they don’t spin around in your brain anymore.”

From Corrections to Teaching

Katjarina Hurt speaks at the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women’s annual Celebration meeting at the Washington State Legislative Building in Olympia.

In 2015, Hurt returned to Washington. The Department of Corrections hired her as a community corrections officer in Tacoma. She was once again managing interstate compact cases and homeless individuals.

After another year of working in the field, Hurt said the exposure to traumatic and dangerous situations began taking a toll on her overall wellness. She wasn’t eating or sleeping well, worked a lot of overtime, and avoided hanging out with her friends. A supervisor noticed the changes and suggested she apply for a curriculum designer position within the agency’s training and development unit. Curriculum designers create and teach annual in-service trainings for employees.

Hurt ended up getting the job. It invigorated her.

“I am really drawn to guiding people, helping them find their way,” Hurt said. “I fell in love with it and I think that’s where my big career shift happened.”

Taking a Break from Corrections

As Hurt flourished in her new role, she began to draw attention both in training and coaching new instructors. Several state agencies and professional groups asked her to be a guest trainer or speak at conferences and events.

When the accident happened in 2018, Hurt hit a wall. She could no longer be her best self at work.

“My life was just so upside down that I had to take a break,” Hurt said. “I took a lot of leave and when I came back, I just couldn’t focus on work anymore. I questioned everything about my life and my career. I made the really hard decision to resign. I needed to go home and grieve.”

When she took some time off, doors started opening.

Getting through the Grief

In 2018 and 2019, Hurt distanced herself from corrections. She began forming Wilderness Chaplains and got part-time jobs as a behavioral health technician at Ashley House and ACES, organizations that provide compassionate care for young adults and children or special health care needs.

Several of her clients were kids with autism. Helping them allowed Hurt to feel other things besides grief.

“I was pretty numb from the loss of Stephen and it was good for me to be in a position to experience strong emotions unrelated to his death,” Hurt said. “I knew I made a difference when the parents would tell me their kids looked forward to seeing me or had less behavior problems after a session.”

Hurt started seeing herself differently.

“The programs I designed for the kids aren’t meant to change them or ‘fix’ them because there’s nothing broken about them,” Hurt said. “I started looking at myself, my friends and family with this new lens of being more loving and forgiving of our faults and imperfections, instead focusing on what brings joy and fulfilment in life. It made me less of a perfectionist and more open-minded and appreciative of people’s differences.

With a renewed energy, Hurt set to work growing Wilderness Chaplains.

Redefining ‘Chaplain’

Katjarina Hurt takes a call during her shift as a volunteer police chaplain.

In early 2020, Hurt returned to DOC as a human resources consultant in its statewide records unit.

In her spare time, Hurt continued her chaplaincy work, volunteering for the Olympia Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office. Being open-minded and an advocate of diversity is something Hurt says is key to being a good chaplain.

She’s on a mission to broaden the definition of a chaplain. Some agencies, like the DOC, have changed the term ‘chaplain’ to ‘institutional religious coordinator.’ Legislation enacted in 2019 mandated that change in language, to be inclusive to people of all faiths.

Most lexicons historically defined a chaplain as someone who is Christian. Hurt noted when she first decided to serve as a police chaplain, a lot of the ones she met were retired, Caucasian, male ministers. Hurt is quick to point out she is not a religious coordinator; She would rather re-define chaplains to be more inclusive for those who aren’t Christian, or who don’t follow a religion at all. In fact, Hurt said she’s gotten into heated debates with other chaplains who seem to be too ‘Christian-focused.’

“A chaplain doesn’t preach, a chaplain listens,” Hurt said. “I’m trying to create a culture shift that if a chaplain holds up a Bible and starts preaching, everyone knows they’re not being a chaplain. A chaplain should serve everyone and should represent what is in the best interest of the other person’s heart, mind, body, and soul. I firmly believe that anyone, even agnostics and atheists can do that.”

It’s OK to Ask for Help

One of the most important lessons Hurt has learned from her journey through grief and working alongside those in law enforcement professions is that post-traumatic stress injuries are very real.

The Journal of Emergency Medical Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (pdf) have scores of peer-reviewed literature showing people who work in these professions experience depression and suicide rates that are higher than those of the general public. And a lot of times, people who work in these fields might be reluctant to seek help because of a perceived stigma of being treated differently or not being trusted to return to work after taking some time off to address those issues.

Hurt advises first responders start with confidential ways to seek help like peer support or a staff psychologist. If they don’t feel comfortable with those options, then they should find something more removed from the workplace, such as the state’s Employee Assistance Program or a first responder crisis line.

“It’s truly a matter of life and death,” Hurt said, noting that she has openly sought counseling herself and it has been tremendously beneficial. “You wouldn’t let a stab wound continue to drip blood until it finally kills you. Don’t let your stress injuries do that to you. They will bleed you dry if you do not accept what is happening and treat the injury.”

Helping first responders treating their stress injuries is one of the things Hurt wants Wilderness Chaplains to do because it’s where her heart is.

“I feel the most fulfilled when I can come into someone’s life and help them realize their own strengths, make a plan and start to move forward, and then I can back away and I know that they’re doing what they need to do now,” Hurt said. “That keeps me doing what I do. I keep answering the phone. I might feel exhausted some days, but I know I was meant to do this. When you need me to be there, I’ll be like, ‘Absolutely! I may need coffee, but I’m on my way!’”

Wilderness Chaplains is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that is registered with the Secretary of State’s Combined Fund Drive charities. To learn more, visit Wilderness Chaplains or the Washington State Combined Fund Drive.

ICSEW Drive Supports Victims of Domestic Violence, Local Businesses Amid Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

ICSEW logo

Updated on December 9, 2020

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women (ICSEW) is sponsoring a gift card and supplies drive for organizations that provide services and resources to women and individuals who are victims of domestic violence. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, police departments and civic groups are reporting a spike in domestic violence cases. Mandated stay-at-home orders have put victims in close proximity to their abusers.

“This is an opportunity to help empower Washingtonians who are taking the difficult steps to protect the wellbeing of themselves and their families. These are strong, brave individuals, and to be a part of bettering their lives falls in line with so many of ICSEW’s values,” said ICSEW Public Outreach Co-chair, Jasmine Pippin-Timco.   

The drive started Oct. 1, the beginning of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The drive will run until April 30, 2021, with a possible extension through summer if needs remain dire. Recipients of the gift cards so far are the following organizations:

“This is a great opportunity to make a difference twice with one gesture as many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat through this pandemic,” said ICSEW Public Outreach Co-chair, Debra Lefing. “Donating a gift card helps a domestic violence survivor obtain meals or supplies and gives a much-needed boost to a business owner.”

How to Participate

If you are an individual who would like to donate a gift card, simply reach out to a local business or restaurant near you to purchase the card and mail to the desired organization below. Any business that carries grocery items, diapers & wipes, personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies would be useful. The organizations also need gift cards for restaurants, takeout, and fast food locations for food. During the holiday season any gift card can be donated as the families receive them as a Christmas gift, in some cases these are the only gifts children receive.

If you are an immune compromised individual or do not feel comfortable purchasing a gift card in-person, the ICSEW’s Annual Charity Drive page will have an updated list of businesses that offer no-contact purchase options starting December 7. If you are a business that would like to be on this list, please see the section below for businesses for how to participate. ICSEW is coordinating with businesses to arrange delivery of gift cards to specific organizations..

For Individuals: To ensure safe, no-contact delivery, ICSEW is encouraging the public to mail gift cards to charitable organizations for local businesses that carry items in need.

Western Washington:

Eastern Washington

  • New Hope (Grand Coulee, Moses Lake, Mattawa, Othello, Quincy, Royal City) C/O: Tina Steinmetz 311 W 3rd Ave, Moses Lake, WA, 98837
  • YWCA Spokane (Spokane County) C/O: Jennifer Haynes-Harter 930 N Monroe St, Spokane, WA 99201
  • YWCA Yakima (Yakima County) C/O: Miriam Saavedra 818 W Yakima Ave, Yakima, WA 98902

If you are a local business and would like to participate in the gift card and product drive or be added to our list for contact free purchases please contact the ICSEW’s Public Outreach Subcommittee Co-Chairs. For western Washington businesses please contact jasmine.pippin-timco@lcb.wa.gov. For eastern Washington businesses, please contact debra.lefing@atg.wa.gov.  

For more information about the gift card drive, please visit the ICSEW’s Annual Charity Drive webpage, https://icsew.wa.gov/events/charity-drive/

The ICSEW’s Public Outreach Subcommittee has a vested interest in supporting community organizations that share the ICSEW values of Wellness, Advocacy, Leadership, Integrity, Fostering growth and Empowerment.

About the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women:

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW is made up of governor-appointed state-employees from various agencies. The ICSEW seeks to better the lives of state employees through advocacy, outreach, opportunity, and by advising the Governor and agencies on policies that affect state-employed women.

Mission: To better the lives of state employees by advising the Governor and agencies on policies that affect state-employed women.

Vision: Enriching lives through advocacy, outreach, and opportunity.

For more information about the ICSEW, visit, https://icsew.wa.gov.