Behind the woman | Penn StateAltoona


From Newark to Altoona to Indianapolis to Syracuse: As Juhanna Rogers moved through each of these cities, she acquired the skills and experience necessary to turn her passions into a thriving career and a fulfilling life.


Rogers says his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, was his cultural foundation. It was there that she learned to celebrate African and Black American culture, the place that shaped her commitment to social justice, education and the arts.

This commitment brought her to Penn State Altoona in 2000. Upon arrival, Rogers found herself in a different world: Newark, a bustling and vibrant center of activity and diversity; Penn State Altoona, a predominantly white college in a predominantly white rural area. But she took the leap, creating a community of students, faculty, and staff of all races. She became a resident assistant, president of the Black Student Union, and became involved in the dance program.

Surrounded by the support of teachers such as KT Huckabee and Rebecca Strzelec and staff such as Marlene Liska, Noel Feeley, Harriett Gaston and Kenny Macklin, Rogers began to write, direct and produce performance art celebrating the history and culture of Black.

These shows began to gain popularity on campus and in Blair County. Some have even been sold.

At the end of her sophomore year, Rogers was invited to attend the local NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Dinner. When her name was announced as the recipient of the Woman of the Year award, she was stunned. “At first, I didn’t know they were talking about me. I was barely 20 years old and I received this award. It was crazy, but it really affirmed for me the power of performance and the work I was doing.

With this recognition, Rogers continued to write. During a semester abroad in Spain, she wrote a full play for her senior Integrative Arts project. When she returned to Penn State Altoona, she took a course that included set building. She held auditions and organized a technical team. By the time it aired the month before Rogers graduated, it had nearly 70 students, faculty, and staff involved and had three nearly sold-out performances. Rogers remembers it as a magical moment in his life.

When graduation came around in 2004, Rogers considered his next step. “I thought what I had accomplished as a student had transformed the community and the student body. So I kept thinking to myself, ‘Juhanna, you are called to do something more.’ »

Broadcasts of two of Rogers’ Penn State Altoona productions.

Credit: Supplied

Act II

With this conviction and confidence, Rogers decided to pursue his higher education. She was accepted to Indiana University to study higher education and student affairs, her passion for supporting students of color was her commitment. “I thought about what the folks at Penn State Altoona have done very intentionally to open a space for us to celebrate who we are. I knew I wanted to be this no one on campus for students like me who need support and mentorship.”

Once again, Rogers packed her bags and moved to a new state where she didn’t know anyone. She again found herself socially and culturally isolated as one of the few women of color in the graduate program. She used the skills she learned at Altoona to foster relationships and leaned into her love of movement and storytelling by getting involved in the college’s dance program. She has also performed plays at the Madam Walker Legacy Center.

Rogers tapped into those same skills after earning her master’s degree and stayed on at the university as an adjunct instructor for the Department of African Studies. In addition to teaching, she has developed study abroad and international exchange programs, recruited and increased enrollment of African American and Latino students, helped develop online courses exploring the African Diaspora and African American through education and popular culture, and designed and facilitated service projects and workshops.

Having learned what it takes to develop programs that support the retention of black and brown students on campus and in the communities around them, Rogers moved on, enrolling a second time at Indiana University to pursue a doctorate. in educational leadership and political studies. His research has focused on critical race theory, racism in education, and the international experiences of black students and scholars.

When she graduated in 2016, she and seven of her colleagues were dubbed The Great8, the most black women to simultaneously complete doctoral requirements at the university’s school of education.

The Great8s have been selected as Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 Honorees for being changemakers in education. “I was touched because again, like the Woman of the Year award, it wasn’t something I had applied for, but it was something of the blood, of the sweat and tears to do my work, our work, which the community considered worthy. And that meant everything because what I pledged to do was on behalf of the community.

After graduating, Rogers traveled the world to explore how underrepresented populations, especially people of African descent, could improve their lives and communities. Using these experiences, she served as Director of Health Programs for Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. She later served as Director of Community Engagement and Empowerment for the CEO of Center City, a community leadership organization. company and a chamber of commerce also in Syracuse.

After two years in this role, Rogers became the company’s Vice President for Racial Equity and Social Impact, where she creates inclusive spaces for all members of the community to live and thrive.

“I sit at the executive table with many business leaders from across the country, and I challenge them to think differently about how they foster more inclusive spaces. I push the limits and normalities that exist when it comes to social justice. I let them know it was time to move from theory to action.

As always, Rogers uses this philosophy in all aspects of his life, especially the arts.

behind the woman

Rogers considers it her personal mission to encourage women of color to live out loud and unapologetically step into who they are. She was passionate about bringing out the stories of the women she met on her own journey.

In 2019, she became the creator, executive producer and host of behind the woman in partnership with WCNY/PBS. The YouTube series features personal stories of diverse women leaders who inspire and empower other women to pursue their goals and dreams.

“It’s about showcasing some of the brilliant black and brown women in the area who have things to say. We are more than our titles. We experience things and feel things. There is something powerful when humans can sit down and hear someone’s lived experience in a thoughtful and intentional way. Regardless of race, color and gender, we can see human connectedness. »

The third season will debut in October 2022.

Juhanna Rogers spends time with students during a recent visit to Penn State Altoona

Juhanna Rogers spends time with students during a recent visit to Penn State Altoona.

Credit: Supplied

Rogers’ extensive research into the racialized experiences of black students and faculty plays a huge role in his writing and dramaturgy.

She is a writer for various blogs offering commentary on higher education and the black woman’s experience. His poetry has been published in the anthology Divine Feminist. Many of his plays, including A gathering place and For Harrietwere produced and performed on stage.

This summer, held the weekend of June 16, was the first Queendom’s Art Festival in Cazenovia, New York. Conceptualized by Rogers, the event celebrated black excellence in the arts with performances and other entertainment. The festival also featured readings of Rogers’ new work, Queenan ongoing interactive experience that explores the dream and the possibility of reparations.

“Juhanna is a collector, a collector of experiences and people,” says Huckabee, who attended the festival. “His tribe keeps growing. She is always exploring, learning, teaching and creating, and always with a clear message to share.

Rogers isn’t even close to being done with what she can and wants to do. She can see herself teaching in arts programs and speaking on a larger scale, developing Behind the Woman, and traveling the world to share her work. She’s only half kidding about being the next Oprah. And she dreams of her theatrical work hitting Broadway and going on tour.

With his ambition, nothing seems out of reach for Rogers.

“It’s crazy. It’s so crazy. None of this was an orchestrated plan, it all evolved. I just kept making choices that felt right to me, and here I am. I think that’s a testament how important and important it is to build the confidence to choose the job you want to do.Just keep choosing yourself.


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