School is back in session, mornings are getting cooler, and pumpkin-spice everything is showing up everywhere. With thoughts of school days (at least college school days!), I interviewed Angie Cottrell, who works at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Angie was the director of the Office of Student Involvement for seven years and has recently changed roles within the university in hopes that she can continue her support of student success. Cottrell also is active with Human Rights Campaign Kansas City, spinning (bikes, not wool!), and her family. I’m a little winded by everything Angie has accomplished in life!
How long have you lived in Kansas City, and what brought you here?
I moved to Kansas City from Nashville in 2009 in order to advance my professional career. I had been searching for positions across the country and found a great position and fit at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. While I had other opportunities, this also brought me a little closer to home (Iowa) and my family. I live with my partner of five years, Jen Nelson, and we have two dogs – Dexter (black Lab, 7) and Macy (rescue pit bull, 12) – and a cat, Nigel (annoying orange tabby, 7).
What is your position at UMKC and what does it entail?
The core of my responsibility at UMKC is to support our students of concern on campus and also uphold the Student Standard of Conduct. When supporting our students of concern, I provide guidance, support, and advocacy to help improve the student experience. These concerns can range from conflicts with other students or faculty/staff, family dynamics, overall transition to a community environment, etc. I want all our students to have a positive experience, be successful academically and socially, and graduate. Sometimes these moments of crisis or concern can take students off that successful path. My goal is to help them move forward in a positive direction.
Some students also make mistakes or poor decisions while at UMKC, which changes my role to one of enforcing our Student Standard of Conduct. When these issues occur on campus, I work collaboratively with our Title IX/Office of Affirmative Action, UMKC Police, Residential Life, Counseling Services, and other offices to help maintain a positive university climate that encourages students to take responsibility for their actions. I treat our students with respect through this process. I had to suspend a student one year, and yet they gave me a hug when they returned. Oftentimes, there are underlying issues that brought students to a violation of our Student Standard of Conduct, so this allows us to work together to stop, remedy, and prevent further issues from occurring and get students the support they need.
Finally, I work on a variety of projects within Student Affairs and serve as the liaison for our Health Sciences Campus at Hospital Hill and support our military service members and veterans on campus. I also have a standing adjunct professor position with the UMKC School of Education and teach master’s and doctoral students who want to become university administrators in the future.
Prior to your current position, you were the director of the Office of Student Involvement. Why the move?
I served as the director for OSI for seven years at UMKC and truly enjoyed providing vibrant campus experiences for our students, which included the areas of Student Government, Union Programming, Fraternities and Sororities, Student Organizations, Family Weekend, Service Programs, Kangaroo Food Pantry, Communiversity, and LGBTQIA Programs and Services. While I loved what I did, it was also causing some professional burnout. Anyone who has done this type of work understands the long hours, nights, and weekends necessary for this role.
My professional goal is to become a dean of students, and although my experience leading OSI was incredibly valuable, I wanted to diversity my resume and move my career one step closer to my goal. I was able to talk about my professional goals with my supervisor, and as our division structure changed, I was able to move into my current position, which has provided me a vastly different professional experience without having to leave UMKC — a university I admire and deeply respect.
Are you still able to interact with the student population in your new position?
I do interact frequently with our students in my new position, but in a different capacity. Rather than large student events or student government/funding meetings, most of my interactions are with individual students. I still get to see many of the students I advised in my previous position, but I have also been able to broaden my student outreach by getting to know more of our professional students on the Health Sciences campus and our military service members and veterans.
What do you enjoy most about working with students?
The students at UMKC are truly phenomenal. One of the best things I love about UMKC is the diversity of our campus. I can walk down the sidewalk and hear three different languages, see two men holding hands together, watch students of different ethnicities laugh together, watch mothers be dropped off for class and say goodbye to their kiddos in the back seat — the list goes on and on. Student truly are the heartbeat of our campus and provide me with joy every day. They keep me young, for sure — from what’s trending musically, to talking about the next Marvel film to come out, to opening up to me and having a good cry. I learn more from them than they probably learn from me. Our students have stories and they want to know they are valued.
What is your involvement with Human Rights Campaign KC, and how long have you worked with the organization?
I currently serve as the governor for the HRC KC Steering Committee. Our committee is one of 35 across the country that brings the work HRC does nationally to the local level. … I first learned about HRC through my role at UMKC working with our LGBTQIA students and joined the committee in 2010 as steering committee co-chair. I transitioned to my role as governor in 2012 and am in my third and final term.
Please share with our readers why being involved in organizations like KC HRC is still relevant.
Given the fragility of our political climate, I hope everyone understands that getting involved in local, state, and national social justice organizations is not optional anymore — it’s vital. Anyone who has ever been considered a second-class citizen or a non-majority member is on the menu with the current administration. For members of the LGBTQIA community, after marriage equality passed and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, many started to step back from being engaged. However, HRC knew there was much more work to be done, and unfortunately, that work has only ramped up as protections are now being rolled back. As the largest civil rights organization that advocates for LGBTQIA individuals, HRC has and will continue to fight for the rights we currently have and to continue to advocate for full equality.
One of the best steps HRC took the day after the presidential election last year was to firmly establish a coalition with other social justice organizations including the NAACP, ACLU and Planned Parenthood. We must be united and lock arms together because every life and rights are worth fighting for every day. We have to see beyond our own unique identities and missions and understand when they come for one of us, they come for all of us and we are not about to let that happen.
I understand that you’re a bit of a fitness guru. What is your activity of choice and why?
I absolutely love spinning! It’s a tremendous workout and is as challenging as you want it to be, since you control your resistance. I became a certified spin instructor last year and currently teach three mornings a week at Onelife Fitness and Woodside. Being an instructor allows me to pull together three things I love — music, fitness and inspiring others to achieve their goals.
I am intentional about the music I select and the plan for each class. I also love to pull together themed classes, such as “Spinning through the Decades” or battles between Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. I want each class to be a challenge but also a lot of fun for riders.
You have also completed triathlon(s). What did you enjoy most about that challenge?
I have completed multiple half-marathons, one full marathon, and triathlons over the last eight years. I started getting serious about my health and fitness when both of my parents and my oldest brother were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I knew I had to make some changes in my life, so I started running. I ran my first 5K and was hooked. I loved being able to push myself beyond what I think I could do to go faster and stronger. The training can be daunting, but in the end, when you cross the finish line and do something you thought you could never do, it’s all worth it.
After my fourth knee surgery two years ago (thanks, Dr. AJ Strong!), I really had to scale back my running and transitioned my energy to becoming a spin instructor. Now, every time I teach, it’s a challenge — just with less joint impact.
And finally, a fun question. Pumpkin spice or no? Please explain.
For drinks and baked goods? Absolutely. If I had to choose, I’d pick the Roasterie’s August Harvest Blend. It’s like fall in a cup! Pumpkin spice is iconic — it signals the return of hoodies, fall colors and fire pits!