By Betsy Simon
Apr 22, 2021
Katie Lugar’s, ’15, GR’16, involvement with Indiana State University began at birth.
As the daughter of an ISU social work professor, Lugar attended the Bayh College of Education’s Early Childhood Education Center from infancy until age 5.
“I could learn, thrive, and explore in a safe environment. I loved my time there, and the staff and students helped me grow,” said Lugar, who has served as the Honors College Assistant Director of Student Programming and Leadership since 2018. “In high school, I participated in the ISU Summer Honors Program for three summers. I hadn’t decided on my career path yet, but the immersive college experience helped me build relationships and realize that I wanted to pursue social work because the field’s code of ethics aligned with mine.”
When Lugar enrolled as a freshman, she joined the social work program, the nonprofit leadership program, and the Honors Program (now Honors College) as a University Honors Scholar. She graduated in three years.
“I interned with the Connors Center and Valley Professionals Community Health Center, and both placements allowed me to grow my commitment to community care,” she said. “My time at State allowed me to address justice issues in my community and practice all that I was learning through the social work program.”
Thanks to financial support through the Honors scholarship and Center for Global Engagement, Lugar expanded her knowledge and impact beyond Terre Haute, making study-abroad trips to Guatemala, South Korea, Vietnam, and Russia to learn about international social work practice.
Indiana State was the perfect place for Lugar to achieve her professional goals, so she decided to stay and complete the Master of Social Work (MSW) advanced standing program.
“It was a small and individualized program, which resulted in an impactful experience,” Lugar said.
Before she began her graduate program, Lugar’s grandfather received hospice care and passed away from tobacco-related illnesses. Due to this significant loss, Lugar was committed to learning more about the impacts of tobacco and the benefits of hospice care. Department of Social Work faculty members helped Lugar secure internships with the Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition and VNA & Hospice of the Wabash Valley.
“These clinical experiences helped me to understand health and healthcare in an intimate, professional way to better support individuals and families and facilitate community change,” she explained.
Lugar’s passion for healthcare continues. She is pursuing her doctorate in health sciences and expects to graduate in December. “It has opened my eyes even more to health disparities and healthcare, and I really appreciated the opportunities to work with campus and community leaders to advocate for change,” she said.
When a new position with the Honors College was created, it made perfect sense for Lugar to pursue the opportunity.
“I love Honors. My role focuses on programming, leadership development, and working with students and organizations, and I am passionate about the work we do here,” she said. “Our students are leaders creating positive change on campus, and I love being part of the team that supports them in achieving their goals.”
As the Honors College Assistant Director of Student Programming and Leadership, Lugar oversees the same Summer Honors Program that drew her to Indiana State in the first place. “It’s been awesome to work with faculty to deliver innovative classes for high school students. It definitely feels like a full-circle experience,” she said.
Lugar oversees Honors College programming, including speakers, professional and social events, community-based service and trips, and alternative breaks, in partnership with the Center for Community Engagement. She advises the Honors Council and three honor societies and supports the Honors Peer Mentors as they help first-year students transition to life at ISU. Lugar loves working with new generations of students and seeing them make connections from concepts they learn to actions they can implement.
Outside the Honors College, Lugar has taken leadership positions within the university: as Staff Council Elections Coordinator to address staff needs and recruit leaders; as Sustainability Advisory Board member assessing climate, environmental, and justice issues within the campus and community; as a victim advocate responding to cases of relationship and sexual violence and helping students navigate resources; as chair of the Tobacco-Free Campus Implementation Committee as the university transitions to a tobacco-free campus; as mentor through the MAPS program and as field instructor for BSW and MSW students to facilitate personal and professional development; and as a lecturer for the Department of Social Work teaching introduction, research and social policy courses.
Lugar is also involved in the community as a board member and regional representative for the National Association of Social Workers Indiana Chapter and as a founding board member of the Pride Center of Terre Haute.
In fall 2020, a team came together to establish the Pride Center of Terre Haute, a nonprofit organization to provide space, resources, services, and advocacy for the local LGBTQIAP+ community. As a lifelong resident of Terre Haute who had to navigate the coming out process within this community, Lugar is enthusiastic about creating a space specifically to support local LGBTQIAP+ people. “So many of us would have benefitted from this resource growing up, and I am so thankful for all the people who have joined together to serve current and future generations,” she says.
The Pride Center of Terre Haute serves as a resource hub and safe space for LGBTQIAP+ people, questioning individuals, and allies who live in the Wabash Valley. Their goal is to foster a sense of community, encourage LGBTQIAP+ people to live openly and with pride, and educate the general public about the contributions and inherent worth of the LGBTQIAP+ population. Their downtown Terre Haute location will serve as a centralized space for community events, workshops, and networking for LGBTQIAP+ patrons and allies to utilize. The center provides essential support to the LGBTQIAP+ community where little or none were previously available to address a wide range of needs from health education, peer support, legal name changes, to resource access and more. Having a physical space where queer folks know they will be safe, know they can find community, and receive information will vastly improve the quality of life for queer people living in Terre Haute.
Lugar serves as a founding board member of the Pride Center of Terre Haute and coordinates of a variety of center projects. She attributes her ability to help establish the center to her education and experiences at ISU, particularly through preparation from the nonprofit leadership and social work programs. In collaboration with other board members and volunteers, she has worn many hats to assist with writing and editing bylaws, fundraising, creating a community needs assessment, designing the center’s interior space, establishing partnerships with community organizations and leaders, developing programs and services, planning community events, and more.
“The community has rallied around the development of the Pride Center, and it has been a unifying and beautiful experience partnering with other LGBTQIAP+ people as they contribute their time, energy, strengths, creativity, and expertise to make the center a reality,” says Lugar.
The Pride Center of Terre Haute will open its doors to their downtown location this June 2021. All are welcome to join in their Pride Month celebrations and grand opening on June 5.
“Being able to give back to Indiana State University, the Department of Social Work, the Honors College, and the Terre Haute community which have contributed so much to my life is so meaningful to me,” she said. “Indiana State isn’t just home. It’s the place and the people who shaped me as a person. I’m thankful for every mentor and opportunity with every team I’ve worked alongside. The people are what make State great.”