From a young age, Linda Kroon has worked to develop her musical voice, earning an undergraduate degree in the field along the way. In her new role as director of the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) at The University of Iowa, Kroon is developing her voice in a different way—as an advocate for women.
Originally from Edgerton, Minn., Kroon received an undergraduate degree at Northwestern College in music, with a concentration in voice. She subsequently enrolled in the University of Iowa conductor graduate program; during this time, Kroon volunteered at WRAC, opening the doors to a new career path.
Through her role with WRAC, part of the Division of Student Life, Kroon tackles challenging social issues. When she’s not busy with those responsibilities, Kroon still loves to express her musical side.
“I’ve been involved with music all of my life,” Kroon says. “My mother was my first piano teacher at the age of 3. In high school I played trumpet, French horn, and was in choir.”
Kroon sat down with fyi to talk about her experience with WRAC, the history and future of the center, and more about her musical background.
What is the current role that music plays in your life?
Music will always be a big part of who I am. For 10 years I codirected The Quire: Eastern Iowa’s GLBT Chorus, which performs in the Iowa City area, across the state of Iowa, and in international choral festivals. I currently am the music director for New Song Episcopal Church in Coralville. In addition to that, I like to come home and play the piano as a way to unwind from my day.
Why did you make the switch from music to women’s rights and violence issues?
As a grad student I watched my peers go to jobs in the music field but weren’t happy. They said their jobs took the joy out of music making and I was worried that would happen to me. I didn’t want to lose my love for music. Volunteering for WRAC as a student and young professional helped me realize I had another passion different from music: social change. I realized that I really loved working with people. My involvement with WRAC and other social change groups gave me energy and I felt it was a rewarding experience.
Why did you first get involved with the center?
Initially, I began as a student volunteer, as a way to make friends and social connections. During this time I discovered how much I enjoy working directly with others to promote social change. My involvement continued after my student days, as I volunteered on various projects as a young professional. An opportunity came along me for to join the staff in 1992, and I’ve been here full-time since then, serving as the interim director since 2009 before being named director in April of this year. It’s an amazing place and I love working here.
The center is turning 40 this year—how has the center transformed over time?
The center was started by a group of women in the ’70s who took over a house and declared it the Women’s Center. I wish I could have been around during this time. It sounds very interesting and exciting, from the stories I’ve heard. The center used to operate as a “women-only” space; now we are a place that welcomes and involves people of all genders, which I find exciting. The center is now part of the University’s Division of Student Life, so we do a lot of our work with students, and we continue to do a lot of work with the community as well. The sign on our door says “women” but not only women come through the door! The types of social issues we address involve people of all types, including all genders.
A few of my favorite things…
Curries of all kinds
Lunchtime walks along the Iowa River
Glee (yep, I’m a “Gleek”)
Bluegrass/folk, classical, R&B, and Afro-Caribbean music
The problems of violence—particularly sexual and relationship violence—haven’t changed; the approach we’re taking has changed. We are using an inclusive, preventive approach. We’re also tackling a more diverse range of gender issues including transgender issues and paying attention to what’s happening for women in the workforce. This fall, we will be training the entire incoming first-year class on bystander intervention skills to reduce and prevent dating violence. The center is always developing and improving; we’re not done yet!
WRAC now has the Men’s Anti-Violence Council. What is the purpose of this expansion?
The Men’s Anti-Violence Council (MAC) is part of the violence prevention umbrella, which WRAC continually works to expand. We can’t change a culture unless everyone is involved. Men sometimes have a bad reputation as an instigator of violence but they are also victims—violence happens to them.
The council is working on changing the culture. The problem of violence is greater than the two people involved in the incident; it’s about what we accept as a culture. We have the opportunity to set the norms and engage men as an important role to set the standards for what this community should be. We need to be preventive with issues like bullying, harassment, and violence. I’d rather prevent these types of actions than clean up after them.
What is the greatest challenge the center is facing?
The greatest challenge is finding resources and being visible. It’s a challenge for WRAC to break through the noise, so to speak, and let people know we’re here, and what we have to offer. Many people walk past our blue house across the street from the IMU again and again, but never realize what it is. We want to get the word out about the work we do, and the fact that everyone can benefit from and be involved in it.
We always need more volunteers—they are the lifeblood of the center. In its first years, WRAC was operated 100 percent by volunteers. Now we have a small paid staff, which is great, but volunteers will always be an integral part of the center.
What’s the best part of your job?
I love working with students. I love the chance to learn something every day. I have the luxury of having a job where every day I get to wake up and say, “Today I get to make something better for someone.” I can’t think of anything more satisfying than that.