Checking In: Neala Schleuning

Neala Schleuning, first director of the Women’s Center at the University, lives and writes in St. Paul.


“My goal always was to connect women’s issues with the larger political issues,” Neala Schleuning says. “I was much more political, coming out of the anti-war movement. And we did OK.”

Schleuning was the first director of the Women’s Center in 1978, guiding the new office into its role today of providing support, information and activities for students, from LGBT support and advocacy to sexual assault education and activism.

Schleuning later worked in administration as assistant to the Vice President, overseeing the University’s conversion from the quarter to semester system in 1998.

Throughout her academic career and into retirement, she has taken on book projects reflecting an appreciation for art and politics. Her first book was 1983’s “Songs We Sang Without Knowing: The Life and Ideas of Meridel LeSueur” Her most recent is 2013’s “Artpolitik, Social Anarchist Aesthetics in an Age of Fragmentation.” She has two in the works.

Schleuning circa 1978.

Now in her 70s, Schleuning does cardio and strength-training daily and continues to research everything from bears to Anthropocene (a relatively new geological term addressing the geological age of human impact on the climate). It’s the same trademark restlessness and curiosity that marked her time at the University.

“I had a lot of opportunities to learn a lot of new things and I’m forever grateful for that, to indulge that side of me that always wanted to do something new.” They ranged from starting publications at the Women’s Center to bolstering radio station KMSU from campus- to community radio.

“I got to do some creative things,” she says. “They were really rich years. But when you get to retirement, they sort of recede. Your job is to try to keep alive all that excitement about doing something new. I see so many old people that just vegetate. And I can’t do that.”

– Joe Tougas

Note: Checking In is an occasional, quick update on prominent Minnesota State Mankato figures who have moved on to other places and endeavors.