There is something about Jane Warren. Yes, she has energy- an abundance. Yes, she works hard- she is a single mom who earned her doctorate while raising two boys. But there is something more about Warren. Warren interprets life with a sense of adventure. She has an ability to recognize reality and opportunities and doesn’t think twice about taking them on.
Warren grew up on a dairy farm in Torrington, Wyoming which she says was great, “in part because, you are so connected to life.” But also because it is where she believes she learned to work hard.
After high school and a year as a Rotary Exchange student in Argentina, Warren headed to the University of Wyoming where her love of sociology and people led her to study psychology. She quickly dove into learning with the same work ethic she had grown up with on the farm.
By the time Warren graduated from college, she had two young boys. A single mother with a diploma in hand, but few jobs available, Warren chose to pursue her master’s in counseling. With her boys in elementary school Warren took on work to help support sexual assault victims in Laramie, something she was becoming more and more interested in. The work required a four hour training that Warren felt was inadequate for handling the needs of the women she was helping. She knew that Rock Springs had established an agency to assist women in domestic abuse situations so she contacted them and soon brought a number of programs together to create the SAFE Project-which initially consisted of an office and volunteers and responded to calls for domestic violence and sexual assault incidents. Initially, SAFE was housed on campus and motel rooms were used as immediate needs shelters for the women. It has since grown into an independent organization with readily available resources to assist women and families in need of immediate assistance. All of this because Warren recognized that things needed to change.
After two years as director of SAFE, Warren left to enter the PhD program. Feeling that an opportunity to research the issue of violence would allow her to better support the women she worked with, she packed up her 3rd and 4th grade boys and completed an internship at Texas A&M.
Warren returned to Laramie fully intending to continue with mental health work and eventually wound up being involved with state politics serving as a member of the Wyoming State House of Representatives for 8 years while continuing with community mental health work. The work with the Wyoming legislature was something she had not planned. “I did not know a lot about formal politics,” she says. But she saw there was a need. She ran initially for the democratic position but did not win the seat and decided she would not run again because it was an unfamiliar challenge and at times very difficult to create a campaign, and go door to door to ask people to vote for me.”
Oh how plans change. When a house seat opened in Laramie, county commissioners asked Warren to fill the position. She got elected and suddenly found herself in government. “I didn’t even know where to park [at the capitol]. What do you wear?” Warren quickly figured these questions out and went on to serve eight years in the legislature.
She says she “came [to government] with a challenge of ignorance, but with the skill of listening.” Something she feels many women bring to the table. That skill may be why she was successful in jointly passing one particular bill with a legislator who “was completely on the other side of the row.”
“Conversations worked. I established relationships in order to try to find common ground and asked myself what are the areas I know something about?” She may not have known some of the basics going in, but she did know she wanted to represent people that didn’t have a voice. In or out of politics, she’s done so all her life. She was active in legislation addressing issues such as driving while drinking, cigarette taxation, assistance to low income residents, appropriations, and mental health licensing.
Today Warren has a faculty position with the University of Wyoming. With all of her accomplishments she has much to be proud of. Number one on her list: Her two sons- who, by the way were also her biggest challenge. When asked how she juggled it all, Warren says, “I don’t know- perseverance? You just keep at it and don’t let external tough situations determine you.”