LaNae Valentine sets a high standard for BYU women as the director of the Women’s Services and Resources Office.
“Just from watching her … (I learned) that you can be beautiful and have a career that’s really satisfying, without a husband,” said Connie Burt, a single student mother whom Valentine helped.
Valentine is also single. She helped Burt get a scholarship to pursue an education after Burt’s divorce.
Valentine is the director and a counselor for BYU Women’s Services and Resources. She is the only full-time employee and influences an estimated 5,000 students annually.
Valentine has a teddy bear in her office to comfort women who come for counseling. Women’s Services office manager Pam Smith said Valentine’s happiness permeates to her clients.
“I see people go in and out (of Valentine’s office) and the difference that their countenance shows,” Smith said.
Valentine’s coworkers describe her as sweet and humble; she describes herself as fun-loving and determined. Valentine may have a teddy bear in her office, but she does not hesitate to throw her bike in the back of her car for an adventure.
“I love riding in the canyons in the autumn,” Valentine said. “My favorite part about cycling is the sociality with the other cyclists and riding down hills and … with a tailwind.”
Valentine has cycled 111 miles around Utah Lake several times. She has cycled the Alpine Loop and ridden through Rhode Island.
Her childhood experiences and education molded Valentine into an exemplary woman and effective director for Women’s Services.
Valentine grew up in a small town in the mountains of Southern Colorado as the youngest among five older brothers. Her kindergarten, elementary, junior high and high schools were all in one building, with 25 students in her graduating class.
She said her mother was an amazing cook a great pie and candy maker. “I have many fond memories of my family sitting around the dinner table,” Valentine said. “I find food to be a source of comfort.”
Valentine’s mission in southern Belgium and northern France added to her relationship with food. She loved the French’s “love affair with food.”
Those experiences shaped Valentine’s concern for women with eating disorders. She learned that food was often connected with love and other emotions.
Valentine earned her bachelor’s degree from BYU and her master’s from University of Utah in health education. She returned to BYU for her doctorate in marriage and family therapy.
She taught at North Dakota State and Colorado State universities and returned to BYU as an adjunct professor. She worked at Utah Valley Medical Center’s psychiatry and counseling clinic, where she specialized in women’s issues since she was the only female therapist.
She was once asked to speak about boundary-setting to a group of abused women in Utah Valley. She presumed there would be about 15 women and was shocked when she ended up speaking to about six times as many victims.
“I was astounded at the number of women (in abuse situations), just here in the Utah Valley, and most of them LDS … It was an eye-opener as to what goes on, maybe more than we’d like to admit,” Valentine said.
In 1998 a friend who worked in BYU Student Life recruited Valentine to be the second Women’s Services director. For the past 16 years Valentine has put her heart and soul into making Women’s Services what it is today.
“She’s given her personality to BYU,” Burt said. “If you look at the women’s center, the way it’s decorated or organized, the types of T-shirts, the types of events … everything looks like her.”
Women’s Services was created in 1992 to ensure equal opportunities for women to graduate.
Valentine said statistics show “a woman will work most of her life.” She encourages women to get educated because the chance of never having to work is a “pipe dream.”
Valentine said education lets women utilize their talents and have a career that they love, rather than taking menial positions because they have no other options.
“It not only enables you to provide, it enables your chances and opportunities to serve … and make the world a better place,” Valentine said. “Women have such significant contributions to make in their homes, in the Church and in their communities.”
Valentine shaped Women’s Services to focus on preventing and healing any kind of abuse, funding scholarships for nontraditional students, handling eating disorders and improving body image.
“An eating disorder or sexual assault can totally mess up your life so you don’t get your degree,” she said.
Valentine’s dedication is the reason that Women’s Services has so many events and opportunities today, according to Women’s Services event planner Katie Hollingsworth.
Valentine created the Voices of Courage campaign, Fed up with Food support group and Recapturing Beauty campaign with her “intuitive genius,” as Smith calls it.
Voices of Courage is about “engaging men and women as allies in creating a culture of respect and non-violence,” as the mission statement reads. An annual 5k race educates BYU students and fundraises for domestic violence victims.
“You can’t just sit back and passively hope that abuse goes away,” Valentine said. “You have to … stand up against it by speaking up. If we all did that … it would have a ripple effect that would make a huge difference.”
Nearly 600 students participated in last year’s Voices of Courage 5k.
The Fed up with Food support group gives the opportunity for recovered women to help others who struggle with eating disorders.
Valentine wants every woman to become comfortable in her own skin. Her Recapturing Beauty campaign aims to help women realize their self-worth.
“We wanted to help women … accept themselves … and not waste energy trying to achieve some body size that maybe their body wasn’t ever meant to have,” Valentine said.
Every year she promotes a 10-day challenge for women to break through society’s framework and realize they “can be a perfectly happy, wonderful, beautiful person without conforming,” she said.
This year’s Recapturing Beauty campaign will kick off on Nov. 3. The 10-day challenge focuses on developing internal beauty with attributes like kindness, patience and spirituality.
“It’s always been a challenge and still is to help (women) realize that they are good enough. Life just happens … and we have to learn how to face those challenges,” Valentine said. “But our worth doesn’t go up and down based on what’s happening to us.”
Smith and Hollingsworth agreed that Valentine is wholly invested in everything she does and that she does it with joy.
“She has a satisfying career, a high level of education, she still dresses snazzy, and she’s healthy riding her bike,” Burt said about Valentine. “She’s a happy, satisfied person (though) she’s never had kids or been married. I look up to her in that way.”
“Anything she produces is out of charity and love,” Smith said. “When I just think of the rich life she leads … I think she’s affected the whole world.”