Posts Tagged ‘American Fellowship’

Following the Fellows is shifting gears this week. Instead of profiling a former AAUW fellow, we’d like you to meet someone for whom a fellowship is named — Lucy Somerville Howorth. In 1973, AAUW of Mississippi created an American Fellowship to honor one of their own. Howorth was a Mississippi native and a lifelong suffragist, feminist, and politician.

Howorth was born on July 1, 1895. When she graduated from the University of Mississippi with a law degree in 1922, she was one of only two women in her class. After five years of practicing law, she was appointed as a judge and earned the lifelong nickname “Judge Lucy.”

Activism ran in Howorth’s family. Her mother, Nellie Nugent Somerville, was a temperance and women’s suffrage leader. In 1915, Somerville was elected vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was later elected to the Mississippi Legislature in one of the first elections in which women were eligible to vote. Howorth was her mother’s campaign manager during the election. Less than 10 years later, Howorth would follow her mother to the state legislature, where Howorth served from 1932 to 1936. Somerville and Howorth were the first mother-daughter pair to both serve in Mississippi and the second in U.S. history — another pair in Virginia beat them by one year.

Howorth then moved to Washington, D.C., to work for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Board of Veterans Appeals. She remained in D.C. and worked for the federal government until 1954. Howorth was deeply committed to the rights of women, the poor, and minorities. Outside of the government, her advocacy was mostly done through her leadership positions in AAUW. In 1947, she began her post as the chair of AAUW’s Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women. From 1951 to 1955, Howorth was the vice president of AAUW. During her term, she was very vocal in supporting greater inclusion and equality within AAUW.

After decades as a judge, activist, and leader, Howorth passed away in 1997 at the age of 102. Her fellowship has sponsored many women as they make contributions to their respective fields, including 2012–13 American Fellow Cara Jones’ research on women’s reproductive health and 2009–10 American Fellow Sarah L. Franklin’s book on gender and slavery in 19th century Cuba.

Howorth was a trailblazer whose legacy is still felt today. In 2013, 16.7 percent of Mississippi’s state legislature will be composed of women. Overall, women will make up 24.2 percent of all state legislatures, a slight increase from last year. The recent election marked many national firsts, including the highest number of women legislators in U.S. history with 20 senators and 78 representatives in Congress.

Howorth was among the women who fought hard for women’s right to vote and to represent their communities in elected office. Howorth reportedly once said, “I glory in being a feminist.” Her story is a reminder to celebrate women’s empowerment and voice in politics and in our communities.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Jessica Ghilani understands that her career is personal and political. For a young, female, tenure-track professor, it can be challenging to establish boundaries while commanding respect in the classroom. This is magnified when you are young, female, and expecting a baby.

Ghilani is very conscious of herself and her surroundings. She recognizes that she is a role model by virtue of being a woman in academia who is balancing a passion for her field with her life off campus. Ghilani is a professor of communication at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, who specializes in consumer culture, military propaganda, and the history of advertising. Her research and courses allow her to merge her hobbies — she is a self-described political junkie and closet historian — with her academic interest in the evolution of American civic identity. In July 2012, the Journal of Communication Inquiry published her article “De Beers’ ‘Fighting Diamonds’: Recruiting American Consumers in World War II Advertising.” Between a rigorous writing and publication plan and teaching full time, Ghilani still finds time to explore advertising and consumer culture on a much more personal level.

Ghilani launched Consume or Consumedin 2008 as a personal exploration of fashion and today has sponsors and hundreds of followers. The blog is her way to indulge a more frivolous interest while being honest about the ideology of consumerism that tells people they need more things to be happy. She admits that at times she consumes and feels consumed. A recent series on her blog, Professional Pregnancy, explores the unique challenges and rewards of being pregnant in the public sphere. Teaching during her pregnancy has meant establishing — and re-establishing — boundaries with students in very new ways. “Pregnancy is an emotional idea,” she says. “It inscribes ‘maternal’ onto a person who is pregnant.” Personal conversations about health and family that never came up before are suddenly deemed fair game. For a professor who already feels pressure to prove her qualification to students, being so humanized in the classroom means having to navigate new student-teacher relationships.

Ghilani says that receiving the AAUW American Fellowship in 2009 was “the biggest feather in my cap.” She still remembers where she was when she read her name on the list of recipients. It was a moment of disbelief and deep validation. AAUW helped Ghilani to get comfortable with the idea that she had merit and potential as scholar, something she struggled with at the time. Ghilani believes many women, herself included, are socialized to have the impulse to diminish their accomplishments. She says the key is acknowledging that you didn’t accomplish things entirely on your own, but you must also embrace your role in your own success. With big changes coming and a brilliant career ahead of her, Ghilani is another AAUW alumna who deserves to take that moment herself and celebrate her success.

Do you have a story about the overlap between pregnancy and your professional life? Share it in the comments below!

Ghilani’s 2009–10 American Fellowship was sponsored by the Martha C. Enochs American Fellowship, the Carolyn Garfein American Fellowship, and the AAUW Reading (PA) Branch/S. Helen Ahrens American Fellowship.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

“Nobody knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America!” — or so go the lyrics in the famous song from West Side Story. After growing up in Puerto Rico, 2009–10 AAUW American Fellow Vanessa Perez understands that sentiment. The cultural and linguistic divide between Puerto Rico and the mainland United States is wide enough to make a Puerto Rican U.S. citizen feel like an immigrant. As a contributor to the Huffington Post, Perez has written about the challenges of language and the media’s portrayal of non-native English speakers.

Perez is a scholar of early 20th century Latino literature in the United States. She has written extensively on the Caribbean diaspora with a focus on Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. De Burgos was born in 1914 in Puerto Rico and first published her poetry when she was only 19 years old. In 1940 she moved to New York City, where she continued to write until her death in 1953. In an article for Ms. Magazine, Perez writes, “We can remember [de Burgos] as part of the tradition of resistance on the island of Puerto Rico as well as a champion for civil rights in the United States.” With her AAUW American Fellowship, Perez was able to take a semester off from teaching in 2010 to work exclusively on developing her dissertation on de Burgos into a book. Her goal was to write about de Burgos from a transnational feminist perspective. The hard work paid off — her book is set to be published next year.

While de Burgos and other writers have been Perez’s passions in academia, she has found new inspiration in the stories and struggles of undocumented high school and college students. She says that all immigrants share feelings of being out of place, of trying to negotiate two cultures, and of separation from extended family, but undocumented students have additional feelings of secrecy and fear of deportation.

Perez wants to take this issue and explore it in a more academic realm. She has already written about students with amazing determination and about her support for the DREAM Act. When she’s not teaching at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, writing op-ed pieces, volunteering with immigration groups, and working as a board member of the National Latino/a Educational Research and Policy Project, Perez has another project in the works that examines the role of cultural production on the experience of undocumented immigrants. Not willing to accept the current national discussion, she is creating dialogue about important issues and fascinating people.

In her Ms. Magazine piece, Perez describes de Burgos as a “Latina feminist to remember.” Well, Perez is one to know today.

Perez’s fellowship was sponsored by the Margaret Maltby American Fellowship, which was established in 1936.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

I have been eagerly awaiting my first opportunity to profile an AAUW fellowships and grants alumna, and I wasn’t disappointed when I spoke with Saeqa “Saku” Dil Vrtilek, a 1991–92 Marie Curie American Fellow. Vrtilek is a senior astrophysicist with the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Such a lofty title seemed a bit intimidating, but once the interview began, I was fascinated by her amazing life story and her many accomplishments and honors. Vrtilek not only taught me a great deal about astrophysics by sharing her research interests and projects, she also showed me just how much her story overlaps with the mission of AAUW.

Vrtilek’s interest in math and science began when she was very young. When her 10th-grade biology paper focused more on nuclear reactors than on the effects of radiation on plant seeds, her teacher suggested that Vrtilek study physics. During her sophomore year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she took a seminar in astrophysics and became hooked.

Vrtilek was awarded her AAUW fellowship at an important time in her life. She was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and was conducting research at the school’s Center for Astrophysics, where she faced many obstacles as a woman in a male-dominated field. When she was a student in the 1970s, male professors and scientists were blatant in their discrimination against women in physics. Today, the number of women in science is rapidly increasing, and Vrtilek has continued to pursue research at the Center for Astrophysics. Although she doesn’t work there full time, she self-supports her research through numerous endowed grants — including a NASA grant and a National Science Foundation visiting professorship — and has taken several postdoctoral and graduate students under her wing.

It is this experience that has encouraged Vrtilek to be active not only in scientific research but also in educational guidance and outreach. In addition to supporting physics students, she assists non-native English speakers by giving presentations at Harvard summer programs. This year’s lecture, “What the Dickens? Women in Science,” tells the stories of women scientists in the Victorian era.

While her path has not been easy, Vrtilek’s interest in and passion for astrophysics is obvious. Her current projects focus mainly on X-ray binaries — looking at the gravitational potential energy that is released when matter falls onto a black hole or neutron star.. Her research covers tomography (mapping the geometrical characteristics of something you can’t see) and generating 3-D plots to identify classes of binaries.

All of Vrtilek’s knowledge and struggles came together when I asked what advice she has to offer. “If you really like what you’re doing, you can do anything. Persist!” she says. Her experience as a woman in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field is inspiring. “Young women today are more self-confident than in my day, and they know they have the right to be there, but it’s not enough,” she says. “It is much harder in the higher levels of education. That is the next step. I benefitted so much from the programs that are for women only, and there needs to be more of those opportunities!”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Zhang.

Read Full Post »

I’ve mentioned before that the stories of AAUW Fellowships and Grants alumnae come to our attention in unique ways. And the news I love the most comes from past fellows who reach out to AAUW to say thank you for the support.

Evelyn Helmick Hively, a member of the 1963 class of the AAUW College Faculty Program, contacted us after she came across her fellowship materials. Hively applied for the program after seeing an ad in the paper and was surprised when AAUW selected her to be a fellow. She e-mailed  us and contemplated whether she had “accomplished some of what was expected by the members of [the] AAUW Selection Committee 50 years ago.”

To fully grasp Hively’s story, I had to explore the extinct College Faculty Program. She was kind enough to send in her fellowship material to provide us with further insight. Through this research, I learned that AAUW developed the College Faculty Program in 1961 in an effort to increase resources for qualified women in higher education. The program sought “mature, female college graduates 35 years of age or older” who were passionate about employment opportunities at colleges or universities. The program was supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and institutions in 11 Southern states that were committed to enrolling and employing women of this age group. The program proved to be popular and received an astounding 1,169 inquiries from applicants in the first six months. To put this in perspective, in 2011–12, AAUW had 900 American Fellowship applicants in a time when far more women have the opportunity to go to college and graduate school.

In September 1962, about 50 women returned to graduate school as the first class of CFP fellows. Surveys of the fellows during this first year and in 1968 showed that many women found that returning to school was difficult. Classes were much harder than they expected or remembered from their undergraduate careers. Some women had to take refresher courses, which delayed their graduation and sometimes even resulted in withdrawal from the program. But the balance between academics and family life proved to be the main difficulty. One woman reported that she “learned to cook dinner with a textbook in hand and buy groceries in the hour’s interval between classes.” Some women found that success truly required the full support of their families. This support was not there for all of the fellows — stereotypes of the domestic woman plagued some of their experiences. Despite the hardships, the 1968 AAUW survey showed that of the 126 women who were awarded fellowships through the CFP, 77 had earned a master’s, and seven had earned doctorates. Many more were still completing their studies.

Where did Hively fall within those statistics? She absolutely met and exceeded the expectations of the AAUW Selection Committee, that’s for sure. She was the first CFP fellow to be hired as a permanent faculty member — she taught women’s studies and literature at the University of Miami. After 13 years at Miami, she was hired as an academic dean at Salem College to create professional goals for women to supplement the liberal arts program. After retiring, she published four books on three woman writers: Willa Cather, Elinor Wylie, and Rosemary Benet. Clearly an accomplished woman, Hively emphasized that the 50th anniversary of the CFP “is a reminder of all that the AAUW award enabled me to do professionally and the great difference it has made in my life. I am very grateful.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

Read Full Post »

Philosophy is, and has always been, a male-dominated field. It has been estimated that women represent only about 21 percent of professional philosophers. Another study reports that of the nearly 300 articles that three top-tier philosophy journals published between 2002 and 2007, only 2.36 percent of the entries were related to feminism. During the same time frame, three other top-tier journals published no articles with feminist content, and only 12 percent of the articles in the same journals were authored by women. Thanks to these reports, as well as anecdotes that are regularly shared in places like What Is It like to Be a Woman in Philosophy — a new blog that was founded by a woman professor — an increasing number of women are trying to change the state of our profession on several fronts.

I am a member of a group of women philosophers that was formed almost three years ago by a prominent woman philosopher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Women in Philosophy Task Force seeks to improve the progress of women in the profession. Some of the projects that we are working on include data collection on women in philosophy, researching issues related to anonymity and implicit bias in journal publishing, and mentoring junior women faculty members.

I am also involved in the Mentoring Project for Pre-tenure Women Faculty in Philosophy and currently serve as a mentor for five women. The project is based on a model used in economics, another field in which women are underrepresented and in which mentoring junior faculty played a significant role for women in getting through the ranks of their professions.

In our project, 45 junior women faculty were selected and paired with a mentor in the same specialization based on their current paper in progress for publication. At a mentoring workshop, each of the nine mentors met with her mentees for hourlong discussions on each mentee’s paper. The goal was to provide critical commentary to help the mentee prepare her paper for publication. In addition, we held advisory panels for the entire group on topics like balancing work and life issues and strategies for publishing. I spoke about getting tenure, a topic on which I have published. Like the other mentors, I will continue to work with my mentees until they have achieved tenure. Both the critical feedback and the networks formed at the workshop should help to raise the percentage of women in philosophy.

I believe that women’s success in philosophy will be improved if more philosophers who work in the mainstream field — but not in feminism — are exposed to feminist ideas. I aim to bridge this gap in much of my work, including my monograph, The Moral Skeptic, which I completed with the help of a 2005–06 AAUW American Fellowship. My most recent book, Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy, an anthology co-edited with Norco College professor Sharon Crasnow, showcases the contributions that analytical feminism has made, and continues to make, to mainstream philosophy. The book covers most areas of philosophy, and its contributors — both senior and junior women professors — collectively argue that by not embracing social progress and making philosophy come to life by showing its relevance to our lives, philosophy risks its own demise.

The title of the book was inspired by a kind of architectural feature called stacked setbacks, which are used in skyscrapers to allow in more light at the street level. While a skyscraper that is flat in its facade represents the progress that is made in traditional analytical philosophy — with its rigorous argumentation, critical assessment, analysis of terms, and attention to detail — a skyscraper with stacked setbacks represents social progress in bringing traditional philosophy “out from the shadows.”

This blog was written by 2005–06 AAUW American Fellow Anita Superson.

Read Full Post »

After 1947 AAUW American Fellow and Yale professor emeritus Ruth Barcan Marcus passed away on February 19  at the age of 90, her colleagues at Yale were outraged that the New York Times initially did not publish her obituary. Some thought that Marcus, a preeminent philosopher and logician for more than 60 years, was the victim of the Times’ overall lack of coverage of women in its obituary section. They weighed in through letters to the editor and blog posts, and the Times finally published her obituary on March 13 without acknowledging the maelstrom of feedback. In the obituary, author Margalit Fox noted that Marcus was “a philosopher esteemed for advances in logic, a traditionally male-dominated subset of a traditionally male-dominated field.” Known for her work in quantified modal logic, Marcus developed a system of rules that is known as the Barcan formula.

Marcus, who studied semantics and modal logic at the University of Chicago during her AAUW fellowship, subsequently won many prizes and awards and was the first recipient of the American Philosophical Association’s highest honor, the Philip Quinn Prize for Service to Philosophy and Philosophers. She served as APA chair from 1976 to 1983.

Marcus graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy from New York University in 1941 and earned a doctorate in philosophy from Yale. She began teaching in 1959 as a part-time professor of philosophy at Roosevelt University in Illinois; became head of the philosophy department at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 1964; and returned to Yale in 1973 as a professor of philosophy. She retired from the department in 1992.

Rebecca Kukla, a philosophy professor at Georgetown University, remarked to Inside Higher Ed that Marcus was “clearly one of the three most important Anglo-American female philosophers of the 20th century. Gender aside, her influence on modal logic, metaphysics, and philosophy of language was profound; every graduate student in philosophy is familiar with her work.” Her work in moral philosophy was recently revisited in the Economist by E.G. Austin and related to the current “surge in political rhetoric over values.”

Marcus mentored and inspired several generations of women philosophers and was a trailblazer in a discipline that was particularly hostile toward women at the time. Yale Professor Michael Della Rocca described Marcus’ significance to the field beyond her scholarly achievements:

She was one of the few women in philosophy, and especially in logic, at a time [when] sexism was rampant in the field. She persevered and succeeded not only in establishing herself in the field but in helping to bring about changes in hiring practices so that appointments in philosophy were no longer governed by the old boys’ network.

Marcus’ place in women’s history is bigger than an obituary. Read more about Marcus in the Jewish Women’s Archive, which was founded by AAUW American Fellow Gail Reimer.

Read Full Post »

For Melissa Harris-Perry, receiving her AAUW American Fellowship in 2001 made all the difference. She received notification of her fellowship award just two weeks after finding out that that she was pregnant.

Initially, she was anxious about her status — an untenured, junior faculty member at the University of Chicago — but more than 10 years later, she looks back on what a truly life-changing year it was. By the end of her fellowship, Harris-Perry had “written pretty furiously,” sent her first book off to press, given birth to a daughter, and collected data for a second book project. That book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, was published in 2011 and received a 2012 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award nomination in literature. The book examines the effects of persistent, harmful stereotypes on black women’s politics. Her first book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, won the 2005 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award and the 2005 Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association.

Harris-Perry credits her AAUW fellowship-year accomplishments with helping her ultimately earn tenure. “It’s pretty extraordinary how many things [the fellowship] made possible for me,” she says. Harris-Perry recalls with a chuckle “driving all over the greater Chicago area [visiting AAUW branches], big and pregnant.” She credits her fellowship for “providing money at just the right time,” allowing her to focus her work on two projects, and giving her the priceless gift of spending time with her newborn daughter. “When I think about the number of things the fellowship meant to me, it’s really hard to express what it meant — what a difference one year can make in the life of a junior faculty woman. I don’t think it’s possible that the rest of my career could have happened without that time,” she says.

Harris-Perry’s career in academia has certainly been distinguished, but it was not unexpected. “For many African Americans and women, the idea of being a professor is strange or foreign, but for me it was kind of like a family business,” she says. Both her father and his twin brother are professors, and her mother was working on her doctorate when her parents met.

These days, after having held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, Harris-Perry is a professor of political science at Tulane University and is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She also writes a monthly column for The Nation and is a longtime political analyst on MSNBC, where she regularly contributes to Politics Nation, The Last Word, and the Rachel Maddow Show.

We’ll get to see and hear from Harris-Perry more often since she will host her own weekend program on MSNBC beginning February 18. When we spoke, the enthusiasm in her voice was evident, despite what may be a challenging commute from New Orleans to New York while teaching and making time for her family. Harris-Perry is excited about the show, which will address politics and questions of popular culture. “I am not a journalist, and they didn’t hire me because I am ‘TV-ready,’” she says. “What they see is my research, my background as a scholar, and the kinds of questions I ask as an academic.”

Harris-Perry encourages women not to be afraid to make mistakes, because “we tend to think that failures are definitive.” She says, “There’s no guarantee that if you have a lot of failures that you’ll have great success, but there is a guarantee that you cannot have great success without mistakes along the way.”

Read Full Post »

There has been overwhelming interest in AAUW’s most recent research report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School. This attention does not surprise Susan Walker Woolley, a 2010–11 American Fellow whose dissertation corroborates the report’s findings.

Woolley conducted three years of ethnographic research at a large public high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. She followed peer-education outreach efforts aimed at fighting homophobia and transphobia that were organized by students in the school’s gay-straight alliance club. Students addressed gaps in the academic curricula and the policies aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students. Woolley investigated the school’s formal sex, gender, and sexuality curricula that are taught in three freshman social studies courses and analyzed the ways students and teachers constructed and challenged safe spaces for dealing with differences. She focused on how these safe environments were negotiated among students and teachers within the curricula, social interactions, and teacher instruction and intervention as well as through students’ joking and teasing.

Woolley witnessed daily sexual and gender harassment, even at a school that already had policies and training in place. She says that there seems to be “something insidious, something so pervasive as to be unnoticed that perpetuates this kind of abuse. … I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is at the heart of what I am trying to understand in my research.”

In her study, Woolley found that students saw harassment as an ordinary part of school life. Students claimed that their high school was the best place to be LGBTQ and that it was a supportive school environment. However, in three years Woolley collected narratives about abuse, harassment, and everyday violence and found a huge disconnect between these encounters and the view of “normal” student life, exposing a cultural problem inherent in school and society. Woolley says that these social practices are so embedded in the daily lives of students that they perpetuate violence and ostracism.

Since her fellowship year, Woolley has been revising her dissertation. She presented her research to a number of scholars at international conferences, including events hosted by the American Anthropological Associationand the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture, and Society. This spring, she will present at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting.

Woolley, who is about to graduate, says that she feels fortunate for her connection to AAUW, which helped her “get in touch with a network of professionals and scholars concerned about school safety for all students, education of girls and queer youth, and issues of equality and equity.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

Read Full Post »

As another record-shattering month for AAUW Dialog draws to a close, we would like to highlight some of January’s most popular posts:

  • AAUW hosted a “tweet-up” with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Along with this post, you can also read the full transcript from the event.
  • AAUW American Fellow and primatologist Mary Blair has been working hard to foster diversity in the field of biology.
  • Meryl Streep’s award-winning turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady gave viewers a chance to appreciate Thatcher as a strong female leader, even if her politics aren’t necessarily feminist.

Did we miss your favorite post of the month? Let us know in the comments.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »