Miami University Women’s Studies Program: Diversify the Leadership



Mary E. Frederickson




About the Women’s Studies Program at Miami University



The Women's Studies Program at Miami University is a dynamic, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary program that seeks to understand the ways sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, nationality, ability and age systematically intersect with gender to affect all areas of life. Women's Studies raises questions about gender as a social and historical construction, and the ways in which those constructions affect disciplinary knowledge, the experiences of women and men, our social fabric, the arts, creative writing, institutions, intimate relationships, and the workplace. Women's Studies courses are organized around contemporary feminist research and theory, and focus on women as subjects of inquiry.

The Women’s Studies Program began at Miami University in 1977 in response to the absence of work by and about women in every area of the academy. It has evolved over time as a space where work by and about women is legitimated and celebrated. Through feminist theory and activism we seek to transform epistemological frameworks and social practices, meanings, and structures.  We are a committed to offering the highest quality teaching and scholarship, exploring constructions of gender and the interconnections of multiple differences. Since 1999 we have sponsored an annual Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality symposium that draws faculty and graduate students from across the region and throughout the U.S.

Although the program is housed in the College of Arts and Science, its mission is university-wide: to raise awareness about the exclusion of women from the academy and the work world, to increase the understanding of the ways difference systematically influences all areas of life, and to encourage students and faculty to take up projects of self understanding and social action related to these issues.

The Women’s Studies Program is staffed by a half-time director, a part-time assistant to the director, seven joint appointment faculty (shared appointments with English, Psychology, Spanish and Portuguese, Mass Communications, Educational Leadership, and Black World Studies), 70+  affiliate faculty, and a graduate teaching assistant. The racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the Women’s Studies board, faculty, and staff includes the following:

Board/Steering Committee
Professional Staff
Support Staff
Affiliate Staff, Consultants, Interns

* Board: 2 African Americans; Affiliate Staff: 3 African Americans

** Board: 1 Asian faculty member, 3 LGBT; Affiliate Staff: 2 Asian faculty members, 11 LGBT

Faculty associates are located in 20 different departments ranging from Theatre to Management to Sociology/Gerontology. The program is guided by the Women’s Studies Steering Committee and an interdisciplinary committee of faculty affiliates, which meets monthly to discuss program issues and directions.  The Women’s Studies Program has steadily grown to include approximately 90 majors, minors, and graduate students, and offers 40-50 WMS courses each year.



Project strategies: Primary and Secondary Objectives



The NCRW-sponsored project to “Diversify the Leadership” within Miami University Women’s Studies Program extended the University’s commitment to diversity articulated as part of the President’s Strategic Goals for 2007. It addressed issues of access, curricular and co-curricular excellence, and a climate where difference is respected and diversity valued. Within this context the Miami University women’s Studies Program has been eager to diversify its own leadership as part of a larger strategy to transform our research priorities, our community connections, and our curriculum.


Project strategies focused on creating leadership opportunities within three separate initiatives and included:

·      initiating the Nellie Craig Women’s Studies Research Scholar position within the Women’s Studies Program to honor the first African-American graduate in 1905 from Miami University;

·       creating the Miami Tribe Women’s Studies Coordinator position as part of Women’s Studies to serve as a role model for women students, particularly those from the Miami tribe, few of whom had before then participated in the Women’s Studies Program;

·      establishing the Las Mujeres Director position within Women’s Studies to provide leadership on Chicana issues and research initiatives.

Secondary objectives of strategic importance to the project included:

·      the three awardees playing an active role in Program leadership by serving on the steering committee and bringing more students from underrepresented groups into the Program

·      the three awardees receiving leadership training through the Higher Education Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati (HEC)

·      ensuring the participation of the three awardees in the Race, Class, Gender, and Sexualities Conference in February 2009

·      working collaboratively with the Miami University Myaamia Project to plan a Women’s Gathering in June 2009 for women from the Miami Nation tribe

The initiatives in this proposal were designed to create new leadership pathways in the Women’s Studies Program and to model these pathways for the entire Miami University community. These pathways were strategically designed to become permanent conduits open to succeeding generations of African-American women, Native American Indian Women, and Latina women faculty, post-doctoral candidates, and students at Miami University.

These new leadership pathways have the capacity to raise awareness about the importance of bringing women of color into leadership positions in ways that enhance the work of the Women’s Studies program and our ongoing strategies for implementing diversity. The changes brought by these initiatives affects the way knowledge is conceptualized and disseminated by, for and about underrepresented women of color.







The Miami University “Diversify the Leadership” project was funded through a grant of $8,000 from NCRW and the Ford Foundation, with $6,000 in matching funds from Miami University. The goal of the one-year project was to make the leadership of Women’s Studies Program more diverse and inclusive.


The NCRW-Ford grant made it possible to make three awards: the Nellie Craig Women’s Studies Research Scholar award, the Miami Tribe Women’s Studies Coordinator position, and a Las Mujeres award (divided between two applicants). The four awardees representing three of the Ford-specified underrepresented groups joined the Women’s Studies Program steering committee during 2008-09. They participated in the Race, Class, Gender and Sexualities Conference at Miami University in February 2009. Finally a Women’s Gathering was held in June 2009 for women students, faculty, and community members from the Miami tribe to come together and address issues of mutual concern.

The first Nellie Craig award went to Dr. Tammy Kernodle, Associate Professor, Miami University, Department of Music, for her work on two different aspects of identity as it relates to black women in jazz. Dr. Kernodle identifies as an African-American woman and is integrally involved in the Black World Studies Program on campus. Her research, writing, and performance as a first rate jazz pianist come out of her deep commitment to and understanding of African-American history and culture. The first part of her project involved the construction of a black women’s performance aesthetic; the second focused on the development of a black women’s conversion narrative through jazz. The Nellie Craig award made it possible for Dr. Kernodle to conduct research at the Schomberg Center of Black Culture, the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.



Dr. Kernodle’s reflections on her year as the Nellie Craig Awardee included the following:


The Nellie Craig Award allowed me to conduct archival research as well as secure various materials which will contribute to not only my research but my classroom teaching as well, especially as it relates to women and their contributions to popular music. It is my hope that this work will also lead to expansion of existing curricula within the departments of music, women studies, black world studies, and American studies, as there are not many offerings that consider the intersection of race, class and gender in popular music. Course offerings that address such issues will greatly enhance the learning outcomes as outlined by the Miami Plan as well as expose individuals to experiences and identities that may differ from their own. Our conceptions of diversity at Miami must expand to include a variety of experiences, identifications, etc., and not just be centered on the cosmetics of race. I think for too long students who do not have a certain economic, class or regional identity have assumed that Miami University was not the place for them. So I think that it is imperative that the university “rebrand” itself by creating relationships with schools, social/fraternal organizations and churches that serve under-represented groups. The economic situation that has developed in this country over the past six months has only increased the divide between the university and these groups as more and more individuals see an education at this institution as being economically and physically unattainable.


One of the biggest challenges facing academic investigators committed to pursuing research that involves African American studies is dismantling the canonical, “Great Man” approach that had dominated the writing of music histories and shaped our understanding of many different forms of music.




Description of Dr. Kernodle’s activities during award year:



During spring break I conducted some exhaustive archival research in the New York and New Jersey area. I worked in a number of libraries including The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. I also conducted some interviews with jazz musicians and met with a number of scholars who helped me immensely. As a result of my work, I have decided to write a collection of essays that will address how black jazz women dealt with issues of image, identity and labeling through their music. For instance, the first chapter will deal with the concept of performing blackness and femininity in jazz. The chapter will address how black jazz women, in particular Billie Holiday, Mary Lou Williams, Lena Horne and Hazel Scott developed a performance aesthetic that came to define female jazz instrumentalists and vocalists while performing at the New York nightclub Café Society. It will discuss how Barney Josephson, owner of the club, guided this aesthetic through his conception of what it was to be a "Negro" performer and how color politics played into this idea. Another essay will deal with the issue of spiritual identity in jazz. The existing scholarship on spirituality in jazz primarily focuses on male musicians such as John Coltrane or Duke Ellington. But my work will deal with how black women used their conversion experiences to redefine religious and jazz paradigms.


I'm hoping to extend the analysis of 19th century conversion narratives of black women to include the conversion stories and music of artists such as Mary Lou Williams and Alice Coltrane, two of the most famous examples of this in jazz. Subsequent essays will address: body politics and how this impacts the careers of vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington (both of whom were highly criticized for being what the media termed as "overweight") and Cassandra Wilson, whose highly sexualized photo spreads embody stereotyped readings of the black exotic body; women who shaped the sound and performance aesthetic of jazz through arranging and composing, e.g. Melba Liston; and black women's roles in mentoring subsequent generations of musicians, i.e. Betty Carter and Mary Lou Williams' programs that educated and provided performance opportunities for aspiring musicians. So as you can see I've been working hard to gather materials that address areas of study ignored by most scholars of jazz.


I also used a portion of the money to attend the Feminist Theory and Music Conference at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I presented on Mary Lou Williams’ tenure at Duke University and her role in constructing an inclusive jazz pedagogy that still informs the teaching of jazz history and performance at many universities.


The first Las Mujeres Award was divided between two outstanding applications:

Juan Carlos Albarrán was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. His academic interests include ethnomusicology, ritual music and dance, tourism and immigration issues. A Visiting Instructor of Latin American Studies at Miami University, Dr. Albarran serves as a faculty advisor for the Association of Latin and American Students, helping students gain an understanding of the issues related to Latinos in the U.S., especially the economic and social impact of immigration and the gendered division of labor within the Latino and immigrant communities. His scholarly research follows the lines of contemporary music as an element of social commentary in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the assistance of the Las Mujeres Award he pursued research about the role and representation of Latinas within this musical genre. 



Mr. Albarrán’s reflections on his year as the Las Mujeres Awardee included the following:


The Las Mujeres grant enabled me to actively participate and engage in areas of scholarship, including conferences and research travel that that I would not have been able to undertake without this financial support. I feel that especially as a non-tenure track faculty member, this NCRW-Ford funded grant provided resources that my position does not provide me and this support helped me bridge my teaching and research interests more effectively.  I feel that the economic crisis that the university is facing and the shortfall of grants like this one make it difficult for people in my position to fully reach our potential as scholars and teachers, but thanks to the Las Mujeres grant I was still able to pursue some important activities that were valuable to my work at Miami University. This was particularly effective in terms of maintaining the link between the growing minority community in Oxford and surrounding areas and within the University itself.

 The major diversity issues at Miami at this time are more about economic status than anything else.  The disparity is not only between and among race and gender, but I think more notably can be seen between those who have access to resources and those who don't.  It seems as though the University is in an increasingly difficult position to provide any funding that could help to correct this, as we keep getting notifications of further cutbacks, layoffs, and shortfalls. 



Description of Dr. Albarrán’s activities during the Las Mujeres award year:


- Road trip to Chicago Benito Juarez High School (December 1-2) to speak with, recruit and engage non-traditional prospective minority students from the Latino area of Chicago so they could learn about the opportunities of attending Miami.

- Travel to the RMCLAS at Santa Fe New Mexico, and Tucson, AZ (March 6-11); establish contact with University professors and other panelists to develop research in ethnomusicology and African Diaspora for inclusion in the Fall 2009 curriculum. Made contact with writer Tom Miller and invited him to give a lecture and conduct a writing workshop at Miami in the fall of 2009. Contacted Regla A. Miller about participating in the Latin American festival in the fall 2009 and giving an Afro-Cuban dancing workshop to Miami and Talawanda High School students.

- Brazil summer workshop registration fee (Summer 2009)

 Dr. Julie A Minich is a first-year Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Miami University. While not from one of the Ford-specified groups, her excellent fit for the project pivoted on the classes she teaches in Latina/o and Chicana/o literary and cultural studies. Her academic interests include literary theory, LGBT and feminist studies, disability studies and film. Her research focuses on Chicana/o cultural studies, particularly Mexican cultural production and she relates closely, with affinity and sensitivity, to each of the groups whose culture she studies. Her current project analyzes disability and the nation and the political stakes of representation. Her work asks what happens when representations of disability are mobilized to reformulate nationalism in the work of cultural producers aligning themselves with liberatory social movements (feminism, the Chicana/o Movement, or struggles against globalization and in favor of democratization).



Dr. Minich’s reflections on her year as the Las Mujeres Awardee included the following:


The award helped make me aware of and connected with a community of feminist scholars on the Miami campus, which was crucial to me given that this was my first year on the faculty at Miami. Particularly at the beginning of the year, being involved with women's studies core faculty members helped me to learn about the intellectual community available to me on campus and inspired me to be involved with the Race Class Gender Sexuality Symposium and to become a women's studies affiliate. The grant funding, of course, also allowed me to maintain and increase my existing intellectual community outside of Miami by attending conferences in my field. In particular, the funding that enabled me to attend the feminist theory workshop at Duke (without presenting) and allowed me to learn about exciting new transnational feminist scholarship.


I am excited by the diversity within the faculty at Miami University. In particular, I think the university (at least in the College of Arts and Sciences) has an incredibly diverse junior faculty, and that supporting these faculty members is something the university does very well and should continue doing. I hope very much that the ongoing financial crisis and the desire to recruit more out-of-state students will not interfere with efforts to continue recruiting diverse undergraduate students. I also think more conversations within the university about how to support and retain undergraduate students who bring diversity to the university would be valuable. The biggest challenge I currently face is finding ways to connect with faculty in other disciplines working on issues of race and ethnicity.


I was relieved to read in President Hodge's most recent communication with University faculty that Miami is aware that financial constraints are preventing more students from enrolling at Miami, and that the University is continuing to seek ways to make competitive financial aid packages available to students.


I would like to see more formal mechanisms in place for faculty whose research focuses on ethnic minority populations to share their work and mentor one another. The university does an excellent job supporting pedagogy, and I have benefited greatly from my participation in CELT workshops during the last year. I would like to see a similar kind of workshop focused on research questions available -- particularly one focused on research questions that have to do with issues of race and ethnicity.


Along similar lines, formal workshops or reading groups that could facilitate work with local scholars working on questions of race and ethnicity (scholars at places like Earlham College and the University of Louisville) would be helpful.




Description of Dr. Minich’s activities during the Las Mujeres award year:


- Attended a student recruitment event at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago.

- Attended a feminist theory workshop at Duke University.

- Presented my work at the American Comparative Literature Association conference.

- Supplemented departmental funding to present my work at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies conference.


The first Miami Tribal Coordinator award went to Dr. Roxanne Ornelas, a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Women’s Studies at Miami University whose dual heritage and identity bridges the Ford-specified groups of Native American Indian and Chicana. Dr. Ornelas used her award to begin working with the women of the Miami Tribe, laying the groundwork for what she hopes will become a longstanding relationship based on cooperation with the Miami Tribe. Dr. Ornelas worked with Miami leaders in Oklahoma and Indiana to plan and organize a grass-roots effort to bring Miami Tribe women together to discuss community needs and plan for a women’s gathering in the tribal community that led to a Women’s Gathering held in June 2009. The success of this project depended on the ability to empower Miami Tribe women to organize a collective voice around community issues identified by them in a culturally appropriate way. Some underlying parameters for this effort included, but were not limited to:

1.)   Miami women, through a collective process, define the needs and outcomes of this effort.

2.)   All participants strive for consensus.

3.)   Respect and patience are essential to deliberation.

4.)   Build capacity within the community by reinforcing traditional leadership structures for future generations.

5.)   Encourage young women, including tribal students on campus, to observe and participate in hopes they will be future leaders.

Dr. Ornelas, whose research focuses on the ritual and environmental power of water and women’s indigenous leadership, is submitting a National Science Foundation grant to continue the support of this research.




Dr. Ornelas’s reflections on her year as the Las Mujeres Awardee included the following:


The Miami Tribal Award helped me to meet women members of the Miami Tribe for the first time to assist me in the development of a larger future project related to water policy and indigenous women’s leadership. I have met women from the Miami Tribe from Oklahoma, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin. I was able to purchase research materials to support my ongoing research and travel to meet with other Miami Tribe women in order to learn more about their specific cultural needs for the future research about water and to plan for programming and lectures at the Miami University campus.

I was able help organize and participate in the first Women’s Gathering of Miami tribal women and to begin to organize an oral history project for tribal women that will be conducted by Miami students from the Miami tribe. The majority of these students are women and we have been encouraging their participation in the Women’s Studies Program at Miami. They will serve as an important bridge between the University and the Miami Tribe.



Description of Dr. Ornelas’s activities during the Las Mujeres award year:



-       attended the meeting for the Indigenous Women’s Water Summit

-       purchased research support materials including supplies and equipment for recording oral history interviews

-       attended the Miami Tribe Pow Wow in Miami, OK.

-       Presented at the Miami Race, Class, Gender and Sexualities Conference, February 2009

-       Prepared a National Science Foundation grant to continue research

-       Helped organize the first Women’s Gathering in June 2009






Challenges faced in the process of implementing our diversity strategies were two-fold. As discussed above, we faced a number of unexpected challenges as we worked to unify diversity efforts within the Women’s Studies Program. While there was a relatively straightforward initial process of incorporating the four awardees into the Women’s Studies Program and whenever possible they attended Women’s Studies Steering Committee meetings, there were also on-going challenges in developing intersections among and collaborations between the designated groups. Current research and curricular work in women’s studies follows what might be called the “silo model” of parallel development in various separate fields, e.g. Black Women’s Studies; Chicana Studies; Native American Indian Women’s Studies. Integrating these initiatives presents a substantial challenge, one that seems to be most effectively engaged by bringing students, faculty, and community members together.  

The second major challenge we faced as we worked to implement the strategies of the Project was the unexpected collapse of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter of 2008. Our plans to raise funds to support the three awards initiated in the “Diversify the Leadership” Project, the Nellie Craig Women’s Studies Research Scholar award, the Miami Tribe Women’s Studies Coordinator position, and the Las Mujeres award were completely thwarted in the difficult fiscal environment that has followed. As the economy improves, we will resume our fundraising efforts both within Miami University and in the community of which it is a vital part.

There were several other challenges. The Miami Tribe Women’s Coordinator faced a number of specific challenges as she worked to develop an ongoing relationship with the Miami Tribe. Finally, scheduling restrictions made it virtually impossible for the four awardees to participate in leadership training in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati.



Coalitions and Partnerships



A number of coalitions and partnerships, however, mitigated the challenges we faced in realizing our project objectives. For example, the Miami University Miami Tribal Program became a strong ally working with us on all aspects of our “Diversify the Leadership” Project. The Women’s Center, the Center for American and World Cultures, and the newly established Miami University Humanities Center, have all proved either viable or potential collaborators as we worked to realize the goals of the Project. Black World Studies and Latin American Studies also have been strong collaborators.










The “Diversify the Leadership” Project has brought greater diversity to the Women’s Studies Program in three ways:

·      first, by developing leadership pathways for racially and ethnically underrepresented faculty at the assistant and associate levels;

·      second, by focusing specifically on the scholarship and creation and dissemination of knowledge by the four awardees, thus drawing attention to the innovative research initiatives undertaken by these four young scholars.

·      Third, by creating a ripple effect among faculty and students across the campus.

Women of color benefitting from “Diversify the Leadership” include the awardees themselves, as well as the constituencies they serve: African-American faculty and students at Miami; Miami tribal students; Latin American Studies faculty and students. For example, the four awardees presented their research at the Race, Class, Gender, and Sexualities Conference in February 2009, and three of the four awardees made additional research presentations during the spring term. Moreover, each of the awardees has worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students in the Women’s Studies Program during the grant period, training students in new methodologies and simultaneously diversifying the curriculum.

The strategies we adopted in the “Diversify the Leadership” project at Miami University provide a useful model of integrative leadership development for underrepresented groups within a Women’s Studies Program that plays a central role on the campus. NCRW member centers can adapt the flexible model created at Miami University to fit their own programmatic needs. In doing this, other member centers will no doubt face the continued challenge of recruiting, training and providing leadership opportunities for historically under-represented women, especially younger women beyond the granting period. At this point our “Diversify the Leadership” project continues to receive its strongest support from the Miami University Miami Tribe Program, as well as the Black World Studies Program and Latin American Studies.





What is the long term and sustained impact of the grant on the leadership of the Miami University Women’s Studies Program? We anticipate that the sustained impact of the grant on the leadership of this member center will be seen in three primary areas:

·      in broader participation of faculty leaders from underrepresented groups;

·      in the production and publication of new scholarship that will enable new faculty to rise within the ranks and assume academic leadership roles both within the Women’s Studies Program and within the University at large;

·      in the number of students from underrepresented groups brought into the Women’s Studies Program by the faculty whose leadership capacity has been augmented by the Project.

The most promising aspect of this exciting new project is that it has offered the Miami Women’s Studies Program the opportunity to implement new diversity leadership strategies that have the potential of broadening the balance of power within the Program, to support new research initiatives, and to make the Program more relevant to historically underrepresented women of color. Our commitment to using this grant as seed money to create new initiatives that can be sustained after the grant period remains strong. To do this we need ongoing forms of support: first in the form of the excellent strong leadership on diversity initiatives provided by the National Council for Research on Women; and secondly, ongoing support from Miami University for sensitive and sustained commitment.  



­ Summer 2010: reflections one year later




A year later, what has changed as a result of our work?  What have we achieved? And what have we not achieved?


The Ford Foundation “Diversify the Leadership” Grant from the National Council for Research on Women made it possible for the Women’s Studies Program at Miami University to make substantial advancements in diversifying the Program’s leadership cohort. The work funded by the grant allowed us to enhance our mission as a program to transform epistemological frameworks and social practices and in the process increase understanding about the ways that difference systematically influences all areas of life. During the 1998-2008 decade we had made substantial strides in diversifying our Program; the NCRW grant allowed us to take that diversification to the next level and ensure that these transformations would continue and advance among a new generation of faculty and students. The leadership potential of the faculty who filled the three positions created and funded through the grant process was developed and nurtured in substantial new ways in 2008-2009. The after effects of this support were evident throughout 2009-10, and will without question continue to resonate for many years to come. The diverse group of students brought into the Program by these faculty members has substantially transformed the Women’s Studies student cohort, an important component of our strategy to transform our curriculum, our research priorities, and our connections throughout the University and the larger community.


What we have not been able to do is reach our goal of obtaining ongoing funding for the three research positions created as part of the NCRW grant. As our first Nellie Craig Research Scholar, the Miami Tribe Coordinator, and the Las Mujeres Director indicated in their reports, during the time period that the grant was in place it became evident that we at Miami, as millions of others across the nation, were going to be dramatically affected by the catastrophic economic downturn in late 2008. Since that time Miami University has put into effect severe budget cuts that have affected every aspect of University life. Strategic plans have been released for implementing a 30 percent cut in administrative and faculty funding by 2015. The fundraising forecast: chilly for the foreseeable future. That said, we will continue our efforts to generate funding that will make it possible to award these supplemental research grants for faculty working in the three diverse areas supported by the NCRW grant.




 What are the most important lessons from our work?

Excellent pathbreaking work that the administration, from the Dean to the President, saw as a model for the entire University can go unfunded during a period of unprecedented budget cutbacks.


What were the greatest impediments to our success, and what strategies do we have for overcoming them?
Funding is the greatest impediment and we are working to create new strategies for overcoming this. One of the most promising is to raise private funds outside the University and generate endowments that will continue to support research funding and curriculum development in these three targeted areas.

What are our goals going forward related to greater diversity and inclusion at our center?  
Despite the serious budget cuts that we face, our commitment to sustaining these newly created leadership pathways remains strong. We will build on what we were able to do in the 2008-2009 grant year by supporting the leadership development of beginning and mid-level faculty, by sustaining curriculum initiatives in these three areas, and by keeping these new conduits to leadership positions open to succeeding generations of African-American, native American Indian, and Latina women faculty, post-doctoral candidates, and students at Miami University.