Advancing Women Faculty

The University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences honors women faculty each year at a dinner to celebrate their contributions and provide networking opportunities with faculty mentors to help them advance through tenure and promotion.

Nearly 50 tenured and tenure-track women faculty in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences attended the 2016 Women’s Faculty Dinner, Nov. 16 in the Kennedy Union ballroom.

“One of the most valuable things it provides is a way to find mentors beyond your own department,” said Danielle Poe, College associate dean for curriculum and academic outcomes.

Poe said the event, held annually during the fall semester, can help women faculty find a community of people who struggle with similar professional issues, and who in turn can provide them with support, advice and friendship.

“I think in our day-to-day life we tend to be in the silo of our own department, especially as people are going through tenure and promotion,” she said. “It is a good interdisciplinary way to get to know other women in the College.”

Women faculty in the College are promoted to associate professor at the same rate as their male colleagues, but comparatively fewer advance to the rank of full professor, said Jon Hess, College associate dean for faculty scholarship, internationalization and inclusive excellence.

“There is a much lower rate of women being promoted to that level and that is something we would like to change,” Hess said.

The dinner’s keynote speakers were Denise James, associate professor of philosophy and director of the women’s and gender studies program, and Sharon Davis Gratto, professor and chair of the department of music, and Graul Chair in the Arts and Languages-designate.

James said she is one of only 34 black women in the U.S. who has received a doctorate in philosophy, and less than half of that number teach in tenure-track jobs. She spoke about her working-class background and the influence of her mother, who worked tirelessly to help people in her community and stood up for her beliefs.

“One of the things I really love about my fellow women faculty here at UD is that some of us, from all sorts of places of courage — I don’t know where it comes from, because we are sometimes in really tenuous positions to do this — have stepped up to speak the truth to power,” James said.

Gratto recalled attending the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, as well as working for less money than the male announcers at a commercial classical radio station, despite having a master’s degree.

Gratto also discussed her dual career paths in teaching and performance, which she put on hold to support her husband’s overseas duties for the U.S. foreign service, before pursuing her doctoral degree and academic leadership roles.

“Remember that it is never too late to realize your dream or to achieve your personal and professional goals,” Gratto said. “Furthermore, those of you who are not yet in late-career can expect and should expect positive changes to continue to occur for women in leadership roles in higher education.”

College Dean Jason Pierce congratulated three women faculty who advanced in rank: Haimanti Roy, who was tenured and promoted to associate professor of history; Susan Trollinger, who was promoted to professor of English; and Shirley Wright, who was promoted to professor of biology.

Pierce also welcomed six new tenure-track women faculty: Misty Thomas-Trout, assistant professor of art and design; Chelse Prather, assistant professor of biology; Shannon Toll, assistant professor of English; Elizabeth Mackay, assistant professor of English; Anca Glont, assistant professor of history; and Jia Yang, assistant professor of global languages and cultures.

In addition, he recognized women faculty appointed as new chairs and program directors. They included Rebecca Whisnant, chair of the department of philosophy; Wiebke Diestelkamp, chair of the department of mathematics; Hunter Goodman, executive director of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community; and speakers James and Gratto for their new roles as women’s and gender studies director and Graul Chair-designate, respectively.

Pierce also thanked women faculty who led working groups for the College’s Strategic Plan 2020, which launched in September. They included Marybeth Carlson, associate professor of history; Karolyn Hansen, associate professor of biology; and Shuang-ye Wu, associate professor of geology; as well as James and Trollinger.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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