Four female OSU professors talk what it means to be a woman in academia.
The pink pussyhats will be out in full force, and signs with powerful messages will be a reminder to anyone in eye shot: this January will mark the third annual Women’s March, and the women involved will not keep quiet. If you can’t make it to Washington DC this year, Columbus will be hosting their very own march; and all are welcome to participate.
In light of the Women’s March taking place in DC, abroad, and right here in Columbus, I set out to speak with some women professors at Ohio State to gain some wisdom from trailblazers. This article isn’t about hating anyone with a Y chromosome. It’s a chance to celebrate being a woman and shine light on four bad ass ladies. I hope you all enjoy hearing from them as much as I enjoyed talking with them.
Get To Know The Women
Dr. Elizabeth Wellman attended the Community of College of Aurora near Denver and then transferred to Adams State University in Colorado. She completed her MA and PhD in Theatre at Ohio State University. During that time she taught a wide range of GE classes. The diverse environments convinced her to become a teacher, and she said, “When I’m in a classroom with college students, I feel like I’m made of electricity—I love the energy and pace and challenge of navigating a room full of individuals who bring their own universes with them.”
Dr. Nicole Kraft obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science from Temple University and her master’s in communications from Ohio State University. She finished her doctorate in education from Lamar University this year (congratulations!). She was a magazine editor while teaching magazine writing at Ohio State. She is now a professor and lecturer at OSU as well as a journalist, author, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of titles for Kraft.
Dr. Koritha Mitchell, a Houston, Texas native, attended Ohio Wesleyan University. She did not receive college counseling because the staff at her high school apparently didn’t see her as college material (joke’s on them right?!). Her college experience was heavily influenced by two f women; her college recruiter from Ohio Wesleyan and a professor she had in her junior year, Anu Aneja. She inspired Dr. Mitchell by teaching works from authors of color “not just because it was ‘right’ but because they contributed in powerful ways to long-standing traditions.”
Ms. Ashlee Dauphinais completed her undergraduate studies in Spanish and International Relations at St. Joseph’s University. She continued her education at University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras to get her MA in Linguistics, and is currently a PhD candidate at Ohio State University studying sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology. Ashlee chose to teach at the university level because she “loves the intellectual challenge, stimulation, and dynamic work environment…as well as having the opportunity to interact with undergraduate students and share in their personal and academic formation.”
What does it mean to you to be a woman in academia?
Elizabeth Wellman: I think there are a lot of opportunities to amplify voices in the academy — scholars, teachers, artists, and students — who have been ignored or overlooked, especially people of color, as well as trans, non-binary, and queer people. As someone who has experienced oppression but also privilege, I see my role in academia to be an amplifier, advocate, and scholar of those often-marginalized voices.
Nicole Kraft: Support for our colleagues and our students is paramount to our success in academia…One student showed me a text she sent her parents on the first day of class that said she had a woman as a professor who she could already tell “really kicks ass.” That may have been my biggest compliment.
Koritha Mitchell: Being a woman in academia means that I can be for others what Anu Aneja was for me—a professional who does not allow the nation’s lies to limit whose intelligence is recognized. American culture insists that intelligence generally comes in the package of a straight white man. Being a woman in academia means being committed to exposing that for the lie that it is and has always been.
Who is one of your biggest female role models? Why?
NK: Jan Box-Steffensmeier, the interim dean of Arts & Sciences. She is an extraordinary leader who sees the big picture and the small details, and always has time and vision to inspire the best for both. Also Dr. Melissa Beers in psychology who sees the good in everyone and makes me strive to be as nice a person as she.
KM: Beyoncé Knowles Carter. She’s got an absolutely stunning work ethic; she’s a Houstonian; and she’s bold, brave, and stylish.
EW: Mary Oliver, the poet… her work has taught me a lot about what resilience and groundedness look like, even in the survival of really painful things.
Ashlee Dauphinais: Dr. Anna Babel, my mentor and academic advisor. She models balance and promotes her students’ mental health and physical well being…she challenges us to prepare us for the real-world challenges of academia.
What advice do you have for the female students on campus?
AD: My advice for female students on campus would be to understand what challenges may exist out there…I think it is crucial to learn to set your own boundaries and to know that it is impossible to take on everything, something I battle all the time.
EW: One don’t wait for someone to invite you to the table, for permission, or to feel “qualified enough.” If you want an opportunity don’t wait…Take up space…Women are getting a lot of messages about how they shouldn’t apologize and that’s good advice. But apologies can be silent. Don’t apologize with your body or your energy or your voice for taking up space.
NK: Aim high. You have no limitations except that you put on yourself. Link arms with others in your rise and help lift them up when you reach your peak…You are a woman. Let them hear your roar.
Do you have any thoughts on the #MeToo movement or the current political climate that you would like to share?
NK: Do not be discouraged. Do not give up. Together we are stronger and more powerful than any moment in time…What we do within this climate to support and advance each other is what will define us now and forever.
EW: There are a lot of women, men, and non-binary people who have survived sexual violence…I hope they hear that they are believed…that their story doesn’t have to be weighed against anyone else’s…And I hope if anyone is reading this and needs help, they reach out for support.
What are some ways you have been able to use your wisdom/expertise to help other women with struggles you have faced in your lifetime?
KM: I publish work that helps members of marginalized groups know that they aren’t crazy when they notice how unfairly they are being treated when this country and its institutions operate as they always have. (visit her website korithamitchell.com/)
What is one thing you love to celebrate about being a woman?
AD: I love to celebrate the collective knowledge and unity that women have and pass down to others. I find comfort in our strength in numbers, and in the sense of security that the presence of another woman can provide in daunting or intimidating situations, both in and outside the workplace.