Tagged: women in academia

Dame of the Day: Faiza Al-Kharafi

Faiza Al-Kharafi

Today’s Dame of the Day is Faiza Al-Kharafi (1946-). In addition to earning a master’s degree from Kuwait University, Al-Karafi also founded the school’s Corrosion and Electrochemistry Research Laboratory. During this time, she studied the effect of corrosion on engine cooling systems. In 1993, Al-Kharafi became president of Kuwait University, making her the first woman to head a major university in the Middle East.

Schoolin’ Life: Hannah Means-Shannon

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know Hannah Means-Shannon. She’s Editor-in-Chief of Bleeding Cool.com and Bleeding Cool Magazine, a comics scholar, and a former English Professor.

hannah means shannon

When you were in your 20s…
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Entering my 20’s, I was already conflicted about my future career, but was happy to continue to be a researcher, finish my Ph.D., and work in a library to support myself. I hoped to gain more recognition as a creative writer and travel much more widely since academic study had limited my ability to travel once I was a graduate student. I was an American living in the UK at the time, and I honestly didn’t know where I would end up, though I hoped to have more freedom once I completed my Ph.D. to make that choice. I saw the decade as a route to empowerment but was also conscious that I wanted to enjoy my life rather than just become absorbed with work.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I found the expectations that I had experienced as a young woman in America somewhat limiting. I also came from a Southern background, which was fairly conservative, expecting girls to dress up and wear makeup from a young age. When I considered whether to go to college in the USA, I was told that since I was a girl, it was best that I didn’t go to college more than an hour or two from home. It took a big leap to break from that and study overseas instead. That was an important step where I looked for a different set of expectations for myself. I feel that British society was more encouraging of my intellectual pursuits and also allowed me to feel freer about my appearance and self-expression.

What was your first job like?

My first job was as a summer camp instructor for young children at a “day camp” meaning the students didn’t stay there overnight. It was quite a jump into the deep end since my first class was 4-5 years old and there were many pupils. I learned a huge amount about child development, and the ways in which young children can surprise you with sophisticated thoughts as well as seeming at times like they are only one step beyond their toddler years.

What was your first apartment like?

Well, I lived in my own lodgings from the age of 16 and also in university accommodation that was never shared. The first classic apartment I rented was in my late 20’s and it had a sitting room/kitchen, a bedroom, and a kind of alcove as well as bathroom. I found that to be plenty of room, especially to keep clean since I don’t relish house cleaning. I had a lot of books and managed to make them fit. I think I realized that having a ton of space isn’t necessarily what you need or want at certain stages of your life. I worked at home and went out a lot socially and that was just right for me.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Sure, absolutely. Let’s see—I was engaged for a few years in my young 20’s and that didn’t work out, which was a big emotional experience. I made decisions to move back to the USA and then to Japan for a year, and then back to the USA. I got my first real college teaching job full-time, and got engaged again. My 20’s were probably the most changeable in my life. Having said that, I am quite a changeable person so life has continued to surprise me.

In what ways did your friendships change?

The friendships I formed in my early 20’s have stayed with me, actually. I was fortunate in that some of the people in my life were in proximity for several years during that time, and though the decade moved us all over the world, those are still my formative friendships. If you don’t have enough in common, those friendships will fade away. You get used to not necessarily celebrating friendship through the same rituals—now we use social media and e-mails to stay in touch. But by my late 20’s and even now, I’m crossing oceans just to see these people and it’s worth it.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Let’s see if I can say anything wise: you probably have a lot less control over who you care about than you think. Trying to turn off your feelings isn’t a good idea, so that means you have to endure change and not every relationship will work out. But my conclusion based on my experience is that it is better to take risks than to close yourself off from life-changing experiences.

How did your relationships with your family change?

Pretty drastically. I went from the perpetual graduate student to finally having an income. I think that my family saw me in a different light once I was in charge of hundreds of students, but then again teaching runs in the family. My siblings and I went through changes in our relationships. I think we became even more of a support system for each other the more we moved into the adult world.
How do you feel society viewed you?

I think society viewed me as being a little wild and perhaps too emotionally connected to the arts. I had many weird haircuts, a few different hair colors, and at least a dozen different style changes in my clothing, none of them particularly sedate. But I also became known as a writer within my community and among like-minded people I often felt reassured by their view of me. I was probably fairly rebellious toward the status quo, which I probably thought of when I heard the word “society” throughout my 20’s. But conversely, I took a lot of inspiration from previous generations.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I have always been a very emotional person and still am. But the more experiences you have in life, the more grounds you have for comparison. I learned to panic less about things not going the way that I had expected or planned them to go by having experiences I wouldn’t have chosen turn out well. When I lived in Japan, the school I was teaching for had a lot of problems and I eventually felt I should leave the job. I found myself somewhat alone in another country with a couple of months to spare and not much money. I was forced to find a workable solution and it was a great time for me. I economized, found somewhere to stay, and spent my time traveling and writing based on practical needs. That was “me time” and it was great.

How did you change intellectually?

That may be the toughest question for me to answer in the list. I was intellectually engaged from a young age and I spent my 20’s in academic study. But the truth is, I got way more restless and inventive intellectually during my 20’s. There were my “official” studies and then there were my studies as a writer. I read tons of novels and plays that had nothing to do with my curriculum simply because I didn’t know about other cultures and wanted to. I came to realization that there are no limits on learning—it’s in your own hands.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I think I shifted from a scholar to a writer more fully in my 20’s, accommodating both. I think I became a lot braver about traveling and spending time alone and also about meeting new people and learning about the world. I stopped being as worried about fitting in and much more concerned with what made me unique as a person.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

My worldview was somewhat global since I had moved around a lot as a kid, but as I’ve mentioned above, I also faced limitations based on gender and tradition. Exploring other cultures became the key to personal freedom for me—you can’t make choices about how you want to live fully unless you can see difference and options. As I told my students for many years teaching, the first advice I would give to someone in their 20’s is to study abroad. It will make more than an academic difference.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

I feel like I spent a lot of my 20’s embarrassed. Probably one of the worst moments was having a loud argument with my boyfriend early in the morning on a busy street corner and just not giving a damn about the looks people were giving me. Then an entire enclave of my professors walked by, walking up behind me so I didn’t curtail the loud dispute at all. Come to think of it, I think they were more embarrassed than me.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

My biggest disappointment then, from my perspective at the time, was probably when I didn’t get a scholarship I was hoping to get that would allow me to do a graduate degree. I thought my life was over and was truly shaken up by it because I had wanted to do a graduate degree and teach from a young age.

I started packing up to move back home, even. I felt that life had made a decision for me that would affect my future and I wasn’t happy about it. At some point, when I had calmed down a few days later, I began making lists of long shots of what I might be able to do to continue my studies. It took some massive determination but through combining a series of approaches to scholarships and loans, I was able to continue. That made a big difference in my life because I followed through on my goals and didn’t let outward circumstances call the shots so easily.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

My biggest influences continued to be my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother, who had been big influences in my childhood. The last of them passed away when I was 21, but not before seeing me off to college. Both placed a huge value on education and intellectual pursuits, and my grandmother, having been an artist, was quite rebellious too. When I needed to reassess my own identity, I went back to them mentally and that helped me avoid conformity that might be limiting and kept me from underestimating myself since they had both led very interesting lives.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

When I think about my 20’s, there are quite a few things to choose from, whether it was exploring Paris early in the morning, or taking part in fire festivals at night in Japan. Those are the kind of beautiful moments you hold onto. A lot of my big life-changing events have actually happened in my 30’s, so that’s a hard question to answer otherwise.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

My regrets are mainly centered around the time I wasted worrying or disliking myself, or not thinking I looked or acted the way I wanted my persona to be. I would definitely advise to reject the urge to be constantly dissatisfied with yourself and instead spend your time focusing on something new to learn or experience rather than focusing on the negative. And also to keep in mind that you feel like you’re a fully formed adult, but really life is constantly changing on you and you’re at the beginning of something, not the end of a developmental period.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

When I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I had a trip planned with friends for after I finished and submitted my thesis. It was the trip to end all trips in the South of France and it was going to be fantastic. Things were booked and paid for well ahead. Everything was on track. It kept me going through the days of nonstop work leading up to the end.

Then one day I received a note from my supervisors that they had decided they wanted me to switch my citation method on my 300 page thesis. For those of you have done research, you might guess the avalanche of work that means focused on minutiae. They advised me to reschedule the completion of my degree and take an extra 6 months to do it. Either way the trip was off. I felt very angry that this decision hadn’t been made earlier and that it was affecting my life in this way.
I decided to try to complete the corrections before the summer was out, and moved the trip by 6 weeks, managing to keep things booked. For 6 weeks I basically slept in the library and showered in nearby dorms. I kept to a really specific schedule and I did it. One day ahead of schedule I handed in my thesis and shoved off on my trip on the date I’d set. My advisors congratulated me. They hadn’t thought it was possible and they had to give me credit for determination. And yeah, that was the best trip ever.

Schoolin’ Life: Ernestine Hayes

In today’s edition of Schoolin’ Life, we meet writer and professor Ernestine Hayes.

Ernestine

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I am a great-grandmother, a Tlingit woman. I teach composition and creative writing at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

 

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I was born in 1945, so I was in my 20s from July 1965 to June 1975.

Since it has been so long, at first I couldn’t really remember having expectations, or what expectations they must have been. After some thought, though, I remembered that it was the 1960s in San Francisco, so of course, I expected to be part of a beautiful, peaceful, new world full of love, free spirits, and organic gardens.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I was born at the end of the Second World War in the territory of Alaska to a single woman who was Tlingit. Alaska then rested – and still does, truth be told – on a foundation of colonial attitudes and systems. As an Alaska Native child in the mid twentieth century, my expectations were shaped by those circumstances.

What was your first job like?

My first job at the age of fourteen was at a printer, where I mangled reams and reams of printed work while the print shop owner watched in horror, no doubt regretting whatever social guilt moved him to hire me in the first place.

What was your first apartment like?

My first apartment was in San Francisco, near the Panhandle, an old estate house that had been remodeled into apartments. Each apartment was different, and the one I lived in had one of the fireplaces, although I never tried to use it.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Two of my sons were born in San Francisco in the sixties, and at the end of the decade I moved to the Sierra Nevada Foothills, having transferred my faith from a beautiful new world of peace and love to the back-to-the-land movement.

In what ways did your friendships change?

All the friendships I had after leaving my home in Alaska at the age of fifteen were shaped by the understanding that one day I would go home again, so the friendships I developed in my twenties were temporary.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Nothing. I never knew my father and in my memory, my mother had no relationships with men, so I had no idea what constituted a romantic relationship. I was unfortunate in that regard.

How did your relationships with your family change?

Everyone in my extended family was still back in Alaska, and we hadn’t kept in touch. My mother moved to the East Coast not many years after we moved to California. We spoke weekly, and she came to visit once or twice a year, but we were not involved in each other’s day to day lives.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I’d never fit into any sort of role that society would consider conventional, so I imagine the dominant society viewed me as an outsider.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for several years, and I suffered his tantrums and anger and criticism until my emotions were raw metal. It would be decades before I felt whole again, but I survived those years any way I could.

How did you change intellectually?

I searched for ways to survive and tried everything I could believe in. I tried to find reason everywhere.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I became someone else for a while.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

Parts of my worldview changed with every new hope that I had found an answer, but the fundamental beliefs that I’d received from my grandmother didn’t change.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

We were out of food and I took my sons to a park so we could forget that all we had to eat was squash and tomatoes from the garden. Everyone at the park had barbecue and picnic lunches. I wasn’t so much embarrassed as I was ashamed that I hadn’t thought about that aspect and that I had put my sons in an even worse situation for them.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

My relationship with my sons’ father; it almost killed me. When I decided to leave, it uncovered a deep capacity for determination.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

The man I lived with, who did everything to beat me down emotionally. He reinforced my lack of confidence by belittling and criticizing me at every turn. In those days before there was widespread organized effort to make information available, with the isolation that is part of abuse, and with my inexperience with healthy relationships, I allowed myself to be a victim.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

The sixties, peace marches, the back-to-the-land movement, the Jesus movement, all those.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

My life is full of regrets, but all those choices led me home.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?
The sixties turned into the seventies, then the eighties and on and on, and capitalism was the only thing that profited.

 

Dame of the Day: Emmanuelle Charpentier

Emmanuelle Charpentier

Today’s Dame of the Day is Emmanuelle Charpentier (1968-). As a post-doctoral fellow, Charpentier left her native France collaborate with researchers in the United States, Austria, and Sweden. Currently, she heads a team in Germany that studies how RNA-mediated regulation can edit the human genome and control bacterial pathogens.

Dame of the Day: Cherrie Moraga

Cherríe Lawrence Moraga

Today’s Dame of the Day is Cherríe Moraga (September 25, 1952-). Moraga channeled her own experiences with racism, passing as white, and her own sexual identity into a collaboration with Gloria Anzaldúa titled This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Moraga, along with Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde, founded Women of Color Press, the first United States publisher to focus on women of color.

Dame of the Day: Gloria Anzaldua

Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Today’s Dame of the Day is Gloria Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004). In spite of her family’s presence in south Texas for six generations, Anzaldúa felt the sting of discrimination against her Mexican heritage and her female identity. While she began her career as a preschool teacher, Anzaldúa continued to study and share her perspectives on Chicana history, feminism, and the dangers of binary definitions. Most famously, she edited This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a text calling for greater focus on intersectionality in feminism.

Dame of the Day: Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether

Today’s Dame of the Day is Emmy Noether (March 23, 1882-April 14, 1935). After completing her dissertation in mathematics, Noether spent seven years teaching for free at Mathematical Institute of Erlangen. (At the time, women were barred from paid academic positions.) In spite of these obstacles, Noether made significant contributions to the fields of algebra, including better understanding of hypercomplex numbers and a self-titled theorem explaining that under certain conditions, regardless of an object’s shape, its laws of motion may remain symmetrical.

Dame of the Day: Jedidah C. Isler

Jedidah Isler

Today’s Dame of the Day is Jedidah C. Isler. As a child, Isler spent hours marveling at the night sky. In college, she studied math and physics and, in 2014, she became the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Yale University. According to her personal site, Isler’s research centers around “the physics of particle jets emanating from supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies.” In addition to her own projects, Isler encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to study science. Check out her TED talk to find out how she fell in love with space.

Dame of the Day: Ruth Shady

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Today’s Dame of the Day is Ruth Shady (December 29, 1946-). In addition to serving as director of the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Antropología del Perú and the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Shady also conducts her own research. Shady discovered Caral, the first known civilization of Peru. The preceramic site contains artifacts dating back to 2627 B.C.

Schoolin’ Life: Karen Green

In the latest installment of Schoolin’ Life, we chat with subject librarian and graphic novel enthusiast Karen Green.

SDCC2012Laughter

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a subject-specialist librarian at Columbia University: librarian for Ancient & Medieval History, librarian for Graphic Novels, and adjunct curator for comics in our Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  I have advanced degrees in medieval history, which got me hired as the Anc/Med librarian. My own interests led me to initiate the graphic novels collection back in 2005, which has grown from 3 titles to over 5,000 titles in the past decade.  That new direction led to writing the “Comic Adventures in Academia” column for ComiXology for 4 1/2 years, to becoming a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in 2011, to joining the board of trustees for the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA), and then the board of directors of the Society of Illustrators when MoCCA transferred its assets to them. I began teaching a course on comics as literature in Columbia’s summer session, became a jury-member for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning, and acquired comics for Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

So, basically, I spend my days reflecting on how goddamn lucky I am.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I spent my 20s as a college-dropout bartender here in NYC.  I had absolutely no expectations for myself.  Didn’t see where it was taking me.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I’m the third of three kids from a middle-class Jewish family.  My expectations were shaped for me, entirely.  And when I didn’t conform to those expectations, reaction from my family was swift and specific.  My mom once flat out told me that she considered me a failure.  (I hasten to say that she later recanted.)

What was your first job like?

Well, my VERY first job was working behind a concession counter at the Linwood Theatre in Fort Lee, NJ.  I was 16 and had just qualified for working papers.  We were allowed to eat all the popcorn we wanted, but we weren’t supposed to eat any of the candy.  So the challenge was how to eat candy without getting caught.  I didn’t work there terribly long; I remember that Murder on the Orient Express ran there FOREVER and it was such a drag not to be able to watch new films all the time.

What was your first apartment like?

Oh dear.  My very, very first apartment was not in my 20s; I was 19 and miserable living at home, so I moved in with a guy I’d known a couple of months and his friend, who had just gotten out of prison for grand theft auto.  The apartment was behind a barber shop in Union City, NJ; there was a back room for the barber between the front room and our apartment door.  That back room was completely wallpapered with pages from hardcore porn magazines, and that’s what I had to walk through to go home every day.  The apartment was crawling with cockroaches as well.  I only lasted there a few months; I moved into Manhattan in November 1978, right before my 20th birthday, into a sweet little studio on the 3rd floor of a tenement building in Hell’s Kitchen.  I should have stayed there!

Did you experience any big life changes?

I think I experienced nothing BUT big life changes.  I became a bartender; I worked for IBM; I got an associate’s degree in business from NYU; I got married; I got divorced; my father died; I moved to Ohio; I moved back to NYC; I got a license in massage therapy….the list just goes on and on and on.

In what ways did your friendships change?

I was a bartender from age 19 to 34. I worked at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan for nearly 10 of those 15 years, but I also did a lot of hopping around.  And friendships became…expendable.  The people I worked with while bartending were very nice, but there was no deep connection to them.  The closest friends I have in my life now I didn’t meet until I was 29…31…52.  Friendship was ephemeral when there was nothing more to bond us than bartending stories.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

That if you don’t like yourself, no one worth liking is going to like you either.  It sounds so obvious, but it was a long and painful road to understanding it.

How did your relationships with your family change?

When I was 31, I went back to school to get my bachelor’s degree.  After so many years of bartending, I used to have a joke about how my mom probably described her kids: “There’s David, he’s a writer; Deb is a lawyer; and then there’s Karen: she’s my youngest.”  When I told that to my mom, I could see by the sheepish look on her face how close I’d come to the truth.  That was the case throughout my 20s.  My father died when I was 27; I was in school getting an associate’s degree, so our relationship had improved, but there’d been a point, right before I moved out of the house, where he didn’t even acknowledge my existence.  My mom and I fought constantly.  Returning to college changed that dramatically.  My sister and I had a prickly relationship and my brother, whom I adored, lived 3,000 miles away, so family was really fraught in my 20s.

How do you feel society viewed you?

Believe me: society does not have a high opinion of women bartenders.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I didn’t grow emotionally in my 20s at all; that didn’t happen until my 30s.

How did you change intellectually?

I read voraciously throughout my 20s.  I haunted bookstores and had a huge library.  Friends from work would come over and look at the bookshelves; they’d say, “Have you really read all of those?”  I had.  I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of intellectually-stimulating people in my 20s, so books were all I had.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I really lost my sense of myself in those years.  I was viewed as an object, and so I began to see myself that way, too.  I was unbelievably concerned with how I looked.  I felt that everyone judged me on my looks, and so that’s how I judged myself.  I was really into working out back then, and it became almost an obsession–and when I quit bartending and went to grad school, I no longer had time to work out, so I started to feel worse and worse about myself.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I feel as if it sounds like I’m ashamed or regretful about my bartending days.  The truth is, bartending taught me how to deal with people, how to maintain both a macro and micro focus simultaneously, and how to problem-solve.  The skills I learned as a bartender–notably those that are customer-service related–are the ones that serve me in greatest stead as a librarian.  I went from being painfully shy to very gregarious.  So my views of people changed–from loci of potential embarrassment to interesting challenges.  But the biggest thing that changed my worldview in my 20s was the AIDS crisis.  I was 22 or 23 when my first friend died of AIDS, and I lost friend after friend, acquaintance after acquaintance, for the rest of the decade.  There had been a joke in the restaurant business: “How many straight NY waiters does it take to change a light bulb?”  “Both of them.”  That was not the case 5 or 6 or 7 years after the AIDS crisis began.  Seeing people you love die from blatant government neglect and prejudice has a strong effect on your worldview.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

All of them and none of them.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

When I was 24, I went to Europe for the first time (I had a Dutch boyfriend).  It blew my mind.  The way people lived, the food, the air–the general quality of life–was everything I’d ever dreamed of.  I wanted to work for a big multinational corporation, one that would station me in some European city.  That’s what led me to start to study programming in 1984, and to go into that associate’s degree program in business.  But it never led to anything.  I was pretty devastated, and the goal of moving to Europe stayed with me all through grad school in my 30s.  But by the time I came out the other side, with the MA, the MPhil, and the MLS, I just wanted to stay home in NYC.  I love traveling, but NYC will always be home.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

In my 20s?  No one.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

It was weird living in the Reagan years.  Everything was great and everything was horrible.  But the biggest thing that defined my 20s was the AIDS crisis.  It can’t possibly be conveyed to those who didn’t live through it.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Nope.  Not in my 20s–or my teens, or my 30s, or my 40s, or my 50s.  Everything I’ve done, for good or ill, has brought me to this place, and I like where I am now.  But all the good things I have now are a result of things I did in my 50s.  I always was a late bloomer!

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

No one story.  I have a million of them.