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Women's Research Forum

The Center periodically invites women scholars to present their work in a public forum.  These events provide the University community and the general public with an opportunity to learn more about the scope of scholarly research being conducted by women here in Memphis and across the country. 

Read about more past women's research forums on our past events page.

Activist Scholarship for Community Empowerment. Dr. Lorraine Gutiérrez. Dr. Lorraine Gutiérrez has a joint appointment with the School of Social Work and Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, and is a faculty associate in American Culture. 

"Feminist approaches to scholarship are most often depicted as a perspective or standpoint toward knowledge construction. In my conversation I will focus on the role of activism in feminist scholarship and how we can use methods of knowledge development toward activities that can contribute to community action and empowerment." -Dr. Lorraine Gutiérrez (April 10th, 2014)

Falling Off the Roof: Menstruation and the Epistemology of Ignorance. Dr. Jennifer Wagner-Lawler, Department of English & Women's Studies, Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Deborah Perron Tollefsen, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis.

This presentation explores the phenomenon of menstruation trauma by reflecting on narratives and visual art pieces that serve as rhetorical documents with an important ethical message.  More than just funny stories about one’s “worst” public bleeding, or naïve misunderstanding of what’s happening the “first time” these narratives contain an undercurrent of horror, often disguised as humor. These stories, one after another, are about what girls “know,” think they know, and what they realize, with a shock, they don’t know. We argue that these narratives reveal that young women are subject to a form of epistemological injustice. This epistemological injustice is part of widespread illiteracy of the body (to which both male and female children are subject) that is created, both knowingly and unknowingly, by adults.  We reflect on what these narratives can tell us about developing a model of sex education—or “body literacy”—that will promote healthier attitudes toward the body, eliminate fear and shame around menstruation and provide more accurate information to girls about what will or has happened to their bodies, and what that means in their lives (May 10, 2011)

"Democratization" for Women? How the Farmers' Wives Associations Were Left Behind. Magda Biejat, M.A. Visiting Scholar at the Center for Research on Women.

The transition from communism to democracy in Poland in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s had negative consequences for women’s civic engagement in grassroots organizations, specifically the Farmers’ Wives Associations (FWAs). FWAs were appropriated by the State during communism and became a fundamental arena for women’s public engagement. During the transition, unlike their male equivalent—the Voluntary Fire Brigades—FWAs were not legalized by law. FWAs chose not to register as non-profit organizations due to the legal difficulties of the process and the subsequent requirements related to the accounting and reporting of their activities. As informal organizations they had limited options of accessing finances, workshops, and programs for non-profit activists. Much of their work and history have subsequently become invisible to researchers and policy makers. Yet, many of them keep functioning as FWAs and continue to provide essential services to their communities. (April 13, 2011)

No Silent Witness, Cynthia Grant Tucker, Ph.D., Professor of English, University of Memphis. 

Dr. Tucker discusses the themes and her motives in writing  her latest biography, No Silent Witness, which Oxford University Press released in 2010.  This biography follows three generations of ministers’ daughters, mothers, and wives in one of America’s most influential Unitarian dynasties: the family of Abby Adams Cranch and William Greenleaf Eliot. One of their grandsons was poet T.S. Eliot. Shifting the center of gravity from pulpits to parsonages, and from confident sermons to whispered doubts, it humanizes the Eliot saints, demystifies their liberal religion, and lifts up a largely unsung female vocation.

Dr. Tucker is a Professor of English and author of five books on women. She likes to say that her “real education began” only after she’d earned a doctorate in comparative literature in the north and started to teach in the urban Midsouth during an era of social upheaval. As the Vietnam War and the human rights movements expanded her frames of reference, her academic focus shifted and settled in women’s studies, planting a personal interest in writing biography as a way to rectify history’s sins of omission and give silenced stories a voice. (January 31, 2011)

Subject to Sorority: Feminist Ethnography and Creative Analytic Screenplay. Dr. Lisbeth A. Berbary, Professor of Educational Research, University of Memphis.

Current academic research about Greek life often offers only a myopic view of sorority subculture that fails to represent the complexities of being a woman in a sorority. In order to show this missing complexity it becomes necessary to expose the ways that this subculture is contextualized within discourses of femininity—discourses that disseminate and discipline expectations for gendered behavior and performance. With this in mind, a poststructural feminist ethnographic study of a southern sorority was conducted to explore sorority women’s experiences and the complicated relationships between discourse, discipline, and gendered performance. The findings of this study were represented through a creative analytic screenplay that illuminated the ways sorority women learned gendered expectations, were disciplined towards compliance, and sometimes resisted or re-interpreted expectations of the dominant discourse of “ladylike.” This presentation explores the process of conducting post-structural feminist ethnographic research, the use of screenplay as data representation, and the findings specific to the dissemination and discipline of sorority women’s gendered performances. (November 3, 2010).

Women in Higher Education: What Have We Learned?, Janann Sherman, Ph.D., UofM Department of History;  Jean O’Barr, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Duke University; and Judy Touchton, Ph.D. CEO, Touchton Partners LLC.

Women have gained increasing visibility in higher education as opportunities have expanded and more women seek advanced degrees and academic careers. Despite advances, significant challenges still face women who seek careers in higher educational settings. Three prominent women scholars will each briefly present their knowledge and experience of women in higher education, including the early history of women in higher education, current trends, barriers to advancement, and international perspectives. (October 4, 2010)

Is there any House in the Doctor?: Politeness, Gender, and the Negotiation of Care in Medical Caregiver Teams,Sage Lambert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Dept of English, University of Memphis. 

Experiencing illness places us all in a vulnerable position as we entrust our well-being to the teams of caregivers who provide us with medical care.  The ability of those teams to communicate effectively and cohesively, however, can have a dramatic impact on the quality of care we receive.  Differing levels of experience, different roles and responsibilities within the caregiving teams, and power hierarchies all have the potential to affect the ability of our caregivers to function as a cohesive unit. 

Using language as an analytical lens, Dr. Graham's research explores causes of misunderstanding, conflict, and (im)politeness in computer-mediated communication, patterns of identity construction and gendered language use in social contexts, and discourse analysis of professional communicative practices in medical and social work settings.  In addition to several chapters published in edited volumes, she has published articles in the Journal of Pragmatics, Technical Communication Quarterly, and the Journal of Politeness Research and co-edited a volume entitled Interpersonal Pragmatics. (April 7, 2010)

Athlete or Diva? Photographic Preferences of College and Adolescent Female Athletes, Sally Ross, Ph.D., Professor of Sport and Leisure Management, University of Memphis. 

Mediated images of female athletes often highlight their beauty and sexuality and deliver potent messages about appropriate activities, actions, and appearance.  This research sought to discover the types of images female college athletes would construct and what messages they wished to convey in their own photographic portrayals.

Before earning her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois, Dr. Ross gained practical experience in college athletics administration as an assistant athletic director overseeing student-athlete support services at her alma mater.  Prior to this role, Dr. Ross was an academic counselor and life skills coordinator for student-athletes.  A former Big Ten All-Conference and Academic All-Conference student-athlete, Dr. Ross was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Illinois volleyball program.  Her research interests include girls’ and women’s experiences and opportunities in sport, media representations of athletes, and social responsibility of sport entities. (February 10, 2010)

Maternal Mortality in the United States,Nancy S. Hardt, M.D., Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Senior Associate Dean for External Affairs, College of Medicine, University of Florida.

 In this role Dr. Hardt fosters collaborations with community leaders and participates in state and federal government affairs. For four years she directed the Institute for Women's Health at the University of Tennessee where community based projects were initiated to reduce infant mortality and to encourage minority students to pursue health careers. Most recently she was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow during which time she worked as a health legislative advisor for Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  Dr. Hardt teaches Advocacy 101, where pediatric residents visit offices of elected officials and administrators at the Department of Health, Department of Education, and the Agency for Health Care Administration.  She is currently developing Alachua County’s Mobile Outreach Clinic.  (December 1, 2009)

Critical Climate:  Racial/Ethnic and Sexual Harassment in High School, Alayne J. Ormerod, Ph.D., Dept.  of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research with high school students suggests that the effects of sexual harassment extend beyond those who are directly targeted to others in the environment (Ormerod, Collinsworth, & Perry, 2008).  A school climate that engenders tolerance for sexual harassment has been linked to poorer school quality of life and psychological well-being.  Less often studied, harassment based on race/ethnicity is also associated with poorer outcomes for students (Wessler & De Andrade, 2006).  The current study considers the relative effects of multiple forms of harassment — racial/ethnic and sexual — and a climate that tolerates both types of harassment for minority and white students. (October 2, 2008)

Current Issues in Reproductive Healthcare,  Elena Maslia Marks, Chair, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Director, Health & Environmental Policy, City of Houston, TX.

In her role as director of health and environmental policy for for Mayor Bill White of Houston, Texas, she has transformed the public health care system, expanding community-based primary care clinics, and establishing a nonprofit corporation to coordinate health care services for low-income and uninsured people. In 2005, she coordinated the establishment of the Hurricane Katrina health clinic in Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, where more than 10,000 evacuees were treated.

Psychosocial influences on adverse birth outcomes among pregnant adolescents, Lynda M. Sagrestano, Ph.D., Director,  Center for Research on Women, University of Memphis

Pregnant adolescents are at high risk for adverse birth outcomes, such as premature and low birth weight babies, which puts their children at higher risk for long term cognitive and developmental impairment or infant mortality.  This presentation will examine psychosocial factors that impact adverse birth outcomes among adolescents. Psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem; social factors, such as social support from family and boyfriend; behavioral factors, such as nutrition, exercise, and substance use; and contextual factors, such as socioeconomic status and cultural heritage will be explored to better understand the challenges faced by expectant adolescents. Finally, data on the local impact of adolescent pregnancy and adverse outcomes will be used to set the stage for discussion of future directions for research and policy.

Women in Ancient Egyptian Religious Hierarchy,Suzanne Onstine, Ph.D., Egyptologist, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Memphis

The study of women in ancient cultures often focuses on personal adornment and childbearing. This limited range of topics tends to promote the view that women played a limited role in the so-called "public spheres" of politics and economics. And although from ancient Egypt there are very few obvious examples of women with administrative roles, there are numerous titles which attest to the participation of women in the religious hierarchy.  The activeness of women in ancient Egyptian   religion however, tells us not only about their piety, but speaks to their political and civic convictions as well.  State and religion were virtually the same in ancient Egypt, and the choices women made about which cults they served, and the patterns revealed in my research, demonstrate a link between religious vocations and the socio-political climate of the 2nd to 1st millennia BCE. 

Women in Math and the Sciences,  A presentation and roundtable discussion lead byPamela Shaw, Ph.D. Mathematical Statistician, Biostatistics Research Branch, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Gender and Racial Health Disparities in Heart Disease, Dr. Cheryl Travis, Professor of Psychology, UT Knoxville, with introduction by Kathy Kastan, L..C.S.W., M.A. Ed., President, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

If you would like to recommend a scholar for the Research Forum series, please send an email to

For more information on the Women's Research Forum, contact Dr. Lynda Sagrestano, Director, at 901.678.2770.

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Last Updated: 4/24/14