Balancing act

MU professor wants to make it easier
for women in academia to find support
Monday, September 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:56 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In many ways, Jacquelyn Litt is a continual living subject of her own research.

Litt, who mainly studies motherhood, is the new director of MU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, an associate professor of sociology and women’s studies, a wife and a parent.

“One of my most recent projects looks at balancing family and motherhood with an academic career,” Litt said.

Despite the fact that Litt has only begun to move into the director’s office on Switzler Hall’s third floor, it already had the look of a busy professor’s domain. Litt’s research on mothers in academia revealed what she already knew: It’s difficult to balance work demands with family responsibilities. With her research, Litt wants to find ways for colleges and universities to make it easier for professors to care for family members and achieve academically.

“Kids tend to be invisible in our world,” Litt said, shaking her head.

To combat that trend in her own discipline, Litt hopes to provide child care for students and professors at Women’s and Gender Studies Program events. She also wants to establish strong relationships with the multicultural centers on campus and attract a diverse group of students.

“As a researcher, I’m very interested in interdisciplinary approaches. I like collaborating with different people and different departments,” she said.

It is this quality, said her husband, Jim McGlew, that will make her a success.

“Jackie is extraordinarily good as a community builder,” he said.

An associate professor of classical studies, McGlew is familiar with the problems facing small departments, but said that MU seems to provide good support to its smaller programs.

That is good news for Litt because her most ambitious plan for the program is to help the faculty turn the program into a department. This would mean a greater depth of courses for undergraduates and more research opportunities for graduate students.

Litt hopes to develop a proposal by the end of this academic year to turn the program into a department.

“Good, strong women’s and gender studies programs are moving to departments. This would reflect the maturity of women’s studies as an academic field,” Litt said.

Litt’s last position was interim director of the women’s studies program at Iowa State University. She was drawn to an administrative position in women’s studies because of the prospect of working with others who are passionate about this field.

Every Tuesday morning, Litt hosts a coffee hour in the program’s conference room. This Tuesday, she discussed a potential new internship opportunity with Shelda Eggers, the administrative assistant for the program, and Kendra Yoder.

Yoder is a doctoral student in sociology and one of 16 graduate minors in women’s and gender studies. Two women’s and gender studies students have completed internships in the last two years, both with groups that lobbied in the Missouri General Assembly, Eggers said.

One of Litt’s goals for the program is to offer more internships for undergraduate students.

The search committee assigned the task of reviewing candidates for the director’s position had this kind of academic growth for the program in mind.

Committee members were also looking for a creative administrative vision, said Catherine Holland, co-chairwoman of the search committee.

“Jackie helped us think about ways to expand the program,” said Holland, an associate professor of political science and women’s and gender studies.

“First and foremost, we were looking for a top-flight scholar,” she said. “In Jackie, we found that.”

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