September 10, 2012
Kansas connection: Mentoring leads to award-winning story of women's movement in higher education
Three women, two universities and a story about a dean who was not afraid to ruffle a few feathers have produced an award-winning effort.
A graduate of Kansas State University, Kelly Sartorius, St. Louis, Mo., is the author of an award-winning dissertation and case study of Emily Taylor, dean of women at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, from 1956 to 1974. It recently won the Ruth Strang Award from the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators -- or NASPA -- Center for Scholarship, Research and Professional Development for Women. The award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to the body of literature concerning women in higher education.
Sartorius' dissertation tells the story of Taylor's straightforward, no-nonsense attitude that provided important steps to women's access to higher education -- a precursor of the second wave of the women's movement in the 1960s. Taylor's accomplishments included eliminating curfew hours, issuing residence keys to college women and mentoring several highly successful female leaders across the country.
"Kelly does a masterful job telling the story of how Dean Taylor aided change in higher education while contextualizing it more broadly to answer some unique questions about how change really did occur," said Sue Zschoche, Kansas State University associate professor of history and Sartorius' doctoral adviser.
Although Taylor inspired Sartorius to write the award-winning dissertation, Sartorius attributes her success with it to the mentoring she received from Zschoche.
"Dr. Zschoche is the reason I became interested in social justice in the first place, and she encouraged me to follow through on what I had long wanted to do -- earn a Ph.D.," Sartorius said.
During her undergraduate years at Kansas State University, Sartorius took a course on women in history because she heard Zschoche was a great lecturer. From there Sartorius really took an interest in women's issues, and when she met Taylor in 1997, she decided to write Taylor's memoirs. It wasn't until 2003 when Sartorius started working as a development officer at the Kansas State University Foundation that the memoirs project turned into something greater.
"I had lunch just to catch-up with Dr. Zschoche and the next thing I knew I was taking graduate courses," Sartorius said. "I had a project that I knew I was interested in doing, and Dr. Zschoche made me realize that it would be smart to complete the degree if I was going to do the project anyway."
Working a full-time position that required a lot of travel, Sartorius spent eight years working on her doctorate degree in women's history. It was not an easy task for the working mom who gave birth to her son during that eight-year span, but Sartorius earned her doctorate in May 2011.
"Quite frankly, I never could have finished this degree if it weren't for Dr. Zschoche's flexibility," Sartorius said.
In addition to her dissertation, the story was also featured on CSPAN-3 and in the spring 2010 issue of Kansas History, a journal by Kansas Historical Society. In the article, Sartorius highlights the changes that took place from Taylor's influence as dean of women, the resistance she experienced and stories about the women she mentored.
"It’s a fascinating tale," Zschoche said. "Sartorius tells of this woman whose story really needs to be told."
Sartorius is now director of development for the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.