The SWS Feminist Mentoring Award was established in 1990 to honor SWS Members who are outstanding feminist mentors. While the word “mentoring” is commonly used to describe a faculty-student relationship, this award has shown the breadth of ways that feminists do mentoring. In establishing the award, SWS recognized that feminist mentoring is an important and concrete way to encourage feminist scholarship.
This year’s Feminist Mentoring Award Subcommittee included Corinne Castro (Subcommittee Chair,) Rebecca P., Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, Heather Laube, and LaToya Council. The Subcommittee decided that Dr. Jennifer Edwards and Dr. Jane Ku will be the co-recipients of the SWS 2022 Feminist Mentoring Award.
Jennifer Edwards earned a B.A. degree in sociology from California State University, Stanislaus, a Master of Science degree in criminology from California State University, Fresno, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Oklahoma State University. Jennifer began her academic career in 2002 when she accepted a one-year appointment at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. There, Jennifer taught several sociology and criminal justice courses and advised students enrolled in the criminal justice program. In 2003, Jennifer accepted a tenure-track position at Northeastern State University (NSU) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Currently in her nineteenth year at NSU, Jennifer serves as Professor of Sociology. Jennifer teaches various sociology and women’s and gender studies courses, such as social research methods, urban sociology, rural sociology, social psychology, social change, criminology, sociology of gender, and introduction to women’s and gender studies. Her research interests include social inequality and the relationship between ritual behavior and power. Specifically, Jennifer focuses on the Orange Order (a fraternal religious organization) in Northern Ireland and the Notting Hill Carnival in London, U.K. More recently, Jennifer is now examining the role of women in the Orange Order.
In 2013, Jennifer was selected to serve as the inaugural Director of the Center for Women’s Studies at NSU. During her three-year tenure as the director, Jennifer had the opportunity to plan events that focused on issues faced by women in society. While no longer the director, Jennifer remains active in the center as a member of the Center for Women’s Studies Advisory Board. Additionally, Jennifer teaches two core courses within the women’s and gender studies minor program.
In addition to university service and teaching, Jennifer is the coordinator for the B.A. in sociology and the M.S. in criminal justice programs. In these roles, Jennifer advises and mentors numerous students. She has served as a faculty mentor for many students whose research projects focus on various social problems, including domestic violence, sex trafficking, poverty and crime, sexual assault, and social inequality, among other topics. These students have presented their research at professional conferences and symposiums. Further, several students have been recognized for their research in student paper competitions where they placed in the top three.
In addition to her academic career, Jennifer is involved in community organizations that are dedicated to education. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an organization that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators. Jennifer is also the current president of the Tahlequah chapter of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), an organization that promotes the education of women and girls through scholarships and mentoring.
Here are some highlights from Jennifer Edwards’ nomination materials that Gemini A. Creason-Parker collected from Suzanne Farmer, Stacy Hunter, Rekiekah A. Doylti, Kasey Rhone Smith, Jennifer Howell-Wright, Olivia Agustin, Trent J Brown, Mitzi Stone, and Amy L. Proctor.
Suzanne Farmer noted: “Although Dr. Edwards was not assigned as my formal mentor, she became my guiding light for navigating the department and the institution. She was always available to answer questions and even established a regular lunch for the women in our department in an effort to help us bond and seek mutual support. She never treated us as junior faculty but always as valued colleagues, friends, and human beings. She made a point to check in on us to ensure we were engaged in self-care and were pursuing a healthy work-life balance.”
Olivia Agustin wrote, “Dr. Edwards has been an excellent advisor and mentor. As a first-generation female student, I had many questions about what classes to take and what college had to offer. Dr. Edwards helped me make the right decisions for myself in her role as my advisor. She has always supported me, which is something that a student needs when going through college. She is a trusted confidant; I know I can come to her with questions, and she will do everything in her power to answer them. She has never steered me wrong, and as such, I value her input in making decisions about college and beyond…. She is also a big reason why I had the confidence to pursue a master’s degree. I was unsure if I would continue with my education after receiving my bachelor’s degree but talking with Dr. Edwards made me believe I had what it took to make it through the program successfully. Again, having someone who believes in you in a position that you look up to really makes all the difference.”
Trent Brown shared, “Dr. Edwards created each one of her classes to be an equal for all and a respectful discussion and had us really think about what it means to be who we are and how we fit in society. Everyone all responded with great ideas. Ideas are always the starting point of something that can be built or changed. After learning from Dr. Edwards in all the classes I was in with her, has really helped me to reshape how I think and to be able to spot these problems that exist. Dr. Edwards helped me shaped how I view biology as well. Her knowledge of how to research a topic and to find and eliminate confirmation bias along with discovering how institutional bias towards feminism comes very quickly with those types of research models. Which in my opinion is very disturbing. Dr Edwards taught us how to spot these things and now I see this type of mindset and can think back almost 40 years of it”
Jane Ku is an associate professor at the University of Windsor. She coordinates the Women’s and Gender Studies program and is the Graduate Chair in Sociology and Criminology. She teaches courses on gender, race, social movements, and qualitative methodologies. She has conducted research on racism, immigrant experiences of belonging and integration and antiracist and feminist activism. Her publications have appeared in Atlantis: Critical Studies of Gender and Social Justice; Journal of Women’s Ethnic and Racial Studies; International Journal of Women’s Studies; and Social Identities. Her research has taken an autoethnographic turn recently with the publication of “Journeys to a Diasporic Self” (Canadian Ethic Studies, 2019) and “Intentional Solidarity as a Decolonizing Practice” (Intermédialités:History and Theory of the Arts, Literature and Technologies 2019). Her work has been influenced by transnational feminist and antiracism scholarship.
Jane recently organized an interdisciplinary conference on race scholarship as embodied knowledge production. She is mentoring racialized students to develop antiracist voice through a Connection Grant supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. She is also active in anti-Black racism organizing at the university and building solidarities and lateral alliances among differently racialized groups. Prior to becoming an academic, she worked with and advocated for immigrant communities and was involved in student antiracist activism. She continues to be active in and engages with the community through her research and voluntary work.
Here are some highlights from Jane Ku’s nomination material that Ayesha Mian Akram and Jane E. McArthur collected from Jessica Akintomide, Frankie Cachon, Ronjon Paul Datta, Natalie Delia Deckard, Richard Douglass-Chin, Alaa Eissa, Jayashree Mohanty, Wansoo Park, Danielle Reaume, and Erwin Selimos.
Frankie Cachon shared: “Dr. Jane Ku has been an outstanding colleague and friend, who has significantly guided and shaped my feminist scholarship and pedagogy. Whether asking for practical help about submitting a grade, debriefing about a difficult classroom discussion, or seeking substantive guidance about research or a publication, Jane is always generous with her time.”
Alaa Eissa wrote: “This statement is in support of Dr. Jane Ku. Dr. Ku has been an outstanding mentor who never fails to go above and beyond to make new learning opportunities for students. When I first joined RAACES I was introduced to Dr. Ku immediately and she always did an incredible job at creating spaces for student voices to be heard and taken into consideration. I especially admire her hard work as she prioritizes obtaining funding to ensure that undergraduate students are afforded new learning opportunities that will help them excel and build valuable experience that will aid them in graduate school or further education.”
Ayesha Mian Akram highlighted when she first met Jane at the University of Windsor: “Dr. Ku was one of the first people I met when I moved to Windsor in 2014. At that time, I did not know anyone in Windsor apart from my partner. Unemployed and having just completed my Master’s degree, I decided to reach out to WGST where I found myself immersed in a supportive feminist community. Dr. Ku and others welcomed me to Windsor, providing opportunities for committee work, panel presentations, research initiatives, and networking. When I decided to apply for my doctoral degree, I knew that I had to work with Dr. Ku as my supervisor. Her feminist scholarship in the areas of transnational feminism, critical intersectionality, and community-engaged research aligned with my own research interests but it was more than that – I wanted to work with Dr. Ku because I was blessed to have found a supervisor who cared about me not as a student but as a human being. Dr. Ku not only supervises her students’ academic journeys but goes out of her way to support their personal journeys.”
We hope you will join us in congratulating Jennifer and Jane and that you will make plans to join us for the 2022 Winter SWS Awards Reception that will take place on April 1, 2022 in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.