Making History, Changing Lives
By UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS

Ten of our outstanding women faculty members help shatter the glass ceiling – their stories, who inspired them, and how they are inspiring others.

Well known or behind the scenes, at the local or national level or on the world stage, Oregon women have made a significant impact not only in our state, but on society and the world at large.

To commemorate Women’s History Month 2019, we hope you will join us in celebrating 10 of the many brilliant and diverse women faculty members of the UO. Each is striving to make the world a better place for the next generation through the important work they do inside and outside the UO.

As we reflect on the women who came before, and many at the UO who have already and continue to be recognized for their countless contributions, we are inspired to move forward.

Meet More SHEroes

Louise Bishop

Louise Bishop

Associate Professor Emerita of Literature
Clark Honors College

On the day that three police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, Louise Bishop was teaching Shakespeare in a cramped classroom in Esslinger Hall, their books open to a scene in Macbeth. None of the students, however, were interested in the play. They were more concerned about talking about what had just happened, and Bishop saw the immediate need to change the discourse. “It made me see how images have such an impact—and this is long before the advent of screens in your pocket,” she said.

It’s a small snippet, but a pertinent example of Bishop’s ability to sense what her students need and find a way to deliver it. Bishop, a medieval literature scholar, arrived at the University of Oregon in 1987, an NTTF in the English department. In her esteemed career, Bishop joined the Clark Honors College, achieved tenure, and spent a cumulative four-and-a-half years as assistant dean and established the CHC@Oxford study abroad program. She was also honored with both the Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Herman Award for Faculty Achievement. Now, in her last term before retirement, she looks back at her 32 years at UO and is hopeful about the future of her students and the university.

“We should continue to augment an atmosphere in which questioning is considered the right way to go; seek critique and don’t be defensive; arrange parties,” she said with a full, earnest smile, still remembering the day a medievalist led a discussion about current events in a Shakespeare class. “Practice compassion!”

 

“We should continue to augment an atmosphere in which questioning is considered the right way to go; seek critique and don’t be defensive; arrange parties. Practice compassion!” —Louise Bishop

Liska Chan

Liska Chan

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
College of Design

Liska Chan is the associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Design and associate professor of landscape architecture. Professor Chan’s work in the field of landscape architecture weaves together the mapping of historical patterns of human settlement and infrastructure, the common perceptions we have about how we build places, and new mapping methods that help us better understand all aspects of landscape. She is currently working on three projects, including a mapping project with post-doctoral fellow Gwynne Mhuireach that seeks to highlight the presence of microbes in the urban landscape.

“Primary influencers each day are the brilliant people around me: the wildly creative students, my energetic and thoughtful colleagues—faculty and staff across the college and university—and most importantly, my family and friends. These are the people who inspire me and give me courage to do the work I do.”

 

“... the wildly creative students, my energetic and thoughtful colleagues and, most importantly, my family and friends. These are the people who inspire me and give me courage to do the work I do.” —Liska Chan

Atika Khurana

Atika Khurana

Associate Professor
Counseling Psychology and Human Services
College of Education

Atika Khurana is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, a research scientist at the Prevention Science Institute, and the current program director for the Prevention Science studies graduate program. Khurana studies adolescent self-regulation and risk-behavior prevention. Her work has advanced our understanding of exploratory vs. maladaptive forms of risk taking in adolescence and identified malleable targets for prevention of substance abuse and sexual risk-taking behaviors.

“Teaching and mentoring are two of the most rewarding aspects of my job. My mentors inspired me with their love for research and teaching, invested their valuable time in sharing honest and growth-oriented feedback, and offered genuine support and encouragement as I took on bigger challenges. It is with the same mentoring spirit that I support my students, forever grateful for the role models I have had.”

 

“Teaching and mentoring are two of the most rewarding aspects of my job.” —Atika Khurana

Sabrina Madison-Cannon

Sabrina Madison-Cannon

Dean
School of Music and Dance

Sabrina Madison-Cannon understands mentorship and the value of giving back. Early in her career as a professional dancer, she worked closely with African-American dance pioneer Joan Myers Brown, a trained ballerina who, after being denied admission in segregated Philadelphia, started her own dance school. Madison-Cannon toured the world, but also performed at juvenile correction centers providing inspiration to underprivileged youth. The lessons of hard work and persistence instilled in her by Myers Brown stuck with her. She returned to school to earn her MFA in dance, which led her to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance where she became the first woman of color to be tenured and promoted to full professor.

In 2018, she joined the UO as dean of the School of Music and Dance where she is committed to achieving the university’s goals of increasing student access and diversity. “The dean in the room is the person that’s decided to put their own aspirations on the back burner to elevate and support the aspirations of the unit and that’s kind of where my passion is right now.” As a 2013 graduate of the HERS Denver Institute, Madison-Cannon is committed to promoting the advancement of women in higher education, advocating for gender equity and equality, and inspiring collaboration and empowerment.

 

“The dean in the room is the person that’s decided to put their own aspirations on the back burner to elevate and support the aspirations of the unit and that’s kind of where my passion is right now.” —Sabrina Madison-Cannon

Stephanie Majewski

Stephanie Majewski

Associate Professor
Department of Physics
College of Arts and Sciences

In a scientific field where, male researchers still far outnumber female, Stephanie Majewski is a rising star. Majewski, who joined the UO faculty in 2012, is a particle physicist focused on the search for dark matter and supersymmetry; she was part of the UO team that helped discover the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. In 2014, she received an Early Career Research Program award from the U.S. Department of Energy, one of only 35 scientists to receive that honor nationwide.

Majewski has a special interest in bringing more women into the field: in 2018, she helped organize the Northwest Regional Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics on the UO campus, and she regularly serves as a mentor for female undergraduates on her research team. “Great mentors (both male and female) have had an enormous impact on my career, so I’m driven to ‘pay it forward’ and truly enjoy seeing my students reach their goals.”

 

“Great mentors (both male and female) have had an enormous impact on my career, so I’m driven to ‘pay it forward’ and truly enjoy seeing my students reach their goals.” —Stephanie Majewski

Michelle McKinley

Michelle McKinley

Bernard B. Kliks Professor of Law
School of Law

Mentorship is not accidental. To Bernard B. Kliks Professor of Law Michelle McKinley lasting mentorships are intentional relationships. When looking back at her career—McKinley says that mentors have been instrumental throughout her journey. “I have had strong fierce women who taught me and had my back.” One such mentor is Joane Nagle, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Kansas. Twenty-one years ago, Nagle saw McKinley’s potential and helped her discover her own voice.

Now, McKinley does the same with countless law students and undergraduates. Her goal isn’t to make chameleons but to help students—especially undergraduates—find out who they are. Recent graduate, Grace Bulger ’18, is one student with whom McKinley has a relationship that is built on trust and genuine care. With encouragement from McKinley, Bulger recently applied to and was accepted into the UO School of Law.

“Professor McKinley affirmed that I can be great,” Bulger said. “She is the type of person I’d like to be, professionally and personally.”

 

“I have had strong fierce women who taught me and had my back.” —Michelle McKinley

Heather Quarles

Heather Quarles

Senior Instructor, Spanish
Department of Romance Languages
College of Arts and Sciences

Heather Quarles earned her BA at UO in 2000 and MA in 2003 and has dedicated her career to fostering bilingualism among future generations of students. Quarles, a senior instructor II in Spanish, serves on the UO Dreamers Working Group, and has a special interest in students who come to the UO with a family or community connection with Spanish, whether they are Dreamers or not.

Quarles is part of the core faculty for the Spanish Heritage Language program, which is designed to serve these students. Thanks to her mentoring, one SHL student, Kelsey Nava Costales, recently received a university award that recognized her exceptional performance as a nontraditional student. “As a first-generation college student who benefited from the support and guidance of countless staff and faculty during my undergraduate years here, I view mentorship, formal and informal, as an enjoyable and essential part of my job,” said Quarles.​​

 

“As a first-generation college student who benefited from the support and guidance of countless staff and faculty during my undergraduate years here, I view mentorship, formal and informal, as an enjoyable and essential part of my job.” —Heather Quarles

Alaí Reyes-Santos

Alaí Reyes-Santos

Associate Professor
Department of Ethnic Studies
College of Arts and Sciences

Alaí Reyes-Santos is an associate professor of ethnic studies, a scholar activist, and a high priestess and tradition keeper of Regla de Osha and Regla Conga, Afro-descendant ceremonial practices from the Caribbean. “I draw from my academic and ceremonial training to foster open conversations about social violence, power and solidarity,” she said.

As a Puerto Rican, Reyes-Santos was profoundly disturbed by the destruction wrought on her homeland by Hurricane Maria in 2017. With her students, she transformed the class she was teaching at the time—Race, Ethics, Justice—into a mobilization for social action. Through research and fundraising, her class supported a student delegation that Reyes-Santos led in a journey to contribute to relief efforts in the island. The resulting blog, The Puerto Rico Project, captures student storytelling, photography, and documentation of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

 

I draw from my academic and ceremonial training to foster open conversations about social violence, power and solidarity. —Alaí Reyes-Santos

Lori Shontz

Lori Shontz

Journalism Instructor
School of Journalism and Communication

Before Lori Shontz became a journalism instructor, she was a journalist for more than 25 years. As a reporter for newspapers around the nation, she specialized in sports, women’s issues, and higher education. Today, Shontz pays forward the guidance she’s received throughout her career as a student mentor. It’s a calling she takes very seriously.

“I like to think that I plant a lot of seeds the students don’t even know I’ve planted,” said Shontz. “That's what my mentors did for me.”

As a Reporting I instructor, Shontz has laid the foundation for many a future journalist’s career, providing guidelines for accuracy and ethics and helping students develop a nose for news. She also cofounded Writing Central, a peer-to-peer coaching program to help SOJC students strengthen their writing skills. She teaches an Advanced Sports Reporting course, which gives students on-the-ground experience covering major track and field events and is faculty adviser for the UO chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, which supports females entering the male-dominated world of sports journalism and public relations.

 

“Mentoring students is the most important thing I do. It’s the reason I teach and the reason I'm here.” —Lori Shontz

Aparna Sundar

Aparna Sundar

Assistant Professor of Marketing
Lundquist College of Business

Aparna Sundar brings enthusiasm, creativity, and high expectations to every project she takes on—from design, to research, to the classroom and beyond. Sundar’s research focuses on design issues in marketing including subjects such as how consumers interact with product packaging or are influenced by color, texture, and other perceptual cues in the environment.

Sundar has been teaching business students since 2008 in the areas of marketing research, consumer behavior, marketing communication and innovation tools in marketing. Her students note her accessibility outside of the classroom and excellent feedback. A recipient of the Robin and Roger Best Award for Doctoral Research and Teaching Excellence, Sundar challenges her students to new heights of achievement and they leave her courses inspiration-filled. When it comes to her inspiration, the researcher and assistant professor of marketing said her role model is Dr. Karen Machleit from the University of Cincinnati.

“She celebrated and was committed to women in academe,” Sundar said. “She understood the challenges of being a minority and was an admirable administrator, something any institution can benefit from.”

 

“Compassion is the heart of growth. When we respect our differences, challenge each other, build each other up, and celebrate our diversity, the result is exponentially empowering.” —Aparna Sundar

Extraordinary Women Who Paved the Way

As we reflect on the women who came before, and many at the UO who have already and continue to be recognized for their countless contributions, we are inspired to move forward.

Consider Esther Pohl Lovejoy, (1869–1967), physician, public health pioneer, suffrage activist, and founder of the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League in Oregon, or Kathryn Hall Bogle  (1906–2003), a passionate advocate of racial diversity and the first African-American woman ever paid to write a story for the “Oregonian” in 1937.

Edith Green (1910–1987) was the second Oregonian woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and played an instrumental role in passing the 1972 Equal Opportunity in Education Act, Title IX; Susan Castillo (1951–) was the first Latina elected to the Oregon State Legislature and first to hold statewide elected office as superintendent of public instruction; and Peggy Nagae (1951–), former assistant dean for Academic Affairs at the UO School of Law, worked to ensure that the tragedy of the Japanese-American incarceration during World War II would never again be repeated in the US.

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal leader Kathryn Jones Harrison (1924–) helped restore the tribal land base in Oregon through the Reservation Restoration Act of 1988 and continues to work on behalf of the tribe. Hazel Ying Lee (1912–1944) was the first Chinese-American woman trained to fly high-powered, single-engine, fighter aircraft for the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during the second World War.

The UO boasts an exemplary roster of current female faculty members whose noted contributions continue to inspire. There are far too many to list them all, but in addition to the 10 women above, here are some of the other faculty conducting path-breaking research and creating life-changing impact.

Geraldine Richmond, presidential chair in science and professor of chemistry, was awarded the National Medal of Science, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government for her research on water surfaces.

Karen Guillemin, professor of biology in the Institute of Molecular Biology, pioneered the use of zebrafish to study host-microbe interactions, and UO Professor of Biology Judith Eisen, also used zebrafish as a model to study the nervous system. Victoria DeRose, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and associate vice president for Equity and Inclusion, leads the IChange Team, a group at the UO that is joining a national effort to boost STEM education.

Priscilla Peña Ovalle, cinema studies associate professor and department head, is a film and television studies scholar with an interdisciplinary emphasis on race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality focused on marginalized communities and mainstream popular culture; and Barbara Mossberg, professor of practice in literature in the Clark Honors College, is a prizewinning poet and practicing scholar, an expert on Emily Dickinson and John Muir, and through the Genius of Study Abroad course leads students on a multidisciplinary tour of Europe each summer.   

Jessica Green, associate professor of biology and academic expert in biology, ecology, engineering and sustainability of the built environment, studies ways to improve health by improving how and what we build; and Marcilynn Burke, is the first black female dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and law at the UO School of Law.

Many women may also be unsung “sheroes” who, through everyday example, serve as role models, including two teachers featured in Oregon Quarterly: Debra Thompson, current UO associate professor of political science and faculty member-in-residence at UO’s Kalapuya Illihi residence hall, who generously gives of her time, providing not only guidance but pancakes that she prepares for students on Sunday mornings; and Maryanne Obersinner, a 1993 UO grad, who year after year delivers a multidisciplinary, project-based curriculum that brings icons of the Catholic Church to life for her sixth graders at O’Hara Catholic school in Eugene where she teaches.