Dr. Young-ok An, associate professor in the English Department at the University of St. Thomas, has been appointed the new director of the Luann Dummer Center for Women, to begin July 1, 2012. She will succeed Dr. Corrine Carvalho, associate professor of theology.

An recalls learning about the center from St. Thomas English professor Dr. Brenda Powell, then director of the center, when she was hired 15 years ago: “I thought it was a really remarkable point about the university, and having that space meant a great deal to me.”

She credits her predecessors for having built a “great infrastructure” that will make her own goals for the center possible and also help her build on what they have done: “providing a space for people to connect and to encourage and support women’s and diverse voices.”

Two things she aims to accomplish are “bringing in international and global perspectives” and “forging relationships among students, faculty and staff,” with an emphasis on outreach to minority groups on and off campus and other populations hit hardest by the economic downturn.

Dr. Young-ok An

“I consider this position one of the most important and meaningful jobs that I could aspire to, especially as a female faculty member,” she added, noting that her academic work and service all have involved women’s issues, gender issues and representations of women in various areas.

Dr. Nancy Zingale, emeritus professor of political science, who led the search committee for the new director, said, “The Dummer Center has been tremendously fortunate in having had terrific directors from its very beginning. I am confident that Young will continue in that tradition. The Advisory Board was impressed with her vision of the center as an inclusive and welcoming place, her calm and open demeanor and her experience in mentoring students and faculty.”

The center’s mission is to address the needs and aspirations of women through educational programs, activities and resources, which are available to students, faculty and staff of St. Thomas, and  includes several grant opportunities.

Among the events the center sponsors or co-sponsors are the annual Take Back the Night rally against sexual violence, weekly “Feminist Friday” speakers and a monthly book club.

Every March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, the center sponsors the Luann Dummer Lecture Series, which brings in a prominent woman to speak to the St. Thomas community. Past speakers have included renowned feminist critic Susan Faludi, New York Times editor Gail Collins and Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the African-American students of the “Little Rock Nine” who enrolled at Little Rock Central High School after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 1954 decision  in Brown v. Board of Education. 

Dr. Corrine Carvalho, Theology DepartmentCarvalho, who has held the position since 2006, said one thing she will miss most is working with the Women’s History Month speakers: “You make these connections with all of these incredible women, even though they’re only here for a short period of time.” She said she found “how their whole lives are part and parcel of their work” inspiring.

She is looking forward to “getting back into writing and research,” however, and will devote more time to two books she has in the works: one on temple descriptions in the Bible and the other on Jeremiah as literature.

Zingale said, “Corri has enriched the work of the center in so many ways, but I think her greatest strength has been in forging connections with other parts of the university to pursue the goals of the center. She also has been really successful in developing programming that has wide appeal in the university and broader community.An said “Luann’s pioneering vision was gifted to us, and it’s up to us to keep that spirit alive. …

Dr. Corrine Carvalho, Theology Department

Carvalho said she looks forward to the “focus on global women’s experience” that An will bring to the center. She believes An also will bring “an excellent understanding of feminist theory” to the position, especially with her experience teaching a capstone course in the Women’s Studies program.

“Now that the space and time have been given to me to have a forum to speak to staff, faculty and student groups, I look forward to giving support to and being an advocate for women’s voices and continuing to make gender issues relevant. The center is integral to that vitality.”

The Luann Dummer Center for Women was established in 1993 by a special bequest from the estate of Dr. Luann Dummer, a St. Thomas English professor from 1971 to 1992, to “foster the intellectual, spiritual and personal development of women, and promote an open and diverse environment at St. Thomas.” Dummer served as chair of the department from 1976 to 1988 and was the first director of the university’s Women’s Studies program.