Published July 18, 2017
Carrie Bramen, associate professor in the Department of English, has been appointed director of UB’s Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to advancing women’s and LGBTQ leadership, vision and influence.
Bramen succeeds Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies, who last month accepted a temporary, one-year appointment as executive director of the Humanities Institute, a position Bramen held from 2006-13.
“The Gender Institute is incredibly lucky to have Carrie stepping in as the director,” says Winter. “She has experience administering a comparable institute and is an extraordinary scholar and mentor. It’s rare to find someone so completely qualified.”
Founded in 1997, the Gender Institute has established itself as one of the foremost entities promoting research and teaching related to women, gender and sexuality.
“I look forward to leading the vibrant institute that Kari and the directors before her have helped to build,” says Bramen, a 19th-century Americanist who has a book coming out in August titled “American Niceness: A Cultural History” (Harvard University Press). “Kari for the past six years has done an amazing job consolidating and creating a space for the institute” in The Commons on the North Campus.
The leadership transition comes at a time of expanded opportunity for the institute. Bramen assumes her new post just as the University of Michigan has extended an invitation for UB to join a consortium of similar institutes across the country.
Though Bramen is enthusiastic about continuing to build and extend the institute’s internal relationships, she says there’s a pressing need to participate in national conversations as well.
“This is an incredibly regressive time for women’s rights,” she says. “We have 13 men right now determining the fate of women’s health care. For us to be blind and silent about that and other matters would be unethical.”
That stance includes Bramen’s vision of growing the social media and digital presence of the institute to include a possible podcast featuring interviews with feminist scholars.
She hopes to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to also develop their own podcasts, and she says a feminist blog could also play an important role as a vehicle for discussion about critical issues.
She has applied for a Humanities New York grant for a program that would develop readings and programs on the suffragettes tied to a dialogue on voting rights and a voter registration drive for the elections of 2018 and 2020.
Hearing Bramen’s plans and looking back on the institute’s record of two decades of growth reminds Winter of the words of feminist studies pioneer Madelon Sprengnether, who upon retiring after 46 years at the University of Minnesota, where Winter received her doctorate, said: “These things that we take for granted did not exist until somebody made them come into being — and that took a huge amount of energy and resistance and serious individual courage.”
“At the University of Minnesota in the 1980s,” Winter notes, “graduate students in literary studies (like me) lived and breathed in a milieu where feminist, queer and anti-racist questions, methodologies and alliances were central to daily life, thanks in large part to the space forged by professors like Sprengnether, Toni McNaron and Shirley Garner.”
Adds Bramen: “It’s a huge responsibility. We have to take an activist stance.”