From the classroom to local and global communities: Professor Cate Fosl’s campaign for engaged scholarship in A&S and beyond

From the classroom to local and global communities: Professor Cate Fosl’s campaign for engaged scholarship in A&S and beyond

Study abroad trip to South Africa, May 2013

Cate Fosl, director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research (ABI) and associate professor of Women's and Gender Studies, continues to make A&S proud by building on her reputation as an engaged scholar and advocate.  In May 2013 she took eight students to South Africa for a 19-day Study Abroad class, and then spent the fall at the University of Edinburgh as a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH).  In Scotland, she joined an exciting community of Humanities scholars from around the world at an Institute that fosters interdisciplinary activities and international collaborations.  Professor Fosl’s long list of publications and work as an oral historian represent the University of Louisville well.

While in Edinburgh, Dr. Fosl's project, entitled “Women's Anti-Racist Activism in South Africa and the Southeastern U.S., 1948-98: Comparative Perspectives,” synthesized research she had pursued in the spring with her students, who conducted oral history interviews in Cape Town and worked with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation there on community healing projects (see their blog archive of the class at http://wgst591.omeka.net).

Clearly an accomplished scholar in her own right as the author of three books, Fosl has shifted her research focus over the past few years of directing the ABI toward more partnerships with community organizations.  For example, a Fair Housing report she co-authored with Metropolitan Housing Coalition traces the history of discrimination in local housing.  That report, commissioned by Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission with the help of a HUD grant, will be hreleased at a metro government conference in February.

In keeping with her research focus, upon her return to the U.S. this month Fosl will resume her work as ABI director. In addition, she has been asked to serve as the Special Assistant to the Provost for Engaged Scholarship for the coming 18 months. Her first assignment is a research survey and analysis of successful engagement initiatives at UofL’s benchmark and comparable institutions and ACC schools, which the provost will consider in the development of similar initiatives here.

Fosl has strong views about the importance of engaged scholarship as we move forward in the 21st century.  She feels that such work is "crucial" but still somewhat “undervalued and its complexity misunderstood” in much of the academy and she is an advocate for re-examining ways in which faculty performance in this area is recognized and measured. She is among a growing number of faculty who feel that the University community and the community at large “should be encouraged to understand the labor and expertise involved in these endeavors, while engaged scholars for their part must recognize the importance of… fully documenting their projects from process to product in greater detail.”