Grayzel named director of UM Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies

Center to continue academic, service focus

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi history professor Susan Grayzel has been selected as the new director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.

Grayzel, who has served as interim director of the center since 2011, hopes to build on its successes by fostering across-campus collaboration, strengthening its academic presence and continuing to provide an open forum for gender-related issues on campus.

“A campus can never have too many entities that promote equality, justice, tolerance and respect for diversity,” Grayzel said. “One of the functions of the center is to be a place that pays attention to the challenges and accomplishments of women in our community and to be a voice for them. There are lots of great partnerships to be made across campus with people whose work touches on understanding the role that gender difference plays in how people — both men and women — live their lives. We look forward to hearing ideas from all members of our community for what we can do to help fulfill our mission.”

The center, which offers a gender studies undergraduate minor, will continue to develop curricula as well as work toward the creation of an undergraduate degree program, Grayzel said. In 2012, the center was approved to administer a graduate certificate in gender studies, which is available to any interested graduate student currently enrolled in a degree program in the College of Liberal Arts.

As director, Grayzel also will help host the center’s programs. On Feb. 28, the center and the Department of Philosophy and Religion will co-sponsor a lecture by Stacey Floyd-Thomas, associate professor of ethics and society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, as part of Black History Month and Women’s History Month programming. The center also plans to work with the Southern Foodways Alliance in September to present a graduate symposium on “Women, Work and Food.”

The 13th annual Isom Student Gender Conference will take place March 19-20, and the center is holding a Monday brown bag lecture series this spring, which features speakers from the UM departments of Art, Social Work, English and Theatre Arts.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Grayzel, an innovative leader and accomplished scholar, direct the Sarah Isom Center,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “She provides superb leadership for the center’s important work at the University of Mississippi.”

Grayzel said she is honored to work with the Sarah Isom Center for Women, which has been an important part of her working life since her early days at UM, when she was able to interact with the center’s founding director Joanne V. Hawks.

“She [Hawks] had been doing yeoman’s work, pretty much on her own,” Grayzel said. “Professor Hawks and the center presented me with an early opportunity to talk about my research on women to the larger community. The center has always really thrived when it’s been led by committed full-time, active scholars and teachers who’ve brought their enthusiasm and expertise to it. I hope to follow the examples of UM faculty leaders such as Jan Hawks, Sheila Skemp and Deborah Barker.”

Grayzel, whose scholarship focuses on modern Europe, the cultural history of war, and women’s and gender history, joined the UM Department of History in 1996 after receiving her A.B. from Harvard University and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Her most recent publications are “At Home and Under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Britain from the Great War to the Blitz” (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and “The First World War: A Brief History with Documents” (Bedford/St. Martins, 2012). Others include “Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War” (University of North Carolina Press, 1999), which won the British Council Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies, and “Women and the First World War” (Longman, 2002). She teaches courses on the cultural and social history of modern Europe and its colonies, as well as on race, class and gender, the body and the world wars.

“Dr. Grayzel has the academic credentials — both in terms of her training and her research focus — to speak to all the issues that the center faces,” said Sheila Skemp, UM professor of history, who served as acting director from 1998 to 2002. “She is enthusiastic, dedicated and has forged connections throughout the university that will redound to the center in myriad ways.”

Established in 1981, the Sarah Isom Center aims to provide a forum for the study, discussion and advancement of women and gender studies. For more information on the center and its upcoming events, visit