Emory Report
November 17, 2008
Volume 61, Number 12

‘Unsung Heroines’
Nominations are sought for the Center for Women’s 12th annual Unsung Heroine Awards.

The awards honor women who have “demonstrated extraordinary dedication to issues that affect women at Emory or in the larger community,” but whose efforts have not received accolades or formal recognition.

Undergraduates, graduate students, alumna, faculty, staff and retirees are eligible. Awards will be presented to the recipients at a dinner in their honor Feb. 21.

Letters of nomination must be e-mailed by midnight on
Nov. 19, to Sasha Smith at nasmit2@emory.edu.



Emory Report homepage  

November 17
, 2008
Building on the cutting edge

By Kim Urquhart

With “courageous leadership” as her personal mantra, Dona Yarbrough found a good match in joining Emory, which echoes that concept in its strategic vision.

The new director of the Center for Women at Emory inherited a legacy left by founder Ali Crown, who retired after 15 years of building the center into a powerful presence for women’s rights, resources and programming on campus.

Yet there is always room for improvement, and Yarbrough plans to look beyond the status quo and respond to “the cultural moment.”

She is devoting her first year to crafting a vision for the center’s future direction, working with her staff and the center’s advisory board to evaluate existing programs — many of which have developed a devout following.
She wants to keep the center “new, growing, and on the cutting edge of gender issues.

“I would like to see the center become a hub of critical analysis about women’s roles both within the University and without.”

She hopes to strengthen ties to academic departments, and reach out to underserved populations, such as graduate students and hourly wage staff, through expanded programming.

“I would like to see the center serve as many people as possible,” she says. And of course, the Center for Women is not just for women. “You have to provide education for all genders if you’re going to change the climate for women,” she says.

Yarbrough has been steadily working toward that goal since her graduate studies at the University of Virginia, where she earned an MA and Ph.D. in English and where gender and sexuality were the focus of her academic work.

When she realized that writing and research “were not her first love,” she abandoned plans of the professorship and spent more and more time at the UVa women’s center, where she was director of programs. Not only did she found a mentoring program for women of color, she co-founded what became UVa’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

Charged with securing everything from funding to furniture, “developing a center out of nothing was really a great experience,” she says.

Yarbrough’s interests in gender work led her to Tufts University in Massachusetts, where she served for five years as director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center and as a lecturer in women’s studies. She joined Emory from Tufts in September.

She admired Emory’s strong women’s studies program and deep engagement with women’s issues and feminism. She was also attracted to Emory for its location — the outdoor adventure enthusiast is looking forward to the year-round opportunities Atlanta’s mild climate provides, as well as its cultural offerings.

“I’ve been eating my way through the city,” she says. “I’m on the hunt for the best barbeque, so if anyone has any suggestions…”

She is also enjoying her Oakhurst neighborhood where she lives with her partner, Alex Kreuter, and her 9-year-old terrier mix, Asta.

“Atlanta is like coming home, except to a less conservative and more urban part of the South,” says Yarbrough, who grew up in Leland, Miss. and Pensacola, Fla.

A “shy bookworm” who read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” 21 times as a child, Yarbrough found that being “the smart girl” in school gave her “a kind of respect from male students I wouldn’t have ordinarily had.”
Perhaps that helped inform what was later to become one of her primary interests, women in the academy.

She believes that looking at the barriers that women still face in the academic pipeline is an important issue for universities to address. Through her work with the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, Yarbrough is already engaged in that conversation at Emory.