Their words: Women at UVA

Anne Coughlin

She came to UVA law school in 1995 from teaching at Vanderbilt. She especially enjoys teaching courses in criminal law and feminist theory.

"I love it here! There have been enormous changes at UVA and Charlottesville that reflect changes in the larger political culture. But in many ways it's still a man's world, not so much on the undergraduate level, but certainly among the law faculty of which I'm a part. It does not have sufficient numbers of women. You don't see as many female professors.

It's really difficult since working on the tenure track coincides with the time many women choose to have babies. This said, I've always felt really welcomed and valued here.

My colleagues invited me here to bring a feminist perspective to the law faculty. I also believe they don't see me as a token. I satisfied all normal hiring qualifications, and I'm overjoyed at my good fortune at being able to teach at a place like UVA. It's conservative but decent; people are open and respective, which is a lot better than indifferent. That isn't the case everywhere.

That's the ironic part: It's still conservative in many ways, but it's a plus. It gives me a chance to do a lot of work talking with people who don't necessarily agree with me."

Louise Dudley

She retired this past December after 11 years as the head of University public relations

"I was not there as long as people might think. Before women were admitted on an equal basis, I was only 24 myself, and being young, I wasn't paying a lot of attention to all of the changes within UVA's administration. In the 1960's, I was in my mid-'20s and was living with my husband, who was attending UVA law school.

Since then, I've just been excited to see women moving into fields not normally considered to be women's places. For instance, three women are responsible for managing UVA's money: Alice Handy, Colette Sheehy, and Yoke San Reynolds.

When I came back in 1989, the university was far larger than it had been 22 years before. It was much more diverse in every way you could think of. Part of that, of course, was just the large overall increase in the number of students. It was the beginning of better representation for women among the faculty, though there's still a way to go.

The more women there were around, the more it began to not be a surprise to find women in meetings, at the table, and in leadership positions."

Kelli Preston

This student hails from Rocky Mount and plans to graduate next spring with a Master's in Accounting.

"It's hard to really know what to think about gender at UVA because it is generally a given that women belong here. I did not give much serious thought to sexism until I came to UVA. One elective I took, Multiculturalism Education, increased my awareness of some of the existing gender and racially related prejudices that exist at UVA and elsewhere. Some of these biases have become more noticeable to me, especially within some of my classes. For instance, most of my textbooks are related to accounting, a male-dominated field, and therefore are almost always by male authors. There seems to be a lot of 'he' and 'him' pronouns in the writing which creates this sense of a male perspective. Outside of class, I think I'm still conscious of gender, but in more positive ways, through interactions with other female students. Some of my favorite memories of being an undergrad include being a R[esident] A[dvisor] and playing on the Club basketball team. Overall, I feel welcome at UVA; maybe that's partially why I don't mind staying another year."

[One of the above interviews originally contained a small chronological error, which was deleted in this online version.]–ed.