The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Dr. Jessie B. Ramey announced as inaugural director of the Women's Institute

Last May, University administration announced the development of a Women’s Institute to preserve Chatham’s dedication to women after the decision that it would admit men beginning in the fall of 2015, and on March 19, they announced that Dr. Jessie B. Ramey would serve as the Institute’s inaugural director.

As inaugural director, Ramey will be responsible for focusing on the Institute’s mission, which is, she said, “to help overcome and eradicate the social injustices facing women.”

“That’s a tall order, but one that we will continue working on as a campus community in three main ways: through education, research, and outreach,” she said. “Chatham has a long history of excellence in these areas and the Women’s Institute will build on those traditions.”

Ramey has ample academic and professional experience with women and gender issues, as well as history and social justice.

Ramey earned a BA in Social History and an MA and a Ph.D. in History from Carnegie Mellon University and an MA in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College.

She currently serves as a Visiting Scholar in Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and she is an adjunct professor of History in the Humanities Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon. She also serves on Mayor Bill Peduto’s Task Force on Education.

Ramey is no stranger to Pittsburgh nor to Chatham.

She has been a guest lecturer in a few of Chatham’s history classes, but, “most of my relationship to the University has been as a member of the Pittsburgh community,” she said.

At around age 13, Ramey saw her first play at Chatham’s Eddy Theater—“’The Dollhouse,’ of course,” by Henrik Ibsen.

“I caught the theater bug and went on to run my own theater company specializing in new plays by women,” she said.

Additionally, Ramey’s children have spent summers at Chatham’s Music and Arts Day Camp, and they have piano recitals each spring in Laughlin Music Hall.

“The sense of connection between Chatham and the broader community is an important part of its legacy,” she said.

Ramey has high hopes that the Women’s Institute will be beneficial to a wide range of people.

“One of my goals for the Women’s Institute is to help everyone in our campus community to feel [that they are] a part of its mission of advancing gender equity. I’m really excited about that focus, because it acknowledges that we still have deep and abiding gender inequality—politically, economically, culturally, socially,” she said. “We are making a bold statement with the Women’s Institute by acknowledging that our gender work is not done and that a co-educational university should play a central role in addressing inequality.”

Ramey also hopes the Institute will, “help people, especially those outside the University, understand this commitment that Chatham has made—and to help them see why that is so distinctive and so significant.”

Additionally, Ramey hopes, the Institute, “will play a role in bolstering Chatham’s national, and even international, reputation, in fields where it is already well known and highly regarded, as well as in some new dimensions.”

The Institute will be particularly relevant in Chatham’s time of transformation.

“There’s a sense that when an institution ‘goes co-ed’ that they no longer exist as a women’s college. They lose that unique identity. Yet, when historically black colleges and universities accept white students, they still retain their identity as HBCUs; or when religious universities accept students from other faiths, they don’t lose their religious identity,” she said.  “Perhaps we need a new acronym for ‘Colleges that Historically Enrolled Women’—CHEW?  Yuck—But seriously, I imagine we could have a robust conversation about the gender dynamics at work that so quickly make women’s education invisible­—and why labels matter and what they reveal or obscure.”

Ramey is optimistic about the Institute’s future.

“I hope that [the Institute] becomes a place where we can ask these questions together, have these conversations about gender—and race and class and other systems of power—and promote pedagogies, programs, and scholarship that move us towards equity and justice. That’s not only relevant but exciting work for all of us to be a part of.”

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