UMBC has named Carole McCann, professor and chair of gender and women’s studies, the 2017 – 18 Lipitz Professor in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, in recognition of her ongoing leadership in both teaching and research. Through the professorship, McCann will embark on a complex new research project of both local and national significance: exploring the history and impact of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
The Lipitz Professorship is awarded to one UMBC faculty member per year and is funded by an endowment created by Roger C. Lipitz and the Lipitz Family Foundation “to recognize and support innovative and distinguished teaching and research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.”
Now entering her 30th year at UMBC, McCann joined the faculty as an assistant professor of American studies, just five years after the gender and women’s studies program (GWST) was founded. Becoming the program’s director in 1998, she stewarded its transition to full department status in 2014. The department just tenured its first faculty member, Amy Bhatt, and now supports 40 majors and 45 minors annually. Today, GWST courses are cross-listed in 13 departments, and more than 25 affiliate faculty across campus teach related courses, in addition to five core faculty.
“Carole McCann’s contributions to UMBC have been simply transformational,” says Dean Scott Casper, of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “In developing gender and women’s studies, mentoring faculty members and students, and leading the university’s efforts to promote interdisciplinary scholarship, teaching, and thinking, she has made UMBC a stronger, better, more inclusive place.”
Upon receiving the professorship, says McCann, “I’ve been particularly gratified and humbled by the very positive response I’ve gotten from colleagues across the campus.” Those colleagues include faculty and staff she has come to know across all fields through her leadership of the Provost’s Task Force on Interdisciplinary Activities and essential role in developing the university’s strategic plan.
An expert on transnational feminist theory and the cultural politics of population, McCann was inspired to explore Planned Parenthood in Maryland after GWST alum working for the organization asked for her help with creating a history exhibit for a related event. “Doing research for that event really piqued my interest in knowing more,” McCann shares.
Her new research project will take her to an array of archives across the region. In contrast to the national Planned Parenthood organization, “There is very little written about the Maryland affiliate,” says McCann, “and in some ways it…reflected the tensions within the movement nationwide in a way that I think could be very interesting to highlight.”
McCann, who has spent her career studying reproductive justice issues, wants to “provide solid grounding for evaluating the organization…[as] a vital resource for supporting women and gender justice in the U.S.,” that has grown and transformed over time and continues to play a major role in public discourse related to health care and women’s rights today. She also hopes to partner with local institutions such as the University of Baltimore, and to pursue exhibitions and publication opportunities, to make the resources she finds more accessible for future researchers approaching the study of women’s movements, reproductive rights and policy, and related topics from a wide variety of perspectives.
Image: Carole McCann; photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.