Though Mary Ann Dzuback lived a nomadic childhood, she has found a home she appreciates at Washington University.
"This is a great place to work," says Dzuback, Ph.D., director and associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), associate professor of education and adjunct associate professor of history, all in Arts & Sciences. "I've had some wonderful colleagues, and the students here are sensational.
“The community is small enough so that if you get on a few committees and attend events, you get to know faculty from all over the university,” she says. “I enjoy that sense of community.”
And it's a good thing. Dzuback went to six elementary schools, one junior high school and five high schools during her childhood. Her father, an engineer, was promoted frequently, and the family had to move. Though moving a lot was challenging, Dzuback says it made her a stronger person.
"The longest we stayed in one place was four or five years," she says. "But it made my family very close. I have five siblings and, growing up, they were my best friends."
Dzuback has tried to foster that sense of community in the WGSS program.
“The perception of the program has changed significantly in the last 10 years or so,” she says. “We see much more support everywhere on campus, and it's wonderful. A lot of our reputation is word of mouth, but much is also due to the popularity of our introductory courses, many of which have waiting lists double the enrollment limit."
The program had around 20-30 majors in it when Dzuback got involved in the early 1990s. It now has more than 80, many of whom are double majors with numerous other disciplines on campus, helping students bring to bear what they learn in WGSS to their other courses.
Dzuback, who began her academic career in science and nursing before shifting to studying education, earned a doctorate in history and education from Columbia University in 1987. She came to WUSTL that same year as assistant professor of education. She was teaching courses on the American school, the history of education in the United States, and education and public policy.
But a passion for the history of women in academic institutions soon altered her academic path.
While at Columbia, Dzuback had worked as a research assistant in history, which encouraged her to enter the history of education field.
Her doctoral dissertation was on Robert Hutchins, president and chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1929-1951, enabling her to pursue her interest in the connection between the development of new knowledge and how institutions organized knowledge in developing disciplines.
After finishing her book on Hutchins, Dzuback did more reading on women's history in higher education.
"A lot of the history I'd read said that academic careers for women were practically impossible in the first half of the 20th century," she says. "Gender discrimination in higher education, particularly in the period of university formation and development in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was rampant.
“And yet, in the archival research I'd done, I was finding a surprising number of women who'd had great success in the various academic disciplines, particularly the social sciences," she says.
She decided her next academic project would be on women in higher education. The result is an ongoing book project investigating women academic scholars in American colleges and universities, with a focus on social sciences in the first half of the 20th century. This study grew in conjunction with her increasing involvement with women’s studies.
"After I arrived at Washington University, I was asked in 1990 to be on the advisory committee to develop a new approach to governance in the women's studies program," Dzuback says. "The women's studies program was very small. Around that same time, I also decided to take over a course on gender and education, after a colleague left the university. The course was cross-listed with women's studies."
An instant connection
"I was interim coordinator for one semester in the mid-1990s, and I became director of the program in 2006," Dzuback says. "By then, I had served on the executive committee for more than 10 years. I also had been teaching ‘Intellectual History of Feminisms’ for the program and realized that my teaching and research were all bound up in what was going on in women and gender studies."
The program has grown tremendously since Dzuback became involved 20 years ago.
"We have more than 80 majors, 20 minors and 30 graduate certificate students," she says. "We have an endowed professorship (held by Linda Nicholson, Ph.D., the Susan E. and William P. Stiritz Distinguished Professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and of history, both in Arts & Sciences). And we've been able to hire several joint faculty members in areas such as political science, psychology, anthropology and history.
“The humanities disciplines here all have a very healthy feminist component, and we welcome affiliations with faculty from those programs as well as the professional schools,” Dzuback says. “One of our recent hires is Kristen Kling (Ph.D.) in a joint position with Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and psychology in Arts & Sciences, whose work on gender and achievement and gender and aging enriches our teaching in social sciences.”
She attributes the program's popularity to the increased visibility in the social sciences, to the expansion into sexuality studies and global/transnational issues, and to the gifted lecturers who teach introductory courses.
"The people who teach our introductory classes are absolutely sensational teachers," she says. "Students often come into the program as a direct result of an enjoyable experience in an intro class. And we are training graduate students to teach in introductory courses, which expands their teaching repertoire and generates new interdisciplinary energy in their courses.”
Hard work pays off
"Mary Ann Dzuback contributes enormous amounts of time, energy and intelligence not only to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program but to the university in general," Nicholson says.
"She has been an active member of many important university committees, including the curriculum committee when it was in the process of transforming undergraduate requirements and the search committee for the new dean of Arts & Sciences, and has served as president of the Association of Women Faculty,” Nicholson says. “She is an extremely thoughtful, principled and generous human being. The Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program is very fortunate to have her as its present director."
During her tenure as chair, Dzuback has tried to focus the program's growth in three areas: literature, history and theory; sexuality studies; and a global/transnational component.
"We've had a fairly solid foundation, since the late 1990s, in literature, theory and history," Dzuback says. "But recently, the whole area of sexuality studies was developed, largely by Susan Stiritz, Ph.D., senior lecturer in the program. She's done a lot of research on sexuality and designed courses in introduction to sexuality studies, contemporary women's sexuality, and sexual behavior. She's also teaching a joint course with the law school on regulating sexuality."
Others have contributed measurably to courses in this area, Dzuback says.
“Amy Cislo (Ph.D., lecturer in WGSS) is working on the body and transgender issues; Barbara Baumgartner (Ph.D., associate director and senior lecturer in WGSS) on women’s health; and Jami Ake (Ph.D., assistant dean and academic coordinator in the College of Arts & Sciences and lecturer in WGSS) on violence against women,” Dzuback says.
In addition, the program has postdoctoral fellow Alexis Matza, Ph.D., teaching courses on masculinities and queer theory.
"We've filled a real niche by expanding class offerings on LGBT issues, which is another way we bring in a lot of students," Dzuback says. "We now have this incredible sexuality studies area that looks at transgender issues, GLBTQ, queer theory, health and the body, and sexual behavior."
Dzuback has helped expand the global focus of the program. More disciplines on campus are examining gender issues from a global perspective. Mona Krook, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and of WGSS, both in Arts & Sciences, and Carolyn Sargent, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and of WGSS, both in Arts & Sciences, have enriched this area of the program. In addition, WGSS offers the Maurita Stueck Summer Internship/Study Abroad Award and Melinda Wolfe Internship in Global/Transnational Gender Issues and Problems.
Dzuback teaches courses on the history of education, history of urban schooling, and gender and education.
"It is not easy to capture in a few sentences the qualities and contributions of a colleague and friend like Mary Ann Dzuback," says Gerhild S. Williams, Ph.D., vice provost, associate vice chancellor and the Barbara Schaps Thomas & David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities.
“A committed scholar of education history, gifted teacher of feminist writings and research, trusted mentor of junior colleagues, inspiring and visionary director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies progam, and indefatigable champion of diversity, she contributes in uncounted ways to the life and work of students and faculty at Washington University," Williams says.
Dzuback has been married to Peter Best for 26 years and has two grown stepsons and two grandsons. The couple spends a lot of time with Dzuback’s extended family in Oregon and on the East Coast. They like to hike, ride bikes and travel as much as they can. They also enjoy gardening.
"We've both been professional landscapers, and we have had gardens almost everywhere we've lived since the middle 1970s, except New York City,” she says. “In fact, we bought our house in the Central West End because of its garden potential!"
Fast facts about Mary Ann Dzuback
Education: Ph.D., history and education, 1987, Columbia University
Hobbies: Gardening, traveling, hiking and bike riding