Honors College Alumni Going Places

(Pictured from left to right: Beth Hammock and Abby Dubisar)

Honors College Alumni Going Places 

By Beth Hammock, UMKC Development Consultant 

Abby Dubisar, Ph.D. graduated from UMKC in 2001 with a bachelor of arts degree in English with University Honors. Today, she teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Abby speaks at national and international conferences and teaches popular culture analysis, gender and communication, writing, and rhetoric. She is married to another English professor who she met in graduate school at Ohio State, Jeremy Withers. They have two young children.

I visited with Abby in a restaurant just off campus in Ames in early November. Here are highlights of our conversation. 

How did you decide to become an English professor?  

 After I graduated and was working for UMKC in the study abroad office I took a graduate course on “girls and print culture” taught by Dr. Jane Greer. (associate professor of English and Women’s & Gender Studies. (Dr. Greer had been one of my first English professors at UMKC; she taught my first-year honors writing course.) For the “girls and print culture” course I pursued an archival research project on writing done by the girls who lived at the State Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Tipton, Missouri, during the 1930s and 1940s. To conduct my research I went to Jefferson City to read the girls’ writing in the archives at the state capital. My extensive research got Dr. Greer’s attention. She encouraged me to go to graduate school.  Dr. Greer became one of my major influencers at UMKC and is still a close friend and mentor to me.

How did the honors program (now Honors College) help you? 

I made lifelong friends in the honors program. It helps the nerds who like to read find their peer group and form a community.  It also helped me find out about opportunities on campus. I wrote for University News and got that job through an honors connection. Drs. Dean and Mirkin also helped connect me with campus resources and were accessible faculty members who answered my questions.

What advice do you have for honors students? 

Get to know the faculty members who teach your classes and think of them as a resource, people who can help you achieve your goals. Dr. Greer is the epitome of a great mentor. I got to know her and her generosity has affected my whole life. She’s the model for how I mentor undergraduate and graduate students now.  

How do you balance work and family? 

Communication with my partner and quality childcare. We also have a supportive community in our town.

Tell me about your research. 

I have a diverse range of research interests, but they all center on feminist rhetoric. My latest archival research focuses on Ruth Buxton Sayre (1896-1980), an Iowa native who worked to convince farm women to see themselves as global citizens. She later became the only woman on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Agriculture Advisory Committee. She has a sizable archive, held at the State Historical Society of Iowa. This past summer I traveled to London to research the archive of the Associated Country Women of the World, which Sayre lead from 1947-1952. A couple of my recent publications analyze peace activist cookbooks. People may be surprised to know that cookbooks can be activist texts that adeptly subvert women’s domestic roles. The kitchen remains the place where gender and politics ferment!