Rosanne Potter

Honored by:The Women's Studies Program
Brick location:PAVER:14  map

Full Professor in English and Women's Studies. I was 36 years old when I began my tenure-track career. I'd become a mother in 1971 earned my Ph. D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1975, taught there as an Instructor for two years and came to Ames for my first ''real job'' in 1977.

This late-starting career path was typical for women of my generation. We did not grow up thinking of ourselves as professional women who would have careers; many of us went to graduate school because we loved to study, earned degrees because we had to ''make progress toward a degree'' to keep our teaching assistantships, and then sought full-time academic jobs because we were good teachers.

During my introduction to the Iowa State University General Faculty I noticed only one other woman who had been hired at the rank of Assistant Professor that year; other women were introduced but they were temporaries or adjuncts with little expectation of a long-term faculty careers at ISU. I did not realize how long I would have to wait for full recognition by this university. Tenure was not a problem.

ISU provided computational and statistical consulting for faculty members in the humanities who wanted to use these more scientific disciplines to supplement their research agendas and I was such a person. With the assistance of Jim Hoekstra (Computation Center) Leroy Wolins (Statistics) and David Sauke (Media Graphics) I completed a research program on the language used to define characters in the first acts of 21 Modern-British plays.

The essays I published in Modern Drama Computers and the Humanities Style and Computing in the Humanities were judged to prove ''promise of excellence in research'' and when added to my demonstrated excellence as a classroom teacher were enough to earn tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 1981. The next rank proved much more difficult for me (and for many other ISU women). During the next thirteen years I attempted promotion to Full Professor four times (1985 1990 1993 1994) before I was finally promoted in 1995. During that thirteen years I had been internationally recognized for my application of computational methods to literary study.

In the mid-1980's my automatically formatting bibliographic database builder BIBOUT was in use at Princeton Yale CUNY and Harvard as well as at ISU but was not recognized as research by the English department; I was then too far ahead of the curve in computer research for my colleagues. During the rest of the eighties and early nineties my work continued to appear in Computers and the Humanities in a number of edited collections and in my own 1989 edited collection Literary Computing and Literary Criticism Theoretical and Practical Essays on Theme and Rhetoric.

Three times between 1990 and 1994 my department's review committee judged (by votes of 12 to 0) that these achievements demonstrated "excellence in research" but the college did not support my promotion until 1994. The glass ceiling at this institution has kept women stuck in the middle ranks despite their achievements for many years longer than their male cohorts.

In 1990 for instance there were 245 male Full Professors and only 14 female Full Professors in the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is therefore not surprising that the all-male LAS (only full professors could serve on this promotion and tenure committee) committee was not able to put ''excellence'' and ''woman'' into the same sentence until the third try. Two deans and two provosts could have intervened in the judgments of the LAS committees but chose not to. During this whole period I heard administrators talking of women and minorities being ''in the pipeline;'' they seemed to assume that once these classes are let in like oil they'd get pumped out in the natural course of events. I've not found that to be true.

Along with many women at Iowa State and nation-wide I've found myself caught in an unexpected eddy a side channel: ''productive but not productive enough'' good but not able to demonstrate ''excellence'' to all-male (Full Professors) juries and all-male (administrators) judges a thicker lump in the pipeline that the lighter male oil flowed around on its way to being pumped out as Full Professors. My name is listed here in the Carrie Chapman Catt courtyard because of my service as an administrator in the women's Studies program. I've taught courses on ''Mothers and Daughters in Literature'' ''Survey of Women's Literature'' ''Women's Diaries Journals and Letters'' and ''Reading Women into Modern Drama'' from 1981 through 1995.

From 1990-1992 I also served as Program Executive Officer (PEO) for the Women's Studies Program during the period of the first external review of the program. My program review document was considered a model of how these documents should be put together by the PEOs of several other cross-disciplinary programs. The facts and figures I assembled were subsequently

Paver Inscription:

"Women's Studies
Linda Busby
Kathy Hickok
Rosanne Potter
Linda Galyon"