Jeni HartEducational Leadership and Policy Analysis
Gender studies and higher education administration mark this teacher's campus workSitting at her desk in a bright, open office, Jeni Hart points to a crowded bulletin board and taps an 8 1/2-by-11 sheet of paper. The computer print out seems deliberately tacked at eye-level and is filled with descriptions of long-term projects.
“That’s all of the research work I’m doing,” says Hart with a laugh. The paper details just a fraction of the associate professor’s active campus life. As a tenure-track researcher and teacher in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Hart is purposefully busy. She conducts research, including writing book chapters and journal articles, and teaches several courses each semester.
“I want to be a contributing member of the faculty,” Hart says about her goals as an assistant professor. “I also think teaching is very important. I want students to leave my class thinking that they’ve learned something, and I want to feel like I’ve learned something from the students.”
Some of Hart’s current research involves:
- MizzouADVANCE — A three-year project that studies the advancement of senior women faculty at MU in science, technology, engineering and math (referred to as STEM fields). The National Science Foundation funds the $500,000 project, which began in January 2007. Hart works with a team of researchers in Women’s and Gender Studies and in STEM fields on campus to conduct research and establish programs that will facilitate leadership opportunities for women.
- Science Educators: Two Houses but No Home — A project that explores the experiences of faculty science educators who hold joint appointments at colleges and universities in the U.S. The research aims to better understand the experiences of these faculty and what others can do to support the success of faculty who split their responsibilities between multiple departments and sometimes multiple colleges. The MU Richard Wallace grant funds a portion of this study.
- Performing Gender at a Women’s College — A qualitative study of 339 students, faculty and staff explores how community members at a women’s college understand the experience of transgender students on their campus. The study uses the theory of gender performativitiy to consider the challenges of being transgender.
Hart’s courses deliberately overlap with her two specialty areas, gender studies and higher education administration. Although Hart studied foreign service at Georgetown University as an undergraduate, she went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont. Hart took that foundation to the University of Arizona, where she earned a PhD in higher education with a minor in women’s studies.
A course on activism at the University of Arizona inspired Hart to pursue the minor in women’s studies. Although Hart says how she defines herself as a feminist has changed since her doctoral work, her interest in the interaction between gender studies and higher education has remained.
“I first was introduced to feminism as a theory when I read In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan,” Hart says of the book, which presents Gilligan’s theory on how women develop in modern society. “It spoke to me at the time, but I’ve moved away from the idea that all women act in very similar ways. I’ve moved to a more radical form of feminism that challenges the very nature of structures and systems, particularly as they contribute to power differentials based upon gender.”