Q&A with Jocelyn Fenton Stitt, Program Director for Faculty Research Development
This interview with Dr. Stitt was featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Genderscapes, IRWG's annual newsletter.
One of the main services IRWG provides to the university is the fostering of innovative and interdisciplinary scholarship. Director Sarah Fenstermaker recognized that IRWG’s already strong presence as an incubator for feminist research would be strengthened with the addition of a Faculty Research Development position.
Jocelyn Fenton Stitt serves as an advocate for advancing research on gender or sexuality by finding funding sources and developing grant proposals. In conjunction with Lisa Parker, IRWG’s Grant Administrator, Michigan faculty studying gender and sexuality now have a centralized place on campus to receive such research support.
That’s a really long job title. What is Faculty Research Development?
My job title is a mouthful! A pithier way to think of what I do is that I’m a feminist research concierge. This job is perfect for me because I get to spend my week talking with faculty about research that really matters—from how to increase digital literacy among young women, to the relationship between teens’ participation in contact sports and their subsequent drug and alcohol use, to fieldwork in Ghana tracking women’s use of over-the-counter abortifacients.
More formally, Research Development professionals use their writing, teaching, and mentoring experience to give faculty members an edge in identifying funding opportunities and winning grants. By providing this support for faculty, IRWG is showing forward-thinking leadership on the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of contemporary gender research. Data collected by the National Organization of Research Professionals shows that faculty who use Research Development services have success rates for obtaining funding far above national averages. Many RD professionals, like me, are former faculty members. We aren’t grant writers, although we do help with strategizing about effective organization and presentation of ideas.
What is your academic background?
After earning degrees from Pomona College (English and Women’s Studies), the University of Edinburgh (Caribbean Studies), and the University of Michigan (English and Women’s Studies), I was a faculty member at Minnesota State University for almost 10 years. My department, Gender and Women’s Studies, was housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Integrating perspectives from both social sciences and the humanities, I also taught courses on Feminist Research Methods, Global Feminism, Mothering Studies, and Feminist Theory.
What is your research experience?
One of my most formative experiences as a graduate student was participating in the first cohort of IRWG’s Community of Scholars. With the encouragement of IRWG I developed an interdisciplinary research agenda. I’ve asked questions about the legacies of nineteenth-century discourses of nationalism, lineage, the family, and history and its impact on the formation of postcolonial nations. As part of their Series in Feminist Theory, SUNY Press published my co-edited collection Mothers Who Deliver: Feminist Interventions in Public and Interpersonal Discourse. I also edited Before Windrush: Recovering an Asian and Black Literary Heritage within Britain. My ability to evaluate and mentor faculty with their interdisciplinary scholarship has been recognized by the National Women’s Studies Association, which asked me in 2014 to serve a three-year term on their First Book Prize Committee.
When faculty come to you for assistance, what can they expect?
Faculty members can expect that their interactions with me, a feminist scholar and teacher, will go beyond reviewing their grant applications. I know the pressure of being on the tenure track and will work with faculty on developing their research agenda with an eye on timelines related to tenure and promotion.
When I work with faculty members I start by reading their publications. I am an academic steeped in interdisciplinary feminist studies, which allows me to engage with scholars’ work as a whole. Then we meet to talk about their current research projects and funding needs. Working for IRWG puts me in a unique position with faculty. Unlike faculty mentors or department peers, my role is neither to evaluate nor to be in competition with faculty. What happens in our Research Development meetings stays with me. I see my role as an advocate for the success of faculty research related to women, gender, and sexuality. From there I help faculty chart their future research agendas and determine how extramural funding will play a role.