Anna Kirkland appointed new director of IRWG

Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 5:43pm

On Tuesday, the University of Michigan announced the appointment of Anna Kirkland as director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. The position change went into effect Sept. 1.

Kirkland has been a professor of women’s studies and political science at the University since 2004 and is also the current director of the Science, Technology and Society Program. Kirkland previously served as associate director for the IRWG from 2014 to 2017.

Kirkland will be replacing Sarah Fenstermaker, whom Kirkland worked closely with during her time as associate director. Fenstermaker has served as director of IRWG for the past five years.

“The progress IRWG has made toward success in supporting faculty gender research, administering extramural funding for faculty research and providing stimulating dialogue about gender, in no small measure is a result of Anna's efforts,” Fenstermaker wrote in an email interview. “I believe she is perfectly prepared to be the next IRWG director, and I have every confidence that she will continue to contribute to IRWG in new and innovative ways.”

One of Kirkland's main goals is to bring the research done by IRWG into the spotlight, both on the University’s campus and on a larger national scale.

“I’m really trying to think of ways to promote the research that we do, particularly our research faculty,” Kirkland said. “We have journalists reaching out to us, and we connect with them, but I think we could do a lot more of that.”

As director, Kirkland says she has more oversight of the research projects done with IRWG — but her position is to promote the projects, not influence them. She also mentioned creating a research blog as another way to reach out to journalists and get the word out about the research done at IRWG.

According to Kirkland, the research currently carried out at IRWG is mostly focused on drugs, sports and gender. Kirkland personally received a grant from the National Science Foundation to look at sex discrimination under the Affordable Care Act, and she will continue to focus on this project while she assumes her responsibilities as director.

LSA junior Danielle Jahnke works as an assistant on the project. Jahnke became involved with Kirkland’s research last year through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, and has found working with Kirkland to be incredibly rewarding, adding she looks forward to seeing the direction Kirkland will take IRWG.

“I think it’s really exciting for the future,” Jahnke said. “She’s been a wonderful mentor to me, and is one of the most innovative and out-of-the-box professors I could think of. All of the topics that she covers are things I would never even think of, but they’re so relevant and so fascinating that I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Kirkland is also excited for the future and believes IRWG is an incredibly important facet of the research community.

“Research is really exciting and gender research has a really special place in that, because it’s interdisciplinary in ways that other types of research isn’t,” Kirkland said. “Sometimes it’s neglected or not as well funded as other areas of research. But even though we’re a pretty small unit and the grants we get are a little bit smaller, they’re still funding the kind of research that is really unusual in its topic.”