Lewis Honors College Engages Campus Community During Women's History Month

Sue Massek performs an in-person concert in the Lewis Scholars Lounge on March 25. Photo by Meghan Arrell.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 31, 2021) — During the month of March, the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College celebrated Women’s History Month with six in-person and virtual events. These events showcased accomplished women and educated students on activism and history.

Co-curricular experiences are a hallmark of the Lewis Honors experience and in addition to the many events and programs offered by honors in March, there was a dedicated effort to create programming focusing on Women’s History Month by Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tara Tuttle.

“As with our Black History Month programming in February and of other heritage months, our special efforts are intended to address the gaps in our knowledges of the contributions of members of our communities whose accomplishments have been historically excluded from commemoration, instruction and celebration,” Tuttle said. “These achievements must be acknowledged year-round — any other approach perpetuates inequity — but these months are times of deliberate diligence to foster heightened awareness of stories and people about whom most of us have likely been taught very little due to systemic discrimination.”

The month began with “A Simple Justice: Kentucky Women's Fight for the Vote” with author and history Associate Professor Melanie Beals Goan. Goan discussed her book, “A Simple Justice,” with members of the Lewis Honors College community. The book focuses on activism of Kentucky suffragists and the role of racism in the Kentucky suffrage movement, particularly in the dramatic turn of suffragist Laura Clay, first president of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association, against the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The Lewis Honors College then virtually welcomed Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Alex Acquisto, who covers public health and social services, in its ComminTEAs series. This series is an ongoing series hosted by the Lewis Honors College Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to provide an intimate setting for guests from across UK and the Lexington area to share their research and passions with the Lewis Honors College.

In the third week of the month, Cara Tuttle Bell, director of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response at Vanderbilt University, spoke to honors students about the history of women’s sexual violence activism in the U.S. The lecture provided an intersectional analysis and overview of violence prevention and response activism from various groups and individuals in U.S. history.

Haley Hintz, an honors junior and psychology and political science double major, attended the event with Tuttle Bell because the topic piqued her interest, but she also found it relevant to her honors thesis. 

“I really appreciated the event with Cara Tuttle Bell because she is a brilliant scholar who provided the legal history of women's sexual violence activism, which is very interesting to me as a political science student,” Hintz said. “It better informed my honors thesis which investigates juror perceptions of spousal rape because she provided the historical context behind the formation of sexual violence laws. I always appreciate when Lewis Honors College brings in outside speakers to commemorate Women's History Month because as students, it is our responsibility to become the most informed citizen that we can and to honor the women who helped create a safer world for us today.”

The next event was in partnership with the UK Appalachian Center, a virtual screening and discussion of the documentary “Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence.” The documentary was made available for a week leading up to the event, during which, students were able to talk with filmmaker Hal Jacobs and actor Brenda Bynum. Tara Tuttle thought the partnership on this event was a great addition to the month’s events.

“Lewis Honors College was thrilled to co-sponsor the discussion of this film and Smith's work, which confronted taboos against interracial romance and lesbian desire in the 1940s,” she said.

The college was able to welcome Kentucky Bluegrass artist Sue Massek for an in-person concert in the Lewis Scholars Lounge on March 25. Massek’s musical career spans more than four decades in Kentucky and she has also worked with the Kentucky Arts Council as a teaching artist, circuit rider and folklorist in residence. During her concert for Honors students, she performed several songs and gave insights to their origins.

The Lewis Honors Women’s History Month programming closed out with a watch party of Madeleine Gavin’s documentary, “City of Joy.” This event was hosted by the Lewis Student Diversity and Inclusion Council and informed participants about the community built around women who have survived horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Lewis Honors College strives to provide timely and relevant co-curricular programming throughout the entire academic year. For up-to-date information about honors events, visit www.uky.edu/honors/events.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.