New director coming to women’s studies

Kristi Branham is set to become the new director of gender and women’s studies. Branham says she is confident about her new position because the gender and women’s studies program is already really strong, Saturday, May 2. Mike Clark/HERALD

Samantha Wright

Jane Olmstead has stepped down as director of the gender and women’s studies program, and Assistant Professor Kristi Branham has been tapped as the new director. 

Olmstead, who has been the director since 1996, said she stepped down to allow others to experience being the director.

“[I really wanted] to share the experience with someone else, to give her an opportunity to take on a leadership role,” she said. “That’s basically it, it’s not because I’m tired of it or don’t want to do it anymore, it’s a matter of I’ve done it for a long time, and it’s probably time to let someone else have a turn.”

Branham has a PhD in English from the University of Kentucky, with graduate certificates in feminist and social theory. She worked as a graduate assistant in women’s studies. Her research focuses on representations of women’s work in U.S. pop culture. Branham has 20 years of experience teaching at the university level.

Part of Branham’s duties as director will include advising and mentoring students, overseeing budgets and schedules, and coordinating the many events the GWS hosts each year, such as the Gender Images Film Series, the Genderations luncheons and the yearly Vagina Monologues.

Branham said she hopes to help students flourish.

“I hope to grow those relationships across disciplines, and listen to them, and engage in what they want and grow them as students,” she said.

Olmstead said that Branham will bring new ideas to the program, something she has already started doing despite not starting until July.

One such event involves bringing in guest speakers and lecturers for the 2015-16 year. The GWS is bringing Connie Field, a documentarian, to campus next year as part of “Year of South Africa.” Field is the director of the documentary, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg?”

Olmstead said she’s fully confident in Branham’s skills. 

Branham is simply thankful for the people around her who she can depend on.

“I feel very confident–—I have a great community,” she said. “This isn’t something I’ll have to go at alone—I have a lot of support, which I am grateful of.”