Berg receives women faculty research grant

September 12 2008

Keri A. Berg, assistant professor of French at Indiana State University, spent the summer conducting research in Paris thanks to a new endowment designed to help female faculty members further their careers.

Berg was awarded the Charlotte Zietlow Women Faculty Research Grant for her project "Under the Crinoline: Empress Eugénie and Photography."

Berg focused her research on Eugénie de Montijo, Empress of France from 1853 to 1870. Known as the queen of fashion, the empress was criticized for her decadent taste. When critics used her penchant for lavish clothing as a means to discredit her reign, she responded by developing one of the first photographic publicity campaigns to create an alternate image.

"Instead of the frivolous, decadent ruler, Eugénie faced the camera as the model wife and mother, wearing a bonnet and high collar dress, framed by Napoleon III and the imperial prince," Berg said. "Composed as such, the photographs filtered Eugénie's political actions and agenda through the lens of domesticity, defusing gender anxieties by veiling the empress's authority with the photograph of an ordinary wife."

Berg analyzed original photographs, along with press reviews, letters and illustrations relating to the empress at the French National Archives in Paris. She will present a portion of her work at the Nineteenth-Century French Studies annual conference at Vanderbilt University in October. The entire project will be published as an independent article and serve as the beginnings of a book on the empress and gender politics in 19th century France.

"I think the best thing about this award is that it's for research," Berg said. "It was so great to have a period of time to feel like an academic."

Zietlow, a member of the ISU Board of Trustees from 1989-2005 and resident of Bloomington, established the grant as part of an endowment exclusively to support pre-tenure women faculty in their work to achieve tenure. Berg received the grant in May and a public announcement was made at a reception in September.

"I know how important faculty is to an institution," Zietlow said at the reception. "And without women faculty, you only have part of a university."

Darlene M. Hantzis, professor of communication and women's studies, discussed the tenure gap between men and women. Hantzis said that according to the American Association of University Professors 2006 Gender Equity report, the tenure gap persists at 25 percent and women make up only 24 percent of professors who achieve the rank of full professor in the United States.

According to the ISU Factbook, 29 of the 123 full professors in instructional faculty positions are women. Hantzis said that initiatives like Zietlow's endowment will shed more light on the issue and provide resources to help women meet the unique challenges of achieving tenure.

"I appreciate Charlotte's keen insight and absolute unapologetic recognition that we have to do something for women faculty," Hantzis said.

This year's $2,000 award was the first grant from the endowment. ISU president Daniel Bradley announced that the university will match the endowment's annual grants to recipients.

"I think the statistics you've heard here are a call to action," Bradley said at the reception.

In addition to the endowment, an initiative is being launched at ISU to engage pre-tenure women in a national conversation about the tenure gap and in turn make local recommendations. Prior to the reception, a workshop for pre-tenure women faculty was held.

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Contact: Darlene M. Hantzis, professor of communication and women's studies, Indiana State University, 812-237-3658 or dmhantzis@indstate.edu

Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Keri A. Berg, assistant professor of French at Indiana State University, conducted research on a French empress's quest to alter gender and power of representations in 19th century France. The project was made possible by a new endowment created to support the work of pre-tenure women faculty.

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