Mary Banwart (Left)

Mary Banwart (Left)

Honors, achievements, and special recognition:

  • Senior Administrative Fellows Program, 2009-2010
    • Selected to participate in a yearlong program sponsored by the KU Provost’s office.
  • Central States Communication Association Federation Prize for Research
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics
  • Donn W. Parson Award Graduate Mentorship Award, KU Department of Communication Studies
  • Vice President, National Communication Association Political Communication Division
  • Finalist, Silver Anniversary Teaching Award, University of Kansas

How I became interested in my area of study:

My interest in better understanding the role that gender plays in our political perceptions and interests began at a very early age, and that interest was cultivated through an honors thesis research project my senior year in college. My practical experience between my undergraduate program and my masters program further solidified my curiosity about issues surrounding how women communicate about – and how women’s communication is perceived on – issues such as credibility and viability when seeking roles that have not been traditionally available to women (i.e., political office). Times have certainly changed since my undergraduate days, but the research continues to demonstrate women face challenges in overcoming age-old stereotypes and perceptions.

An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me and why:

The work that we are doing with the Women’s Leadership Institute, coupled with the work we are doing in the Leadership Studies Minor program, is exciting and very meaningful because we can see on a daily basis changed lives. The students in both of these programs who embrace the idea of leadership as a process, who step outside of their own status quo, and who take responsibility for their own growth and development, open up a world of possibilities they often had not considered. In order for me to feel we have accomplished something the students I work with do not have to immediately create the next world-changing product/solution/innovation -- it seems that as a society too often we only value the loudest, largest, and biggest. Instead, what I hope they can experience through these programs is that authentic power lies in the building of small wins, in building a culture of learning, and in making continuously wiser decisions. Empowering and inspiring our students to make more educated decisions as they seek to tackle tough challenges and thrive is immensely worthwhile and meaningful.

Someone who has been a role model for me and why:

My advisor in my Masters program, Dr. Judith Hoover, and my advisor from my PhD program, Dr. Lynda Lee Kaid, have both served as academic role models and I describe both women as strong, courageous, and unselfish. Both were gifted at the art of mentoring, both embraced working with their graduate students as colleagues, and were as mindful of mentoring us to be good academic citizens as they were of mentoring us to be strong researchers. I found both to be curious, optimistic, and most importantly, committed to the value of lifelong learning.

Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:

There are many women who have blazed trails in the world of politics, and one that stands out for me is Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, our former Senator from Kansas. As the first woman to be elected outright to the Senate, in other words she sought election outright to the Senate without having first fulfilled a deceased husband’s term in office*, she was also the first woman to Chair a Senate Committee. Sen. Kassebaum

Baker served with a true belief that one person can make a positive difference, and exemplifies a political career committed to public service and civil dialogue. A quote from Sen. Kassebaum Baker during one of our discussions hangs above my desk: “Always do the work necessary to be prepared. When you are prepared, you can handle anything at a moment’s notice.”

*[while Margaret Chase Smith (R - Maine) is considered the first woman elected to the Senate, she began her political career by fulfilling her deceased husband’s term in the House before running for the Senate]

An important life lesson I have learned:

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it currently gets; if you want different results, you have to change the system – that is true for our communities, organizations, places of work, families, and even our own personal ways of being in the world. And, since you are a stakeholder in that system (you are definitely a stakeholder if you care enough to desire different results) you have to realize that your current actions/behaviors ensure the current results. Efforts toward change have to start with the one element of the system over which you have control – you. “Good mental health comes when you put positive energy into the areas over which you have control” (Barbara Carswell, Sr. VP, Capitol Federal Bank).

A favorite quote or saying and why it is meaningful to me:

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
– Abigail Adams, U.S. First Lady, 1776

This quote is a reminder of the past to which we do not want to return, and a reminder that leadership first and foremost requires courage. Leadership is about mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive, as opposed to having title and authority, getting people to do what you want them to do, and being the center of attention. Just as giving voice and representation to your stakeholders takes courage, so does making sure that your efforts ensure those around you ultimately thrive and reach toward their aspirations.