MTSU Women’s History Month celebrates trailblazers...

MTSU Women’s History Month celebrates trailblazers [+VIDEO]

Science, entrepreneurship, academia and gender identity are among the topics to be explored in MTSU’s 2017 celebration of National Women’s History Month.

“Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” is the theme of this year’s observance. In conjunction with the theme, buttons will be distributed across campus bearing the likeness of Madam C.J. Walker, the hair products magnate who was hailed as the first self-made African-American millionaire in the country in the early 20th century.

Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles, delivered an address at the official opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 15, in the Keathley University Center Theater.

Bundles, who has written biographies of Madam C.J. Walker, is a former producer for NBC News and a former producer and executive for ABC News. She maintains the Madam Walker Family Archives and serves as a consultant and historical adviser for Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, a line of hair care products developed by Sunline Brands.

During the March 15 ceremony, six women received awards from the MTSU National Women’s History Month Committee for their trailblazing work. They were:

  • Dr. Gloria Bonner, recently retired assistant to the president in MTSU’s Office of University Community Relations and a former dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Science.
  • Dr. Heather Brown, director of MTSU’s Concrete Industry Management Program.
  • Nancy James, director of MTSU’s Child Care Lab.
  • Dr. Karen Petersen, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts.
  • Mary Esther Reed, mayor of Smyrna and an MTSU alumna.
  • MTSU alumna Agnes Porter, who was honored as a Future Trailblazer.

Porter’s mother, Ikeko Bass, accepted the award on her behalf. Porter is a government affairs specialist with Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel P.C. in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She graduated from MTSU in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and mass communication.

Another pioneering woman, chemist Dorothy Phillips, shared her story in a question-and-answer session with students and in a public address March 1 in the Tom H. Jackson Building.

Phillips, the first African-American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, was reelected to the board of the American Chemical Society in 2016.

Dr. Dorothy Phillips

Dr. Dorothy Phillips

Women interested in science will be able to quiz professionals in various technology fields at the “Women-Powered Tech Roundtable Discussion” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 17, in the Tom H. Jackson Building. The event is hosted by Nashville Geek Girl Dinners, a group that encourages women in the information technology industry.

The biennial Women and Gender Studies Conference, with the theme of “Creating Global Change,” will unite scholars from around the world on the second floor of the Student Union Wednesday, March 22, through Saturday, March 25.

Through workshops, art, poetry, dance, film, invited speakers, panel discussions and the presentation of academic research, the interdisciplinary gathering will shed light on numerous issues. For more information or to register, visit

MTSU NWHM 2017 button webThe Academy Award-nominated film “Hidden Figures” was shown March 13-15 in the Keathley University Center Theater.

The movie is based on the true story of three African-American women mathematicians whose work made astronaut John Glenn’s 1962 history-making orbit of the earth possible. Check for show times at

All events, including the Women and Gender Studies Conference, are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Barbara Scales, co-chair of the National Women’s History Month Committee, at 615-898-2193 or or the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at 615-898-5910.

— Gina K. Logue (

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.