Starting this fall, female students at Binghamton University will have the opportunity to conduct and participate in research through the Ellyn Uram Kaschak Institute for Social Justice for Women and Girls.
By funding projects and pairing professors with students, the newly formed institute aims to encourage and empower women at BU to engage in research on campus. It will be established using funds provided by Ellyn Uram Kaschak, ’65, who recently made a donation of more than $1 million to the University. Kaschak declined to state the exact monetary value of her gift.
Susan Strehle, a distinguished service professor of English at BU, will serve as director of the new institute. Strehle said she has been working closely with Kaschak, a clinical psychologist and a professor emerita of psychology at San Jose State University, to develop and organize projects focused on attaining social justice and the empowerment of women around the world, specifically through education and providing equal access to resources in developing countries.
“Our plan is to recognize and celebrate the research work that currently exists on campus while supporting new opportunities made possible with the funding from her donation,” Strehle said.
According to Strehle, the institute will be a campus-wide initiative, not attached to a single college but drawing on the different schools, including Harpur College, the College of Community and Public Affairs and the Decker School of Nursing, for support.
Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, wrote in an email that the institute will support high-quality scholarship and innovative interventions.
“The financial support the institute provides will support student and faculty research, projects designed to make a difference in women’s lives, conferences and visits to campus by individuals working in government and non-governmental organizations to address critical problems affecting women and girls,” Nieman wrote. “All of these activities will help us create an intellectual community on campus around issues confronting women.”
Two years ago, Kaschak spoke at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity with her talk, “Seeing is Believing, or Is Believing Seeing?” which focused on her research with individuals who have been blind since birth and how they conceptualize both race and gender. At the time, Kaschak also donated to the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention and supported activities related to violence against women.
Nieman said his office reached out to Kaschak several years ago and got her reconnected with the University, which led to her speaking at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity in 2017 and becoming more involved with campus research on women’s issues.
“As a scholar, she believes in the power of research,” Nieman said. “As an activist, she believes that research should be directed to inform action and as a Harpur graduate, she knows that Binghamton faculty and students are smart, energetic and committed to using their intellect to advance the public good.”
The institute has plans to host an inaugural celebration in September. Kaschak will be in attendance to recognize the research work that currently exists on campus while supporting new opportunities made possible with the funding from her donation. It also intends to host an international spring conference on women, peace and security that will be co-sponsored by the Human Rights Institute and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. According to Strehle, the conference will be held in April 2020 in honor of the United Nations resolution recognizing the important role women play in conflict resolution around the world.
“It will bring scholars and practitioners from around the world to Binghamton to discuss critical issues in the rights and position of women globally,” Nieman said.
Chloe Levine, an undeclared freshman, said she hopes this institute will help encourage more women to conduct research.
“I learned in a [medical] ethics class that women are less likely to be chosen as research subjects or given grants to conduct research themselves,” Levine said. “An institute that is meant to help women specifically will make a difference.”
Jannatul Naima, a freshman majoring in biology, said she believes the institute will make BU more inclusive as a campus.
“I believe that this institute will help to bring women together and build a stronger community on campus,” Naima said. “An opportunity to encourage women to conduct studies and let voices that may not have been heard before be heard.”