October 28, 2013
Dear Colleagues on the Women’s Studies Search Committee:
It is with great pleasure that I write this letter strongly endorsing Dr. Katharine Westaway’s candidacy for a position in the Department of Women’s Studies. While I have only had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Westaway for two years, we have worked together so closely on a number of projects (many of her own initiative and direction) that have quickly fostered the development and the growth of both the Women’s and Gender Studies and the LGBTQ Studies programs at the University of Miami.
While Dr. Westaway was hired to teach composition courses at my university, a colleague introduced us at a luncheon, and I quickly learned that this dynamic instructor and engaged scholar would be a wonderful asset to our students taking courses in WGS, a program which I direct at the University. Negotiations with my colleagues in the English Department went smoothly, which was very lucky for us, since I truly had no idea at the time of the magnitude of both the quantity and quality of Dr. Westaway’s contributions to our program. While committed to excellent teaching in a heavy workload of four writing-intensive courses per semester, Dr. Westaway still makes the time to mentor each and every one of her WGS students, many of whom have already distinguished themselves as activists for women’s rights and have quickly come to assume important leadership roles in student associations at the University. With Dr. Westaway’s guidance and encouragement, our WGS students have written letters and made phone calls to protest idealized depictions of beauty in a variety of media outlets and their consequent attack on the body image and self-esteem of young women everywhere, especially on a campus as status-conscious as the University of Miami.
With Dr. Westaway’s tireless compassion and engagement, her students have been given abundant opportunities to educate their peers and leave their mark on the university, from a proposal to institute gender-neutral bathrooms in future new buildings on campus, to the student-run presentation and discussion of the brilliant film “Miss Representation,” to a new event slated for early December, entitled “Canes Consent,” which will be a three-hour rally with invited speakers to raise consciousness of and take concrete steps to prevent sexual assault on the university campus. What is amazing to me is that Dr. Westaway manages to seamlessly weave community engagement into an already rigorous syllabus so that her students benefit, even at the introductory level, by experiencing theory put into practice, thought into activism, and the chance to make a positive difference. For this year’s Gandhi Day of Service, Dr. Westaway’s class volunteered their time and energy to work at the Kristi House, a private, non-profit organization in Miami, Florida, dedicated to healing and eradicating child sexual abuse. The Center is involved in meeting the legal, medical and emotional needs of child victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and holding the perpetrators responsible.
Frankly, Dr. Westaway’s contributions to enriching Women’s and Gender Studies at my university are far too numerous to list and they go well beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Of her own volition, Dr. Westaway volunteered to design a WGS Resources List that includes books, articles, films, music, and many other multimedia venues to help all of our students (and faculty) with their research projects and generate stimulating ideas both for and well beyond the classroom. This bibliography is so comprehensive that it has already been implemented as an excellent teaching tool throughout our program and at all levels of the curriculum. Perhaps one of the most impressive and everlasting ways in which Dr. Westaway has contributed is a remarkable sense of empowerment that she transmits so marvelously to our students, regardless of their background. She has nurtured not only a social awareness and powerful consciousness in each of her students that frankly gives me much more hope for our future, a future that no longer cultivates nor tolerates grave social injustices that perpetuate gender violence and hate crimes based in structures which allow misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and rape culture to go virtually unpunished in our legal systems. This is the principal reason why I have chosen to put all else aside and dedicate Thanksgiving evening to recognize the tireless work and efforts of a colleague and a mentor who truly makes real (and sometimes revolutionary) change in her students’ lives. I am particularly looking forward to one of the two classes Dr. Westaway will offer next semester, for it will be given in collaboration with the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement, nurturing partnerships with many local organizations where Katharine’s work and dedication have already been recognized, such as the Women’s Fund of Miami Dade.
Before I proceed to comment on Dr. Westaway’s extensive scholarly contributions (each one a significant accomplishment when we consider the reality that this gifted and dedicated instructor teaches eight courses per year, while serving as a mentor to each of her hundreds of students), it is noteworthy to mention that Prof. Westaway is the only faculty member in WGS who has been awarded funds to attend conferences and represent our program with such distinction. The wonderful thing about Dr. Westaway is that she does not only take the time to craft excellent presentations and travel to her conferences, but she is a great networker and advocate as well. One example shall suffice: When Dr. Westaway presented a proposal to attend and present at the Florida National Organization for Women (NOW), I had no idea that she would come back to campus with the distinction of having been nominated and elected as Membership Director for the entire state of Florida. Katharine’s service to both academic and activist organizations cannot be overstated. With Dr. Westaway, it is important to note that her service IS part of her scholarship, for they go hand-in-hand in her young but brilliant career. For example, in just the last year, Katharine has served as a Judge for the American Association of University Women Writing Contest, the Gender Advisor for Diversity Week at UM’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the WGS Delegate at the Women’s Leadership Symposium, the Program Director for the UM Women’s Commission, and the WGS Consultant to a conference entitled “CONVERGE! The Movement to End Gender Violence,” which will be held at the University of Miami’s Law School in February 2014.
As a deeply engaged and dedicated scholar, Dr. Westaway already has three articles published, a fourth currently under review, and a collection of feminist and political poetry appearing in some of the most prestigious literary journals between 1996 – 2013. She has delivered seven papers at professional conferences throughout the U.S., a rare accomplishment for one who is just in the beginning stages of her academic career, having earned her PhD. in 2011. Katharine has also served as a consultant on issues surrounding women and the workplace in large corporations such as Pricewaterhousecoopers. As you no doubt will have noticed from her personal and research statements, Katharine is philosophically, politically, and intellectually committed to studying and promoting cultural diversity in virtually each and every one of her pedagogical and scholarly projects, ranging from gender studies, to literary and cultural representations of sexual minorities, to literary production by racial minorities, problematizing complex intersectionalities of race, gender, and class in much of her work. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Westaway’s cutting-edge pedagogy combined with her socially-engaged scholarly projects has won her several awards and distinctions, including Engaged Faculty Fellow at the University of Miami, which she presently holds and Writer in Residence for the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities while still a graduate student.
In addition to her excellent credentials I have highlighted in this letter, Katharine is an inquisitive scholar and a delightful person with a delicious sense of humor, one who cares deeply about her students and her colleagues. She will make a wonderful addition to any institution that is lucky enough to hire her. She has earned my permanent esteem and eternal gratitude, for which I give heartfelt thanks on this special night. I enthusiastically and whole-heartedly support her candidacy for a tenure-track Assistant Professorship in your department.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Steven F. Butterman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Portuguese
Director, Portuguese Program, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Director, Program in Women’s and Gender Studies
Director, LGBTQ Studies
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Studies
University of Miami