As one of two 2022 Alumnae Anniversary Award Winners campus-wide, she feels ‘honored’ and ‘surprised’
Debbie Cutler

The College of Arts and Science and Women’s and Gender Studies recently announced Rebecca Scott, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Sociology, as one of two 2022 Alumnae Anniversary Award winners. She attended a dinner in her honor on March 15.

The award, presented to women of merit campus-wide since 1970, requires two to four letters of nomination describing why their candidate for the award is deserving of such honor. At least one letter must come from a current MU student or recent alum. The award is based on how notable the recipient is for teaching excellence and/or other contributions to the education of women. The year 1970 also represents the centennial anniversary of admittance of the first female student to the university.

“Each year no more than one or two are honored,” says Linda Reeder, chair of Women’s and Gender Studies and interim chair for the Department of History. “So, it is quite an honor to receive this award. It’s really amazing to see what women across the college and campus have done for their students.”

Reeder states it’s important to recognize the diversity and scope of the work that women do in mentoring and investing in their students.

Scott, who received her BA and MA in French and sociology from West Virginia University, and her PhD in sociology from the University of California-Santa Cruz, says she was honored and surprised to receive the Alumnae Anniversary Award.

“I totally didn’t expect it,” Scott says. “I learned some of my students had nominated me for it, and I was really really happy to hear that. I felt honored.”


Nominees Speak Out

PhD candidate Mel Constantine Miseo is one who nominated Scott for the award. Miseo says Scott is supportive and helps with Miseo’s teaching anxieties as well as Miseo’s coming out as a transgender person.

“In an academic world where we, namely cis (cisgender) women and TGNB (transgender/non-binary) are often taught to hide/suppress our feelings and anxieties for the purpose of ‘productivity’ or ‘professional advancement,’ I have appreciated having Dr. Scott as a mentor who recognizes the unique pressures gender minorities are under and works to support the whole purpose.”

PhD candidate Kandice Grossman, who has had Scott as a grad professor and academic professor for five years, said Scott is more than an advisor. “She is also my mentor,” she explains.

“In my dissertation research and writing process, she has guided me toward choices that bring greater quality and clarity to my work. She challenges me to continually question my own positionality and standpoint in ways that are stimulating and mind-opening. She genuinely takes a sincere interest in my life beyond my research and classwork, and we share a meaningful relationship, which I value deeply.

“As a ‘first-generation’ student, I am the first person and woman in my family to go to college and graduate school. I am also a single mother. I am keenly aware of the historical struggle women have endured and challenges women have triumphed to be in the position I am in today. It is truly a treasure to have women faculty leaders like Dr. Scott who help prepare women for academic leadership, and I sincerely believe her efforts to do this are worthy of recognition.”

Joan Hermsen, associate professor and director of graduate studies for the sociology department, says Scott not only actively helps students to solve their problems, but also recognizes there are times when students need Scott to go the extra mile. “As an example, she recently asked if I had any research funds to hire a senior who desperately needs additional employment to pay for this semester of school. Becky could have dismissed the student’s off-hand comment, but instead she is trying to connect the student to resources to help them complete their semester.”

Really it’s important for students to make sure they have a topic to research that they love because that will keep them motivated. - Rebecca Scott

She adds Scott is “deeply committed to diversity and inclusion at the University of Missouri” and “is an amazing mentor to students.”

“I sit on some of the same committees with Dr. Scott and know her to provide insightful, smart feedback on the research in a timely manner. In addition, she is a sounding board for the academic and personal challenges the students face without crossing professional boundaries,” says Hermsen. “Dr. Scott is a highly productive researcher, insightful teacher, skilled mentor, and thoughtful academic leader. Her contributions to teaching and the education of women are numerous.”


Answering ‘Big Questions’

Scott, who enjoys both teaching and research, says she likes to explore the “big questions” of the environment and the world. “My current research is about private property ownership and environmental destruction, especially around things such as eminent domain for pipelines and gas. I’m looking at natural gas pipeline construction in West Virginia.

“I think that the environment is one of the biggest questions out there. And I think it has a lot to do with social relations to social inequalities and gender, race, class … It has a lot to do with the way people treat each other and has a lot to do with the way we treat the environment. It’s a huge, important question.”

Her advice to other students who may want to follow in her footsteps: “Well I guess if I say ‘don’t’ you can’t print that, right?” she laughs. “No, really it’s important for students to make sure they have a topic to research that they love because that will keep them motivated.”

Also recognized was the 2021 winner (no dinner was held last year because of covid), Tamara Hancock, interim director of academic success and assistant teaching professor of the Dean of Veterinary Medicine. And for 2022, the second recipient was Professor Rigel C. Oliveri from the School of Law. Past award winners can be viewed here.