11 Questions With…Dr. Marcia Chatelain

The Women’s Center is starting a new feature, called “11 Questions With…,” where we profile someone who contributes to women’s and gender equity and social justice. We ask a modified version of these questions.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain is Assistant Professor of History at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Previously, she was the Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma’s Joe C. and Carole Kerr McClendon Honors College. Her research interests include: African-American history, African-American women’s activism, student movements, girls’ studies, popular culture and leadership. She was awarded an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year.  Dr. Chatelain is a native of Chicago and has published articles in Ms. Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and The National Wingspread Journal.  A tireless advocate for girls, Dr. Chatelain has been honored with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship for her commitment to public service, the Sue Shear Institute for Public Life’s Amethyst Award for Leadership and is a member of the British Council’s TransAtlantic 2020 Network, an international leadership community. She is currently writing a book entitled South Side Girls: African-American Girlhood in Chicago, 1890-1950, and was the keynote speaker for the Women’s Center 2011 Women of Color Student Summit: Safe Spaces, Critical Connections.

  1. What is your favorite journey?
    I don’t know if I have a favorite journey, I feel like every day is its own journey in a stage in our life.  I think I don’t realize that I was on a journey until it was over.  I do remember fondly a time in my life before I finished graduate school, during my early dissertation writing period where I came to the realization that my life should always be an adventure-big or small.
  2. What is your idea of happiness?
    Happiness is feeling loved and having many people, places and passions you love.  You can’t be truly happy without the ability to have love permeate every facet of your life.
  3. Who are your favorite inspirational figures in literature?
    The literature question is a bit hard, because admittedly, I don’t read as much literature as I should!  But, I would have to say Toni Morrison’s Sula.  Her relationship with Nel, her desire to resist convention and her many flaws makes her beautiful and terrifying.
  4. Who are your favorite inspirational figures in real life?
    I’m inspired by so many great women, but I would say Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party.  When she was born, I’m sure she had no idea the things she would later see and the impact she would have. Her life reminds us that where you start isn’t always where you end.
  5. How do you define “good”?
    Good is anything that makes you feel safe!
  6. What cause(s) is/are important to you?
    Women’s leadership locally and globally is really important to me, so I try to work with girls’ leadership groups like Girl Scouts, and to work broadly to make sure women, especially women of color, are given access to the opportunities they need to be leaders in their own way.
  7. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
    My greatest achievement: my long-lasting friendships.  On my birthday, I like to think of the people I’ve known for 15, 20 and even 25  years!  It’s really a testament to my friends’ patience and my perseverance.
  8. Your favorite virtue or value?
    My favorite value is compassion.  If you lack compassion, I think you lack the fundamental tool to do anything well.  And humor, you have to have a good sense of humor about yourself and your failures in order to get anywhere in life.
  9. What is your present state of mind?
    I’m a bit anxious about work right now, but also quite elated to know what tomorrow can bring.
  10. What one good thing have you done most recently?
    One good thing I did was commit to working on a development board.  Some may think this is a bit administrative or boring, but raising money is incredibly fulfilling and teaches to you so much about how to get things off the ground.  I think every young woman should find her way on a board and you learn so much doing that.
  11. What is your motto?
    You never know!
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