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DeFrank-Cole named Harriet E. Lyon Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies

Lisa DeFrank-Cole, director of the Leadership Studies Program at West Virginia University, has been named the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Harriet E. Lyon Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies. 

Lisa DeFrank-Cole
Lisa DeFrank-Cole

The first-of-its-kind professorship recognizes the interdisciplinary role of women’s and gender studies on the WVU campus. It is designed to support the dissemination of knowledge sensitive to gender and places women's concerns, ideas, perspectives and interests at the center of the scholarly and teaching enterprise.

“DeFrank-Cole has already made great contributions to the study of women and leadership and has made efforts to integrate her work with women’s and gender studies,” said Kasi Jackson, interim director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies . “It is through this openness and passion for understanding a variety of perspectives that she is able to create impact not only in the area of leadership studies but also women’s and gender studies.”  

DeFrank-Cole will be appointed to the professorship for two years beginning fall 2019. In this role, she will bring a novel disciplinary perspective to the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies while teaching and conducting research as an integral member of the Center.    

“Leadership studies is an interdisciplinary field, and novel disciplinary viewpoints will allow for regular knowledge-sharing activities and events among faculty and students,” DeFrank-Cole said. “As I share information about the field of leadership, I will also enjoy learning more about the interdisciplinary field of women’s and gender studies. I look forward to a deeper understanding of the scholarship in this field in general and specifically about feminist theory.”

As the Lyon Professor, DeFrank-Cole plans to engage faculty, staff and students at the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies by hosting panel discussions, exploring the creation of an institute on women and leadership, bringing guest speakers to campus and redeveloping her Leadership Studies 335 course on women and leadership. She is also in the process of writing a textbook on the same topic.

“We do not have anything like the institute I envision in the state of West Virginia,” DeFrank-Cole said. “It would be a data-driven research center for leadership issues affecting women not only in our state, but across the nation.”

Through her research, DeFrank-Cole works to join scholarship from women’s and gender studies with leadership studies to create richer linkages to open it to diverse viewpoints. In her recent book on women and leadership, “Women’s Leadership Journeys: Stories, Research and Novel Perspectives,” she delved into the interdisciplinary area addressed in leadership studies to include feminist perspectives and intersectional approaches. Co-edited with Sherylle Tan, the book brings together research from leading scholars with stories from women leaders in diverse sectors to provide insights from their leadership journeys.

“With a dearth of women in most senior leadership positions, I hope to not only encourage women to apply for such positions but also expand the definition of leadership to include roles that that are not paid or business-focused. By identifying leadership as a process rather than a position, more women may be recognized for the contributions they are making,” DeFrank-Cole said. “Simultaneous to expanding roles for women, my focus is to expand opportunities for men to take on larger roles in their homes and families, if they choose, and push back again gender norms that relegate men to only the paid-work world and hyper-masculinity.”  

DeFrank-Cole is a recipient of WVU’s Mary Catherine Buswell award, which recognizes individuals for “excellence in their field as it relates to the advancement of WVU women, community and civic activities that serve and advance women or significant pioneering activities that improve the status of women.” She also participates in WVU’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.

The professorship is named in honor of the first woman to graduate from WVU, Harriet E. Lyon. It was endowed in honor of Judith Gold Stitzel, founding director of the WVU Center for Women’s and Gender Studies through the support of many generous donors.

“Our Center for Women’s and Gender Studies has a long and outstanding tradition of excellence that is in no small part due to the vision and efforts of Stitzel. She continues to enhance this great program through her efforts in establishing the Lyon Professorship,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “This professorship will provide great opportunities to promote gender scholarship, education and outreach. I am extremely proud that DeFrank-Cole will be our Lyon Professor. There is no doubt she will fulfill the high expectations that this great opportunity affords.”

To learn more about or contribute to the Harriet E. Lyon Endowed Professorship in Women’s and Gender Studies, visit