Karlyn Crowley’s career in higher education has been marked by a series of firsts that were inspired by her Earlham education.
When Crowley graduated in 1990, she became one of the first Earlhamites to earn a bachelor degree in women’s studies, a program now called women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Later in graduate school, Crowley would enroll in the University of Virginia’s inaugural cohort of the women’s studies certificate program. And when she started her career as a professor of English and women’s and gender studies at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, she launched the institution’s first women’s studies minor and founded the Cassandra Voss Center, a pioneering academic center devoted to intersectional identity.
“The first of firsts started at Earlham,” she said.
Now the provost at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, Crowley has been named to a national list of the top 25 women working in higher education, an honor that recognizes her commitment to equity work.
The list was published earlier this month by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as part of its Women’s History Month edition, now in its 10th year. The list highlights women who “have made a difference in the academy by tackling some of higher education’s toughest challenges, exhibiting extraordinary leadership skills, and making a positive difference in their respective communities.”
“I would not be where I am without Earlham,” Crowley said. “Not only did Earlham give me a sense of my vocation and calling in life, on multiple levels, I experienced foundationally what the best of a Quaker and small liberal arts college should be.
“That marked me indelibly,” she said. “I went to graduate school in part because of my professors. They saw something in me and said it out loud. They affirmed it for me.”
In just nine months on the job at OWU, Crowley launched an Equity Fellows program, which is composed of 25 faculty members who are helping to lead academic equity and antiracism initiatives on campus. She is also overseeing the hiring of 10 tenure-track faculty while implementing new hiring practices designed to make OWU more “equity-friendly” for incoming faculty.
“This is one of the things I probably will be proudest of no matter what happens in my time here,” Crowley said. “Creating stronger representation for women and people of color in higher education is a huge issue and it’s a pipeline issue.”
Crowley is already seeing a transformation on campus.
“One of the ways I can make a difference is through equity work,” she said. “I truly feel called to this work and it all began at Earlham.”