Dr. Kim Jones-Owen’s involvement with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program (WGS) at Ball State University began in the late 1980s when she served as chair of the program’s Events Committee. An opportunity to teach English 490 Women and Literature led to a change in the direction of her career. Next she created a special topic course on Women in Dramatic Literature, and her interest in the study of women and gender intensified. Not only was the subject matter significant but also the WGS students were bright, engaged and eager for additional courses. Her own enthusiasm for both the development of the curriculum and providing varied learning opportunities for students ultimately led to her becoming the program director in 1994.  During her tenure, she expanded what it meant to be a student studying Women’s and Gender Studies. Kim led a collaborative effort to achieve the creation of the WGS major as only a minor had been offered prior to her hire. She helped develop a wide array of courses for the program and created opportunities for her students to get the most out of their time at Ball State. Now retired, Kim stated that her heart still calls Ball State home. With this in mind, Kim has decided to make a planned estate gift to continue to support the WGS program in all of its future endeavors. Kim has already been generously supporting the WGS program for many years, but through this planned gift she will be further cemented as a champion for WGS program here at BSU.

Paving the Way at BSU

While she was still a graduate student elsewhere, Kim decided to accept a position teaching at Ball State. Excited to get to know a new campus, Kim taught in the English Department for six years. During this time, she was able to teach a few classes containing WGS students and loved getting to interact with them. After her first few years, Kim was offered and accepted a position to become the director of the WGS program.

Although she had many hopes and dreams for the program, including getting a major established, Kim decided to initially focus on making the WGS program visible on campus. When she took over, the program was a small group of devoted faculty and only 30-40 students hoping to get minors in WGS. However, this didn’t stop Kim.

Kim loved teaching and loved the impact that the WGS courses were having on her students. Despite loving literature and English, Kim was much more engaged with her students and found that WGS was her true passion. Quickly, she set about to look at ways that the curriculum could be expanded. In her early years as director, she developed courses on feminist theory, special topic courses, and a capstone course. Kim encouraged Dr. Julee Rosser, the program’s assistant director, to develop an International Women’s Issue course. Additionally, she helped foster an on and off campus internship to give her students more hands-on experience. Kim also focused on interdisciplinary learning, which was a great way to expand the program without having to create completely new courses. She led the charge on campaigning on campus to get more people involved and interested. Under her guidance, Ball State expanded its Annual Women’s Week to include more events and increase its fundraising efforts. They arranged for visitors to come and speak on campus, including Gloria Steinem, a famous journalist.

“Steinem stayed after her talk until 12:30 am, answering any questions the students had. It was like every word that she spoke was inspiring a new activist.”

Eventually, Kim succeeded and a WGS major was created. This victory held so much meaning for her as she got to see how this education was serving students both in their college careers and beyond. Ball State was made a better place due to Kim’s commitment and devotion to the WGS program. She built on the efforts of the many women who were dedicated to the program before her and helped bring the program to life. Presently, the WGS program is still thriving and has continued its mission to educate and inspire others on why Women’s and Gender Studies are so important. Their success has been in part due to the financial support Kim has given this program over the years and they are excited to continue to pursue to development and scholarly excellence through Kim’s planned gift.

Inspiring Words for Future

“Don’t ignore the stirring or inkling that is telling you what path to take, even when it is different from what you originally thought you wanted.” 

Kim originally went to college to become a high school English teacher, but slowly over time realized she wanted something else for her life. Becoming a college professor and eventually the Women and Gender Studies program director at BSU was never in her life plan, but she eventually realized that she had to respect where her heart was pulling her. “If something captures your curiosity, don’t ignore it.” This is advice that Kim herself had to follow as she entered graduate school and came to work at BSU.

“We are often encouraged to do the safe, standard pursuit. This can be okay for some, but others need to push the boundaries of what they thought was possible for their life. This requires some bravery and fearlessness. Don’t limit yourself to the destination that you originally wanted.” 

Kim’s life is a living example of these lessons. Everyone should consider these thoughts as they try to find their way in the world. Ball State was a wonderful place for Kim to explore her future as a faculty member and all of its possibilities and that still rings true today. 

Paying it Forward 

Kim is no longer able to participate in supporting the WGS program through teaching or leadership, however, she is still giving both her time and talents. Presently, Kim serves on the Dean’s Executive Advisory Counsel for the College of Sciences and Humanities. Additionally, she has decided to make a generous planned estate gift in order to ensure the program and its students’ future successes. For her, Ball State was a place that informed and helped create her perspectives, ideas, and goals. She wants to provide the same possibility for current and future students as they begin their education at Ball State. She wants to help her beloved program thrive for many years to come. Kim hopes that through her gift, the program will grow and its on-campus presence will be felt more than ever.

“It is good for women to have opportunities and if I can support those opportunities in any way, I will.” 

Kim also acknowledged that she wanted to honor her family through this gift. As a way to remember her parents, Kim has endowed a WGS scholarship in their names: Eleanor and Benjamin Jones and another scholarship in honor of her grandmothers: Mary Von Guten Liechty and Ethel Siler Jones. Kim noted that for both generations of her family, in the early twentieth century and again in the 1950s, the deeds included her grandmother’s and her mother’s name respectively, something that was not necessarily typical in northeastern Indiana. Kim said that the inclusion of their names informed part of her interest and devotion to WGS. Now with part of this land under her name, Kim decided that there would be nothing more fitting than giving the proceeds from the sale of the land to BSU. “This is my long term investment, just like my parents and grandparents. It feels absolutely right. I hope I can make some sort of difference.”

The WGS program is incredibly grateful for Kim’s incredible donation to their program and they have already began to put her gift to good uses through offering different programing and services that bring attention to current student’s and the wonderful work they are doing. One example is that this summer the WGS will be hosting an exhibit at the Minnetrista Museum titled Girlhood, which has been sponsored by the fund Kim originated. Created by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, this exhibit’s first stop on its national tour outside of Washington D.C. in Muncie. Opportunities like this allow current students and faculty, as well as community members to better understand the important of WGS and why it needs to exist. These opportunities are invaluable and would never come to light without Kim’s generous support of the program. In addition to the opportunities being offered, he WGS program here at BSU is constantly evolving and progressing to fit the demands of students and a changing world. Recently, the WGS program went under a name change and is now becoming it’s own department. Now titled the Women’s, Gender, and African American Studies, this new department, coming Fall of 2023, will allow students to receive the best eduction possible. Ball State and it’s dedication to the these programs is unparalleled. Through the continued support of people like Kim, this budding department will be successful for years to come.