Karen Kedrowski: Position as director of Catt Center ‘perfect for me’

Karen Kedrowski

Courtesy of Iowa State University News Service

Karen Kedrowski

Jake Benda

Karen Kedrowski has been named as the next director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics starting January 1, 2019.

“I saw the announcement and looked at the description out of curiosity,” Kedrowski said about the position when it opened. “As I kept reading about the job I realized it was perfect for me.”

Kedrowski has a doctorate and master of arts in political science from the University of Oklahoma as well as a bachelor of arts in political science, French and history from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

She currently teaches political science at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She is also the Executive Director of the Center for Civic Learning and the co-director of the John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy.

Kedrowski said she has gained extensive experience with the courses and programs at Winthrop which will help her at the Catt Center. These include teaching a course about women in politics, hosting a breast cancer symposium, fundraising for different causes, writing and grants.

Outside of teaching at Winthrop, Kedrowski has been crucial in growing the political climate on campus. She coordinated campus visits of presidential candidates during their campaigns and was also able to designate Winthrop as a voter friendly campus and obtained an award for the All In Campus Democracy Challenge.

When an institution obtains the voter friendly designation, it is put in a group of up to 150 other institutions nationwide. This group then shares resources and ideas to increase student voter turnout and ways the campus can help students become more informed during voting seasons.

The All In Campus Democracy Challenge tracks student voter turnout at universities across the country and gives awards based on the amount of students that vote and the members who help lead on campus voting. Kedrowski says Iowa State would have won an award in 2016 because of the high voter turnout in that year.

“The Catt Center has a lot of very good programs that I don’t intend to take apart, but the voter friendly designation and the All In Campus Democracy Challenge are two things I want to introduce to Iowa State,” Kedrowski said.

As for other parts of her job at Iowa State, Kedrowski said she is excited to work with the Catt Center, not only because it has a good tradition of political involvement but also because it is one of the most highly targeted states in large political races. She says these reasons make Iowa a great place for the political science field, especially in the upcoming years.

2020 is the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment, which made it illegal to deny a voter based on sex. The American Association of University Women already has plans for the celebration, which includes recognizing different suffrage related sites and events around Iowa, bringing public speakers to the state to speak about the women’s suffrage movement, and other celebrations like taking part in the Iowa State Fair parades and having art pieces created to commemorate suffrage.

The Catt Center has 17 scholarships listed on their website, and Kedrowski said she hopes to continue these while also continuing the tradition of political involvement within the Catt Center. With things like the centennial anniversary and the next presidential election in 2020, she said she wants to take these opportunities to strengthen women’s voices in politics.

Kedrowski also said that meeting with other people interested in similar issues is important. She would like to work with other political entities in the state of Iowa, mentioning programs like 50-50 in 2020, to further strengthen women’s voices in politics, especially in Iowa.

As for the job at Iowa State, Kedrowski said she will spend about a quarter of her time devoted to political science. She will teach one course every year and will do departmental work, which includes things like sitting in on master’s thesis presentations.

Kedrowski also hopes to increase her work in areas like women and gender studies, and she said she would like to make alliances with different campus groups. Above all, she hopes students see her at in classes and at work and get involved with the Catt Center.

“The prospect of leading the Catt Center is exciting,” Kedrowski said. “The next few years are huge for women and politics, and I look forward to continue building this great think tank with women in politics.”