Faculty Focus: Kelly Marie Ward

Kelly Ward headshotAssistant Professor Kelly Marie Ward, whose position began in Fall 2020, is our February Faculty Focus. She is currently an Anna Julia Cooper Postdoctoral Fellow, and they will begin teaching courses in Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology in Fall 2021. Read more about Dr. Ward below.

Name: Kelly Marie Ward 

Hometown: Seattle, WA 

Educational/professional background:  
I studied at the University of Washington (the other UW) for my undergraduate degree in Comparative Religion and stayed there for a Master’s in Public Administration. I decided that I wanted a career in academia, rather than in nonprofit and advocacy work, so I pursued a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. 

How did you get into your field of research? 
Broadly I have always been interested in how people work for, in, and against the social institutions of we which we are a part. I enjoy thinking about people’s everyday experiences and the relationships between people and social structures. My research examines some of these dynamics in reproductive healthcare. My current project evolved from questions I had about abortion providers. There has been a lot of research on the doctors, and to a lesser extent nurses, who provide abortions to the many people who seek them. There is little scholarly discussion on low-wage or lower status workers who are also involved in abortion care. I became curious about this group of workers and their role in abortion care.  

What attracted you to UW-Madison? 
The Collaboration for Reproductive Equity was huge draw. Being connected with so many other researchers from across the university who are exploring issues related to reproductive health, access, and justice is very exciting. I was also attracted to the joint appointment in two very strong departments.

What was your first visit to campus like? 
My visit was in December and I was coming from Southern California, so the temperature difference was noticeable, but I was prepared for the weather! I enjoyed seeing some of the city and the campus. The visit was busy, I was ushered from meeting to meeting, but I never felt frazzled because everyone I met with was so warm and welcoming. I was able to see myself working and living here.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? I hope my students come to understand that it is okay to be challenged and it is okay to not feel like the smartest person in the room. Approaching challenges from a place of humility rather than mastery is required when we work together to address persistent social inequities.

Is there a way your field of study can help the world endure and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the health, finances and lifestyle of so many? 
I think my fields of study would question what it means to “recover”. What do we lose when we are preoccupied with returning to the previous ways of doing things? What would it look like to create something new?

Hobbies/other interests:  Lately I’ve been enjoying short stories, particularly science fiction and speculative fiction. How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin and The Paper Managerie by Ken Liu are two collections of beautiful stories.