From Egypt to RUC: English professor represents women scholars worldwide
Courtney Watson, Ph.D., a professor of English at Radford University Carilion (RUC) in Roanoke, is known for her prolific travels around the world.
She is a “literary tourist” – a frequent visitor to sites where legendary writers like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty and Robert Wright lived, wrote and set scenes that made them the beloved writers they are today.
In March, however, Watson made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a far-flung locale for an entirely different purpose. She was invited to the Women of the World International Conference, hosted by the faculty of education in the English department at Alexandria University in Egypt.
“The purpose of the conference was to bring together a diverse group of international scholars of literature, language and translation for the purpose of promoting the work being done by women researchers in these areas and to raise the profile of women’s scholarship in the region,” Watson said.
She was a VIP guest speaker at the conference, presenting “Inquiring Outsiders: Tourism, Travel & Women Writers.” Watson also chaired a panel on ecofeminist perspectives from across the world and was interviewed by student conference organizers about the promising future of women’s scholarship in the region.
Watson says she did take some time to explore during her time in the country.
“I was excited to spend a few days in Cairo, where I visited the Pyramids of Giza, cruised the Nile River and saw Tutankhamen – among many other treasures – at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities,” Watson recalled. She also got a private tour of the Library of Alexandria, near the site of the original, as part of the conference, where she had the opportunity to see their museum of rare books and manuscripts.
“I saw Egypt’s first printing press and a papyrus scroll with a fragment from the Book of the Dead,” Watson said.
Watson said she appreciated the chance to share her research and interests with an international audience through the conference. It’s an opportunity, she said, to let a wider audience know about the scholarly work she and other women are doing stateside and around the world.
Building on that theme, Watson returned to RUC and served as the moderator of a panel discussion that featured faculty from the health sciences, occupational therapy and physician assistant programs reflecting on their experiences as women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.
In addition to Watson, the panel included Patricia Airey, D.H.Sc., assistant professor and academic coordinator, physician assistant program; Kim Baskette, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of public health and healthcare leadership; Sallie Beth Johnson, Ph.D., chair, assistant professor and program director, department of public health and healthcare leadership; Ave Mitta, program director and assistant professor, occupational therapy assistant program; and Judy Smith, Ph.D., professor, physician assistant program.
The discussion, one of a series of events hosted by RUC in observance of Women’s History Month, provided the RUC community with the chance to see the scholarly work that women leading the faculty are doing and to hear their firsthand experiences in those careers.
Watson said those kinds of opportunities are important for students and colleagues to hear.
“It provides them with context for not only the challenges women may face in STEM careers but also the incredible opportunities we may experience,” she said. “I’m lucky that my career has allowed me to explore the world, but the next generation of women may get to explore even further.”