UMKC Faculty Profile: Debra O’Bannon

By Joseph Salazar.

March is Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”.

Women today currently earn 41% of PhD’s in STEM fields, but make up only 28% of tenure-track faculty in those fields. Keeping that startling statistic in mind and in celebration of this year’s theme, I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to some of the women at UMKC who are a part of STEM fields. I had the wonderful opportunity of learning about what it’s like to be a woman in STEM through a Q&A with several faculty members at UMKC. Their stories will appear throughout the week.

O'Bannon_DebDebra O’Bannon, Professor—Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Why did you go into the field you did? I have been in the civil engineering field since I was a sophomore in college. Although one of my mother’s cousins was a chemical engineer, I didn’t know him. All the people in my immediate family were blue-collar workers, with very little college experience. I was good at math, and a bit of a geek, and wanted to go into Physics (because that’s all I was familiar with). But, like hundreds of other freshman at MIT, physics didn’t pan out for me. A nice guy in my dorm was a civil engineering student (in transportation), and I liked that they had a track in environmental engineering. I was a college freshman in 1975 – the first Earth Day was in 1972. So that’s what I did. I’ve been in the water area for a long time.

What is it like being a woman in your field? When I was in college, there weren’t many women, but there were a few. People were nice to me, so it was nice to get a little extra attention. That was about the same when I worked after college. When I came to UMKC in 1989, I was the only woman on the engineering faculty until recently. There have been few problems—it does get a little lonely sometimes—so I am quite active in the Society of Women Engineers. One thing that is exciting for me to see is that there are [now] women engineering deans at universities, woman-owned engineering businesses, and women highly-placed in engineering corporations. While we are still few, our numbers are growing. And for myself, I am now a full Professor, and a Fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Support Women Student Filmmakers at CineWomen

Join us this Thursday, March 14th, at the Screenland Crossroads for CineWomen: A Refreshing Showcase of Women in Film. Our evening begins at 6:00 PM with a panel discussion, followed by a screening of ten short films by area women filmmakers. After the screening, we’ll have a Q&A session and the end the evening with a reception and networking opportunities.


For more information about this and other Her Art Project events, visit us online. Come by the Women’s Center at 105 Haag Hall, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Announcing CineWomen’s Featured Filmmakers

By Morgan Elyse

The results are in!

We have an absolutely amazing lineup of quality short films made by students from four different campuses in the Kansas City Metro area. 10 brilliant women and one brilliant male co-director will set the stage on the evening of March 14 at the Screenland Crossroads for CineWomen: A Refreshing Showcase of Women in Film.

 Our featured filmmakers and their films are as follows:

  1. Chelsea Alderman (University of Kansas) – Ballerina
  2. Julia Barnett (University of Missouri, Kansas City) – DENIAL
  3. Jenny Brinkman (University of Missouri, Kansas City) – Counterproductive
  4. Johanna Brooks (Kansas City Art Institute) – Precariously Perfect
  5. Lacey Hawkinson (Kansas City Art Institute) – What Goes Up     
  6. Christina Hodel (University of Kansas) – Jessie In Reverie
  7. Hillary Larson (Art Institutes International-KC) – What the Dub?: A Brief Guide with the Midwesterner in Mind
  8. Elizabeth Leech (University of Missouri, Kansas City) – Life is Animated
  9. Michelle Miller (Kansas City Art Institute) – Illustrating Time
  10. Emilie Newel & Scott Root (University of Kansas) – Trashmind

We received several wonderful entries and had to make some very hard decisions. However, through careful selection, we have whittled down the list and believe that you will all truly appreciate the talent that we’re showcasing in honor of Women’s History Month.

So, don’t miss your chance to celebrate women in film on Thursday, March 14 at the Screenland Crossroads. The event starts with a reception at 6:00pm, followed by a panel discussion of accomplished female filmmakers. The film screening, Q&A with the student filmmakers, and networking will round out the event. Help inspire the next generation of filmmakers by sharing this proud moment with them as their hard work is displayed on the big screen!

Here is a sneak peek at one of our featured artist’s films!


Changed for Good: A Review

If you’d like to know more about Stacy Wolf and Changed for Good, join us Tuesday, March 5 at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Wolf will be lecturing on the topics addressed in Changed for Good. Her lecture begins at 6:30 following a reception at 6:00 PM. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

By Andrea Fowler

6281589012_db5a0c5f31-Broadway TourBroadway and film musicals have entertained American audiences for generations. And we have certainly noticed how those musicals enter our social consciousness and when our favorite characters reflect changing attitudes. But how often do we step back far enough to really look at the progression and evolution of these characters? Author Stacy Wolf does just that in her books A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical (2002), and Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (2011).

I have had the pleasure of reading Changed for Good for a class this semester. As a singer and voice teacher, there have always been songs or characters that I gravitated towards because of the strength or emotion they presented. But it wasn’t until reading Wolf’s book that I really took the time to consider why I was drawn to these particular women. Or why I rejected other characters who did not exhibit those same qualities. Wolf’s interpretations provided new insights that I was unaware of in my previous studies of these shows.

7658215090_460e53d081-Broadway Tour

Wolf sets up her examination of women’s roles on a decade by decade basis, with each chapter focusing on a specific female character type that is prevalent in that decade. Her ideas are well supported by thoughtful interpretations and primary source material from musical industry insiders of the time.

For more information on this event, visit the Women’s Center online, on Facebook, or Twitter.

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, You Still Have Your Sisters.

The following blog is a guest post by UMKC student Roda Mohamud. A proud graduate of Southwest Early College Campus, she is currently a first-year student at UMKC, and is exploring a number of possible majors. This blog post draws from a research project she completed for her English 225 class.

cinderellaEveryone’s watched the story of Cinderella while some have read the story. They’ve either watched Brandy or the 1950s Disney version of Cinderella. When I was young, I remember me and my sisters watching the latest Cinderella movie. Whether it was starring Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, or Selena Gomez, we watched it. We always watched the movies because we thought it was a fun story about a girl who persevered and became a princess.

However, it turned out we were wrong. We were getting lots of strong messages that weren’t about a girl overcoming hardship. The messages promoted women and sisters putting their relationships and everything aside for a guy. The message that Walt Disney sends out is that stepsisters are ugly and mean to each other and to other people as well. The film also sends out the message that we have to compete with our own sister for a handsome, rich guy by any means necessary. For example, in the film when the duke brought the glass slipper, not only did the stepsisters turn against Cinderella, but they also turned against each other by insisting the shoe was theirs even though one sister’s heel was hanging out of the shoe and the other sister’s foot was completely bent. The sisters in the film were terrible to each other. They always fought, said rude things, and were down-right selfish. This was especially evident in the scene where they were having their music lesson; they fought and called each other names. They didn’t care for anyone’s feelings. The message is to always be in competition with your sisters and for resources in getting “the prince”.

The shoe also appears in a later version of Cinderella by the Grimm Brothers called Aschenputtel. This story has ugly messages of its own. For example, to try to fit the shoe in this story, one of the stepsisters cuts off her heel and the other cuts off her big toe. They did this to marry the prince. Later, when the stepsisters go to Cinderella’s wedding to get some of her fortune, they get punished for their greed by being blinded for eternity.  The message in this story is to sacrifice your body parts for a man who doesn’t end up marrying you anyway. Because of all the ugliness in these stories, I think the sister bond is more significant than getting the man.

As Women’s History Month approaches, we should take a look at ourselves and see if we have that positive sisterhood relationship around us. If we don’t, we should take action in building that relationship or making it better. Sisterhood is about feeling confidant in yourself and sharing that confidence with your sister. Also, it’s having that relationship that no man can come between. Sisters – don’t ever change yourself for a prince.

Call for Entries – CineWomen: A Refreshing Showcase of Women in Film

By Morgan Elyse ChristensenHerArtProject_logo2_pink_Hi-RES

Attention women student filmmakers! March is Women’s History Month and the UMKC Women’s Center has many fabulous programs lined up to celebrate it with all of you. One of our most anticipated events is the CineWomen film showcase and panel discussion. See below for information on submitting entries.KCWIFT_Logo_finalizations

Collaborating on this special Women’s History Month project are the Her Art Project, Kansas City Women in Film & Television, UMKC Department of Communication Studies , the Paris of the Plains International Student Film Festival group, Avila University, and University of Kansas Department of Film and Media Studies. Together, we are organizing a remarkable evening of discussion and CommStudiesnetworking, as well as a screening of short films to showcase the talent of the Kansas City area’s emerging female filmmakers.


CineWomen will be held at The Screenland Theatre in the Kansas City Crossroads District on Thursday, March 14th. There will be a reception at 6pm, followed by a discussion with a few of Kansas City’s highly regarded female filmmakers and professors beginning at 6:30. We will then take a look at the work of some of Kansas City’s most talented student filmmakers before we come together to end the evening with mingling and an opportunity to network. Light refreshments will be provided as well as a cash bar. This event is free to the public – no RSVP required.

Avila KU-1

Entries for short films written/directed by female students are being accepted until 5pm on February 21st.  Filmmakers, get your work sent in quickly! Official regulations, procedures, and entry forms available at the Women’s Center or for download here. For more information, please contact Morgan Elyse Christensen at or the UMKC Women’s Center at or 816.235.1638.

This event was designed to celebrate the wonderful things that women of the Kansas City area have accomplished and are accomplishing within our arts community as well as help inspire our younger generation to achieve their dreams as they also develop into important role models by giving them screen time in front of Kansas City’s art and film enthusiasts and the opportunity to listen to and speak with their experienced mentors. We hope you’ll join us and show your support for female artists of every generation in the Kansas City area.