TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A culture and gender studies professor whose research pushed her beyond the typical academic world into the study of fantasy is this year’s recipient of the Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award, one of the highest honors bestowed on professors at The University of Alabama.
The University will present Dr. Catherine Roach, professor of New College, with the Burnum award at 4:30 p.m. April 19 in the Ferguson Center, room 3111, where she will deliver the Burnum Award lecture.
A reception and book signing follows, and the public is welcome.
“Dr. Roach’s willingness to experiment with different writing mediums, seek different reading audiences and regularly create new and exciting courses for students demonstrates why she is an excellent candidate for the Burnum Award,” wrote Dr. Natalie Adams, director of New College, in her recommendation letter.
“She is a superior scholar, exhibits a profound dedication to teaching and has, over her 20-year career at UA, brought distinctive credit to our department, the College of Arts and Sciences and The University of Alabama,” Adams wrote.
The Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award, established by Celeste Burnum and the late Dr. John F. Burnum, is given annually to recognize and promote excellence in research, scholarship and teaching.The award committee, composed of former winners of the Burnum Award, screens nominees and forwards its two top nominees to the UA president, who, in turn, selects the annual winner.
“I was surprised and delighted,” Roach said. “I see it as a wonderful endorsement of the work that New College does that’s interdisciplinary, innovative and cutting edge in terms of faculty research and serving students. It’s also a reflection of the great work that women faculty are doing on campus.”
The issues of gender, culture, religion and history have always fascinated Roach. The idea of what it means to be human, how culture creates narratives for living out masculinity, femininity and sexuality and how those stories help to organize society, but often at the cost of personal freedom, has been at the forefront of her research.
Since joining UA’s faculty in 1998, Roach’s research interests have centered on the role gender and sexuality play in contemporary American popular culture. She has explored gendered ways of valuing the environment in popular depictions of nature as a mother and studied the world of stripping and the contemporary mainstream manifestations of striptease culture in pole dancing exercise studios and stripper aerobics.
Her latest academic publication examines the function of the romance narrative — “find your one true love and live happily ever after” — in American popular culture. While writing her academic publication, she also wrote two historical romance novels.
“I wanted to write inside that story line, inside that fantasy space,” she said. “I didn’t want to just be an academic writing about it from the outside.”
Over the course of her career, Roach has authored three scholarly monographs, two genre fictional books, 10 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, 12 essays, a government report, two book reviews and more than 60 academic presentations, from conferences to invited talks and keynote addresses. Roach has also worked with multiple international scholars, having completed two international sabbaticals, the most recent as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of Leeds (United Kingdom).
Roach earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa in Canada and her doctorate in The Study of Religion from Harvard University.
New College is an interdisciplinary liberal arts program where highly motivated undergraduates design their own curricula leading to Bachelor of Art or Bachelor of Science degrees.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.