Vanessa Garry

Assistant Professor
University of Missouri-St. Louis
St. Louis
About the Speaker

Dr. Vanessa Garry, Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis teaches aspiring principals and superintendents. As a former administrator at both the school and district levels, Garry’s research, situated in urban education, intersects at the history of urban education and the practice of data use. She examines the history of urban education through the lens of the work performed by Ruth Harris, the first African American President of Stowe Teachers College from 1940 to 1954. Garry has authored six articles and a book chapter on Ruth Harris with the most recent article published by the Journal of Urban History.

Challenging Segregation Through Community Education: A Biographical Vignette About Stowe’s President Ruth Harris

Narrowing the focus of Dr. Ruth Harris’ tenure as President of Stowe Teachers College (now Harris-Stowe State University) to the early 1940s, this biographical vignette will focus on her preservice teachers community engagement program. Harris, one of the few African American women in the United States to lead a college during the Jim Crow era, created the program to expand preservice teachers’ knowledge about children living in poverty. The program, inspired by her dissertation topic and grounded in progressive education, was a component of the sociology course. It required preservice teachers to volunteer 50 hours working in a St. Louis organization. The impetus of this presentation is to inform participants of how one program created teacher advocacy and life-long volunteerism. It will also illustrate to participants how the program can be a template for today’s college and university administrators who seek to partner with institutions supporting underserved populations.

Ruth Harris: Mentoring Faculty to Achieve Stowe Teachers College’s Accreditation During the Jim Crow Era

Using a turning point during Dr. Ruth Harris’ tenure as President of Stowe Teachers College (now Harris-Stowe State University), this presentation will focus on how Harris mentored Stowe’s faculty to achieve its accreditation. Situated in the philosophies of race uplift, Black feminist thought, and female mentoring model, this biographical vignette examined how Harris developed faculty to meet accreditation requirements. An unlikely inflection point was a Stowe student’s lawsuit against St. Louis Public Schools’ (SLPS) white teachers’ college (Harris Teachers College—namesake of Superintendent William Torrey Harris) for refusing to admit her. Though Harris risked her job, her testimony in court revealed stark differences between the segregated colleges. As a result of Harris’ testimony, the student initially won the case but lost the appeal; however, differences between the two schools laid bare the need for Stowe’s accreditation. Though the district’s involvement helped with securing certification, Harris’ mentoring of the faculty helped lower the barriers that stymied it. The aspiration of the presentation is to motivate guests to reflect on how one African American woman used mentoring to move the organization closer to realizing its goals during a difficult period. Also, the need for organizations to mentor employees, especially minorities and women.