As of Sept. 24, East Carolina University's department of sociology raised $9,435 in scholarship money for the Kathy Jones Gender Studies & Sociology Scholarship.
In honor of late-faculty member Kathy Jones’ legacy at East Carolina University and her passion for higher education, the Kathy Jones Gender Studies & Sociology Scholarship has been established to provide funding opportunities for future students.
Bob Edwards, undergraduate director of ECU’s department of sociology, said the scholarship’s details are still an ongoing process, though enough funds have been raised for its establishment. He said students won’t be able to apply for the scholarship until it has raised a total of $25,000, the minimum amount for an ECU endowed scholarship. Edwards said students most likely won’t be able to apply for the scholarship until the 2022-2023 academic year.
Once complete, Edwards said the scholarship will provide $1,000 each year to a single student enrolled in ECU’s department of sociology or gender studies program. He said faculty, students, friends and alumni are encouraged to donate to the fund.
“The way it’s working is, some of Kathy’s colleagues and friends have committed to donating enough money to get it up to the $25,000 minimum,” Edwards said. “The process going on right now is to, through social media campaign mostly, raise money from other people and former students to contribute to the fund.”
Edwards said he had met Jones when she was an ECU student in 2002, who had returned to further her education and establish a career in teaching. He said following her completion of her Master of Arts degree in sociology, Jones began to teach part-time at ECU and eventually went on to teach as a full-time faculty member in 2012. He said she had taught courses in sociology and gender studies to between 400 to 500 students a semester since.
Jones had a passion for students and their learning, Edwards said, and she often played leadership roles in various committees and organizations at the university as an advocate for social justice. He said Jones touched a lot of lives “in a profound way” throughout her career, and often influenced many students to find passions and careers in the field of sociology.
Rather than working on research and other faculty hobbies, Edwards said Jones put all her focus into her courses and students. He said her accomplishments lie within the many lives of students she touched through her work at ECU.
“She (Jones) absolutely loved what she was doing. She was insatiably curious about students and how their lives were changing and how they were experiencing that,” Edwards said. “And completely convinced that the courses she taught could help students just deal with things. That sort of concern combined with really well-done and useful classes I think is what made her such a popular teacher.”
Professor at the University of Tennessee and former ECU alumna Leia Cain said she was a former student of Jones and had taken an introductory course in sociology with her. Cain said she immediately fell in love with Jones’ teaching and eventually undertook an independent study under her. Since then, Cain has received her doctorate in educational foundations and inquiry from the University of South Carolina and found a career in research, both accomplishments she credits to Jones and her support.
Cain said Jones’ courses were engaging and she often saw students slowly become involved in class discussion because of this. Jones impacted her in many ways, Cain said, and her relationship with students inspired Cain to make similar relationships through her passion for teaching. Though Jones wasn’t one to pursue professional titles or awards, Cain said she has met few professors who care about students and their learning like Jones did.
When the scholarship was initially announced, Cain said she was excited to see her legacy live on and believes the scholarship accurately represents her passion for students and teaching.
“This scholarship is the perfect way to honor Kathy – she was, by far, the most student-centric, caring, approachable faculty member that I have ever met,” Cain wrote in a statement. “She was truly cheering for every single one of her students, and cared about each of them on an individual level, regardless of how often they saw her in office hours or spoke up in class.”
ECU alumna Morgan Jarrett Starr said she had Jones as a teacher in summer school for a sociology course and thereafter saw the professor as a friend. She said Jones impacted many other students in this exact way, and her courses personally changed Starr’s life and college career. Starr said even after she graduated in 2013, Jones kept up with her on Facebook and congratulated her for every major life event, including her marriage and first child.
Starr said Jones would bring material that was often boring in a textbook and transform it into engaging content through her teaching style and real-world connections. Jones made students feel welcome through her courses as well as other organizations, Starr said, including the Safe Zone for ECU’s LGBTQ community.
Though Starr wishes upcoming students could personally know the impact Jones had at ECU, she’s excited for the legacy Jones has left behind through the scholarship created in her honor.
“From day one, you felt like she (Jones) was just family,” Starr said. “She wasn’t your typical professor who was just spitting knowledge at you, and this is why you need to be this way, she made the whole class feel like family.