University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Award

Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholar Award

2017 Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholar Awardee Ananya Chatterjea and Ananya Dance Theater artistsPictured: 2017 honoree Ananya Chatterjea, Ph.D., and Ananya Dance Theater artists


This prestigious award has been established to acknowledge and honor the scholarly accomplishments of distinguished women faculty at the University of Minnesota and to offer a forum for them to share their insights and ideas with a campus and community audience. One scholar from the sciences or engineering and one scholar from the humanities, arts, or social sciences will be selected to present a lecture on alternating years. 


The award is named after Ada Louise Comstock, a Minnesota native who was a professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota, and in 1907, became the University’s first Dean of Women. In 1912, she became Dean of the College at Smith. Later she led Smith College, but she was denied the title of president because she was a woman. In 1923, she became Radcliffe College’s third president and the first woman to ever be appointed college president. It would take the Ivy League schools 61 more years before a woman would assume the presidency, with Judith Rodin at the University of Pennsylvania in 1994. Further details of Ada's legacy are available here.


This award is sponsored by the Women's Center with support from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and University of Minnesota Libraries.


At the annual Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Award Program, the awardee delivers a lecture on her scholarly work for the general public. The awardee is presented with a specially selected piece of artwork created by a Minnesota woman artist.


Applications are due by 4:30 pm, on the first Friday in June. A scholar will be selected from the sciences or engineering in even years, and a scholar from the humanities, arts or social sciences will be selected in the odd years.


Eligibility is limited to tenured women faculty employed at the University of Minnesota for at least five years. (While it is anticipated that the majority of Ada Comstock lecturers will be at the rank of full professor, we recognize that exceptional cases may exist among those who have achieved prominence at earlier stages of their career.)

Nomination Process

A completed nomination packet includes:

  1. A nominator narrative describing how the nominee meets the selection criteria, submitted by a faculty member’s department chair/head, collegiate dean, or faculty colleague (1000 word limit). 
  2. Nominee's curriculum vitae.
  3. A letter of support, preferably from a colleague in the field external to the University. 

Please send one email with the complete nomination packet to the Women's Center at, Attn: Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholar Award Selection Committee

Selection Criteria

  1. Quality of the nominee’s scholarly or creative achievements, with emphasis on originality, imagination and innovation.
  2. National and international reputation and impact of the nominee's scholarly work. Scholarly achievement is an essential characteristic for those chosen to deliver the Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture; this may include recognition through the Regents Professorship, the McKnight Distinguished Professorship, the Fulbright Foundation Award, the Sara Evans Faculty Woman Scholar/Leader Award, or other major grants and prestigious awards. 
  3. The ability of the nominee to deliver a dynamic, engaging, and scholarly lecture to a general audience.

Selection Committee

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Women’s Faculty Cabinet serves as the Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Award Selection Committee.

Past Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Awardees

Year, Award winner, Department, Lecture Topic/Minnesota Woman Artist, Medium

  • Fall 2017: Ananya Chatterjea, Theater Arts and Dance, "Dancing as Grass/rising relentlessly" / Lela Pierce, Painting
  • Fall 2016: Sarah Hobbie, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, "People, Pets, and Plants: The Role of Human Actions in Creating and Solving Water Problems" / Joan G. Cox, Painting
  • Fall 2015: Anna Clark, History, "Drink and Sex in the British Empire: Controlling Men or Controlling Women?" / Jil Evans, Painting
  • Fall 2014: Carol A. Lange, Medicine and Pharmacology, "Women's Cancer: Making Sense of Hormones" / DC Ice, Painting
  • Fall 2013: Denise Guerin, Interior Design, "Beyond HGTV: Can Design Change People's Lives?" / Sara Balbin, Sculpture
  • Fall 2012: Karen Mesce, Entomology, "Two Brains Are Better Than One: How Small Brains Make Big Decisions" / Nickdokht (Nicky) Torkzadeh, Painting
  • Fall 2011: Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, History of Science and Technology, "Uncovering the Past, Charting the Future: The Rise of Women in Science" / Jude Ryan Reiling, Ceramics
  • Fall 2010: Deborah Swackhamer, Chemistry & Public Health, "Drop by Drop: Everyday Solutions to Toxic Water" / Jude Ryan Reiling, Ceramics
  • Fall 2009: Rose Brewer, African American & African Studies, "Colorblind, Postracial or Not? Exploring Race in the Obama Era" / Ida Kumoji-Ankrah, Textiles
  • Spring 2009: Jane Davidson, Mechanical Engineering, "Solar After Dark: Going Green at Night" / Stacy Kelly, Glass
  • Fall 2008: Sara Evans, History, "The Presidential Glass Ceiling is Broken: The Path from Victoria to Hillary" / Joyce Lyon, Lithography
  • Spring 2008: Maria Gini, Computer Science and Engineering, "Robots: A New Type of Companion" / Margaret Bohis, Ceramics
  • Fall 2007: Joanne B. Eicher, Design, Housing, & Apparel, "Beyond the F Word: Fashion, Dress & Cultural Meaning" / Judith Kinghorn, Metal
  • Spring 2007: Catherine French, Civil Engineering, "Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Testing Structures to Their Limits" / Maren Kloppmann, Ceramics
  • Fall 2006: Karlyn Kohrs, Communication Studies, "The Solitude of Self: Woman's Rights Are Human Rights" / Joyce Lyon, Drawing
  • Spring 2006: Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres, German, Scandinavian & Dutch, "The Universal Appeal of the Particular" / Christine Baeumier, Painting
  • Fall 2005: Catherine Verfaillie, Stem Cell Institute, "Caught in Cultural Crosswinds: The Promise and the Pitfall of Stem Cell Research" / Harriet Bart, Sculpture

Lectures from Fall 2008-Fall 2011 are available on iTunes U.