As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is important to not only acknowledge the contributions women have made throughout history but to also celebrate the influential women who surround us. Associate professor of political science at Southern Miss Kate Greene, Ph.D., is one of these women.
Having a father in the Navy, Greene’s family moved around for most of her childhood before settling in Ocean Springs during her middle and high school years.
Greene received her bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and later got her master’s in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University and her doctorate from the University of Utah.
Greene said she wanted to become a professor because of her love of being a student and learning.
“I do come from a family of teachers. But for me, this was just kind of how I got to keep being a student. That’s what I do best, and this was the best way to do that. Because you know, we have to keep learning too,” Greene said.
Greene is currently continuing her education by working towards an online master’s degree in archaeology from the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland.
“I don’t want to make a career out of it. I’m going to retire in about five years, and it’s just something to do as a hobby,” Greene said. “If I could start my life over again, I would either do archeology or be in film.”
Greene worked as a professor at both the University of Memphis and Denison University before coming to Southern Miss in 1989.
“Most of the kids that grew up in Ocean Springs, and people I went to Auburn with were pretty conservative. And I guess I just wanted to come back to Mississippi and be a different voice for students to hear. Not to try to convert anybody, but to let them hear what I have to say,” Greene said.
Greene said in her 30 years at Southern Miss she has witnessed many changes, in students and society.
“I’m also a lesbian and have been out since I first got here. And that’s changed. When I first got here, if I asked a class how many people knew someone who was gay or lesbian, maybe one person raised their hand,” Greene said. “And of course, if you ask that question today, everyone knows somebody. That’s part of why I felt it was important to be out so that the gay and lesbian students here had someone who could be supportive of them.”
Greene said interacting with her students has always been a big indication to her of how society has changed.
“My students now seem to be so much more anxious than when I first got here. And they have to work harder,” Greene said. “I never worked a day when I was in school. That was my job. But students here are juggling so much more than I ever had to do.”
Senior international studies and political science major Ceili Rassier has taken two political science classes taught by Greene.
“I always feel as though her classroom is a safe space because we can have political discourse, which doesn’t happen a lot, but when people do have differing opinions, it’s very civil,” Rassier said. “And she will critically push you to defend your stance whether you do agree with her or not. So she challenges us to think independently, but also to be willing to defend ourselves should we disagree and bring it up in class.”
Rassier said she also appreciates how Greene’s classes are not just about memorizing information but using that information in real life.
“She is really inspiring because not only is she very well versed in what she does, but I also believe she is very good at what she does,” Rassier said. “Coming out of her classes, I feel very educated, and the material she teaches is something that I take into every other facet of my life, whether it be academic or not.”
Terri Ferguson, a sophomore political science major, has enjoyed taking Greene’s civil rights and liberties class and finds her style of teaching refreshing.
“She is a very blunt professor, and she doesn’t seem like the uptight professor with a Ph.D. that you’d be scared to be yourself around,” Ferguson said. “She’s been here for so long and has so many stories.”
Ferguson said Greene is interesting and outspoken and thinks she brings a different energy to the table in the political science department.
“I’m not just someone who stands up there and spits out the content. I just am who I am,” Greene said.
Greene said her personality can be intimidating and believes that it could be because she is a woman.
“But that’s all I know how to be,” Greene said. “I find that if I’m honest and authentic with my students, then they’re more open and honest with me.”