Carrie Gates | May 2017
Isabel Charles wanted others to see the world as a bigger place than they’d known — and to see that they had a place in it.
As Notre Dame’s assistant provost and director of international studies in the 1980s, she significantly expanded the University’s international presence and reputation — building the number of study abroad programs from six to 16 during her tenure.
And, as the first female dean in Notre Dame’s history and one of the first women to join the central administration, she wanted to show other women that their world — and their impact on it — was growing, too.
“I wanted to show them that it was possible,” Charles said. “That they had a role to play, that they had a different way of looking at things, and that this was an important aspect of the world they lived in.
“We were not a male world. And women needed to take on those roles and show the influence we could have and do have on the world.”
Charles joined the faculty of the College of Arts and Letters as the first female assistant dean and an associate professor of English in 1973, just a year after undergraduate coeducation was introduced and at a time when less than 10 percent of the faculty was female.