Meet Megan Sholar

Dr. Megan Sholar is a professor at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches political science but also works in the honors department. Professor Sholar is a self-described feminist. She is not only a teacher but an activist for women’s issues. Her book, Getting Paid While Taking Time: The Women's Movement and the Development of Paid Family Leave Policies in the United States was published in September of 2016. She is also the faculty advisor for Loyola’s chapter of Her Campus, and we couldn’t ask for a better fit.

I would like our chapter to empower women across campus, so it only makes sense that our first profile after the re-launch would be for a woman who is accomplished, empowered, and happy.

Meet Megan Sholar.

Annie Kate: Where are you from?

Megan Sholar: Outside of St. Louis, a little town called Alton. I was born and raised there, and then I went to Illinois-Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. Majored in political science and minored in Spanish. Then I got my PHD in political science from Loyola. And then when I finished in 2012, that’s when I got hired to teach in honors [at Loyola].

AK: That’s pretty impressive to be hired right out of graduating.

MS: It was nice! I liked it a lot. I defended my dissertation in December and then started my new job in January.

AK: What made you passionate about poli-sci?

MS: I was one of those weird people that went in as a poli-sci major, in undergrad, and then stuck with it. I always like politics and arguing; debating was a big part of it. I thought I was going to go to law school when I started. But then I had one really great professor who became my mentor. She was wonderful and inspired me like, “Oh, I want to do that too.” She was a big feminist and into women in politics and she got me totally hooked on it, and I wanted to teach it too.  

 

AK: I know you are a self-described feminist, which is awesome. I know this is broad but why? Was there a turning point that made you think “yeah, I’m a feminist?”

MS: I definitely supported from a very young age those ideas, but I don’t know if at a very young age I said feminist. “Feminist” has come back to be a more accepted word; there was a period where nobody seemed to want to call themselves a feminist. I feel like it’s come back now. It’s becoming more mainstream to use that term, it wasn’t as much when I was growing up. From a very young age I had those ideas. I also grew up privileged where I never thought there wasn’t anything I could do. I had very good parents. I have two older brothers, I’m the youngest and my dad was very matter-of-fact like, “you can do anything boys can do.” It was ingrained in me. They wouldn’t have used “feminist,” but it was always understood that I could do whatever I want. They were big proponents of me going to school. I would say it was in college, especially with that professor, that made me start to articulate the idea that what I had taken for granted is this idea of “feminism.”

AK: Why do you like Her Campus?

MS: I really like the mixture of “serious” topics and fun topics. I think that’s a good format to attract people. I also like that it’s specific to Loyola. [Readers] know students at Loyola wrote it.

AK: Going back to feminism, is there any specific women’s issue that for you takes priority. For me, I would say it is rape culture on campus. What would you say yours is, if you have one?

MS: I would say one of the biggest issues for me is choice. I would put rape culture up there as well. I think all of them are important, but in this particular political climate the two that do stand out for me are rape culture and choice. The house just passed a bill yesterday [October 3rd] that bans abortions after 20 weeks; up to 5 years in prison for the doctor; the woman can be punished. We have crises in Vegas, Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston, and this is what our congress is doing, it seems a little ridiculous.

[She later referred back to this question to bring attention to her book and the issue of paid family leave. She is appalled that the United States does not have paid family leave policies, yet most of the rest of the globe does.]

AK: Looking back on everything you have done so far in your life, and I know this is a hard question, what is your greatest achievement?

MS: Oh my goodness. I would say it was getting my PHD. The day I defended my dissertation was one of the happiest moments of my life. It was such a huge feeling of accomplishment. A PhD was something I always talked about in the abstract. Getting my book published was great too, but your dissertation is almost like your first book. It was like “this is it.”

AK: I think it’s really important and really brave to also acknowledge your failures, and to learn from them. So what would be one of yours, and what do you think you have learned from it that you can share with girls that will read this article.

MS: Well I hate to admit this, but as an undergrad I did not study abroad. I do not have a ton of regrets but that is one of them. What I have tried to do since then is travel more. I think every college student, if at all possible, should. It’s not like a “failure” but it is a regret.

AK: As someone who has gone through so much schooling, do you have advice for someone like me, someone like a freshmen?

MS: It’s kind of lame, but college is wonderful. So the advice would be, from an academic perspective, you never get another time in your life where people just feed you awesome information. So go to class. First of all, it makes your life easier. Go to class and do the readings. No one ever regrets doing their work. You’re never going to have another time in your life to just study. Your job right now is to learn stuff.  

Overall, I left my interview with Professor Sholar wishing I could ask so much more. She has such an abundant knowledge of women’s issues, particular the issue of paid family leave (or the lack thereof), and I can guarantee that Her Campus LUC will hear much more from her!