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CofC Students Participate in the Women’s March

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | February 14, 2017 Comments Off on CofC Students Participate in the Women’s March |

On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Washington gathered half a million people to promote inclusivity, activism and community. Those that couldn’t make it to D.C. participated in Sister Marches all around the world, including Charleston, SC. These Sister Marches gathered an estimated 4.9 million people.

Brittlebank Park the day of the Women’s March.

According to the group’s mission, “We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equality for all. HEAR OUR VOICE.”

That is exactly what our students set out to do.

According to Rafael Martin Navas, a women’s and gender studies major and Spanish minor, it was important to march for his daughter. “I chose to walk in the Women’s March in Charleston for many reasons. I am passionate about social justice, immigration, environmental issues and a lack of equality in our society. But my main reason for marching is my daughter. I don’t want her to have less rights or opportunities because her gender.”

Rafael Martin Navas with his daughter at the march.

Annika Liger, an anthropology and history double major, felt hopeful. “For me, the march was a reminder that millions of people throughout the United States and the world care about and support each other regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or background, and that hateful and discriminatory words can be challenged and called out for what they are,” Annika says.

Tessa (on the left) and her roommate Anna Lollis waiting for instructions from their marshall outside of the St. Phillips Street garage.

Tessa Torgovitsky, a women’s and gender studies major, enjoyed the unity that the march represented. Tessa says: “This march was a way for everyone to see that we reject the direction our nation is taking thanks to those in power. We came together as a unified voice, and it was powerful. What’s important now is making sure the movement does not lose momentum.”

under: Publications

A Trip to Oregon to Attend the Tin House Winter Workshop

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | February 6, 2017 Comments Off on A Trip to Oregon to Attend the Tin House Winter Workshop |

by: Laura Cannon

Laura is a graduate student earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. She received funding from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Travel Award to travel to Oregon for the Tin House Winter Workshop.

Consider the opportunity to discuss syntax and subordinate sentences, or the meaning of place in writing, or how to navigate the world of submissions, led by accomplished novelists. Imagine hearing these conversations with a group of twenty writers from across the country while overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a forty-five-foot bluff. This was part of the experience the Tin House Winter Workshop offered in my recent January weekend on the Oregon coast.

Nye Beach

The literary-themed Sylvia Beach Hotel hosted our group. It was the place we dined and traded our favorite books with each other the night before we separated into manuscript workshops. Workshopping is a standard practice in writing groups; a daunting experience to silently listen while colleagues discuss what is – but mostly what isn’t – working in our writing pieces. A month prior to the trip, each group member shared their work electronically and we individually read the manuscripts and noted feedback to improve the pieces. Then, during our weekend at the hotel, each participant was given an hour to receive constructive criticism from the group.

During the conversation about my piece, our discussion led back to the concept of the “through-line” which asks, what is the primary tension throughout the novel? What is the one theme (so to speak) that all the smaller tensions can be hung? We also discussed flashbacks versus progression of the now, and how to keep characters in conflict with one another. Another workshop discussion asked how to create multidimensional characters. Here we noted that each time a character is revisited, something new must be revealed to the reader. This deepens the character and keeps the story’s momentum moving forward. Our group had six workshops, and each one held valuable conversations about the craft of writing.

After workshops the group broke for lunch. This was an opportunity to get to know our fellow writers. Over tacos or clam chowder, we discussed what drives us to write, and what paths we hope to see our careers take. Establishing relationships with authors across the country was an invaluable part of the trip. Maintaining connection with at least a handful of these people will contribute to my own writing community post-graduation. With any luck, some of these people might be lifelong workshop partners from whom I can seek writing advice for years to come.

Being an author means publishing work. We heard from Tin House editor Michelle Wildgen about the interplay between editing and writing. Here, the concept is to constantly whittle the work until the true story is discovered. Do more in fewer pages. Michelle encouraged us to edit our work judiciously and willingly, in order to find the best version of our stories. Kevin Barry, an Irish author, then warned us against polishing a piece too much. He confided that there have been times he reverts back to his eighteenth draft from the twentieth, in order to “rough it up” a bit again. T. Geronimo Johnson challenged us to look at language on the sentence composition level, and consider whether we’re constructing our sentences with reasons of “and, and, and” or “because, because, because.” Write with intention-ality. Each author who spoke, spoke with the urgency that writing must intrigue its readers. As Michelle said, the words are always whispering “come here, come here – don’t make dinner, don’t do this or that, read instead.”

The weekend was a flourish of discussion and overwhelming activity. Nye Beach was the perfect setting for its intensity; Pacific waves crashing from just beyond the windows, the combination of rain and sunshine making rainbows each day, and the sheer expanse of the landscape humbling us as we learned.

I am so thankful to the office of the graduate school, the English department, and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences who contributed funds to make this trip a possibility. Without their generosity, I would not have been able to attend. So, to everyone involved in financial aid for this weekend – Thank You!

under: Publications

First Recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship Shares Experience Knowing the Well-Loved Activist and Scholar

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | January 31, 2017 Comments Off on First Recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship Shares Experience Knowing the Well-Loved Activist and Scholar |

Leigh Friar

Last August, to honor the memory of Dr. Alison Piepmeier, the College of Charleston’s Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program established a scholarship in her name.  Alison was known for her social activism, scholarship, and dedication to students.  As the Charleston City Paper put it, “Alison was a force of nature.”

This spring, Leigh Friar was chosen as the first recipient of the scholarship. Leigh is uniquely deserving of this award. In addition to her commitment to social activism, Alison was Leigh’s professor, mentor, and role model.

“Dr. Piepmeier had a significant influence on me – not only on my academic career but on my personal growth,” Leigh says.

Before leaving their family’s small farm on Johns Island, Leigh already committed to studying biology. “I wanted to go into the hard sciences because I believed that objectivity was the answer to every question,” Leigh says. After meeting Alison during their freshman seminar class, however, Leigh was intrigued. “When I asked her what it meant to study in women’s and gender studies she told me it was about questioning and challenging the perceived objectivity of academia and creating space for activism.”

Leigh declared a WGS major the following day.

Since freshman year, Leigh, now a senior, has worked with many organizations to help make a difference in the Charleston community. Leigh has worked with People Against Rape as a sexual assault survivor advocate, My Sister’s House as a crisis line advocate, and the Southern Poverty Law Center to raise funds for survivors of partner violence. Most recently, Leigh started volunteering as an organizer with Girls Rock Charleston, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering girls and transgender youth. Leigh also started working with We Are Family, an organization that provides opportunities to LGBTQI youth and straight ally youth, to start a support group for the parents of trans and gender non-conforming children. “These organizations have not only allowed me to see the practical application of my academic studies but to give back to my community,” Leigh says.

After graduation in May, Leigh plans to continue gender and sexuality studies at the graduate level and aspires to get a Ph.D. in social work in order to teach and inspire others, just like Alison did. “I watched as Dr. Piepmeier inspired students to unapologetically carve out space for themselves. I want to focus my teaching career on ethics in social work and intersectionality in academia.”

We’re certain that Alison would be proud to have Leigh as the first recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship.

Thank you to those who have donated to the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship in order to help students like Leigh. To learn about and donate to the fund, click here

Left to right: Women’s and Gender Studies Director Cara Delay, Leigh Frair, Provost Brian McGee

under: Publications

Our First Time Presenting at a Psychology Conference!

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | December 6, 2016 Comments Off on Our First Time Presenting at a Psychology Conference! |

by: Ashley Russell and Katie Smith

Thanks to the HSS Dean’s Excellence Fund, we had the opportunity to travel to Asheville, North Carolina, in November to present a poster at the Society of Southern Social Psychologist’s annual conference.  This was our first experience presenting research that we had been collaborating on with Dr. Chelsea Reid about “Attitude Alignment and Relational Humility.” Although we only presented to three people, it gave us a chance to speak in front of professional psychologists and student peers, which made us more confident after the experience. We were also able to talk to other students presenting research and sit in on a few talks about various social psychology studies being conducted in the southeast. One particular talk, changing the labels on feminism to make the concept more widely accepted across genders, was of particular interest to both of us.

This was a valuable experience for us because we got the chance to show off our own work and feel proud of it. Sometimes, it is hard to see why we spend so many hours in a lab conducting studies, running tests, and writing up research papers. But, attending this conference made us feel a part of a growing community of social psychologists all interested in explaining the human experience.


Left to right: Ashley Russell, Katie Smith

under: Publications

Travel Award Recipient Maisy Deans Presents Research in Asheville

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | November 29, 2016 Comments Off on Travel Award Recipient Maisy Deans Presents Research in Asheville |

by: Maisy Deans

I am currently a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in political science. I work in Dr. Reid’s Social Psychology lab on campus at the College of Charleston. This past fall, 2016, I was accepted to present our research at the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists (SSSP) conference in Asheville, NC. SSSP was founded by a group of social psychologists in 1978 and every year they host a nationwide conference where students, faculty and professional psychologists meet to share their research. I was awarded the School of Humanities and Social Sciences travel award, which made this inspiring opportunity possible.


Maisy Deans is pictured on the right.

The conference was such a new and exciting experience for me, one that I will remember forever, as it was my first psychology conference. I am very interested in learning about the self and relationships. At the conference, I attended several talks about new research on intimate connections, personal motivations, and the influence of perceived partner commitment. Additionally, I presented our research poster, and explained our study and its findings to attendees at the conference. I learned so much from this experience, both by presenting and by listening. It was especially amazing to meet with other aspiring psychologists and to discuss current research and future ideas. I look forward to continuing work in the social psychology lab, and I am so grateful to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences for helping me attend the SSSP Conference.

Maisy was awarded the HSS Travel Award, which was made possible by donations to the HSS Dean’s Excellence Fund. To help fund student conference travel, internships and other experiential learning opportunities, donate to the fund today!

under: Publications

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