We sat down with WGS and Public Health double-major Kristen Graham to talk about how she came to study WGS, what areas of WGS she’s most passionate about, and her work with I-CAN.
First off, why did you choose to major in WS?
I chose to major in WGS because I knew my own intersections within my identity and I wanted to expand beyond my own understanding to help other black women fight the systematic oppression that has been trying to silence us. I thought this major would pair well with my public health major to focus on the policies and mistreatments plague black women and women of color in our country.
What areas/aspects of WGS you find most engaging or interesting? Or, what WGS-related issues are most passionate about?
I am most passionate about Black Feminists Theory and Queer Theory. As a black Pansexual woman I’ve started my journey to being proud of all of my identities through the critical thinking WGS classes and professors have helped me gain.
Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations.
I am apart of the coalition Intersectional Cougar Action Network (I-CAN). Our purpose is to organize and collaborate with students throughout multicultural and marginalized communities. We strive to uplift student voices throughout those communities by directly contacting administrators and faculty to address the harms we face. I am now I-CAN’s Curriculum Committee chair. I m also representing I-CAN and what we stand for on the QEP committee with SLI and the Ad Hoc curriculum committee addressing diversity concerns. As well as volunteering with the Elizabeth Warren campaign.
Why should every student take a WGS class before they graduate?
I believe WGS classes aide one to think critical of gender, sexuality, race, class and other social identities. I think every person on campus should understand how our social identities have impacted the way our nation’s history has been taught, as well as the way in which structural and cultural systems are still impacted today. It’s a lot deeper than personal biases, and students should take at least two courses to enrich their understanding of diversity, intersectionality, and equity.
What are your plans post-graduation, and how do you plan to take what you’ve learned in WGS with you moving forward?
I’ve really been considering working at an NGO or as a lobbyist after I graduate. I really want to effect positive change in our federal and local policies that reflect diverse population in which it governs. I especially want to advocate for Black women and the LGBTQ+ by using the connections and materials I’ve gained through my WGS classes. Mostly I want to dare to defy the restrictive culture norms society has placed on us by simply being my Queer self, changing and challenging what leadership even looks like in these spaces.