Alumni Spotlight: Jackie Fielding (she/her)

Jackie Fielding headshot

How did you come to be interested in WGS as an undergrad, and what memorable experiences with WGS during your time at the College can you share with us?

When I first came to CofC, WGS wasn’t a major yet! I initially didn’t have housing figured out, and I was placed in a living/learning community, where an entire class of people lived in the same dorm (McConnell) and took both Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies and Intro to American Government. (This was a really fun setup, and a great way to get to know people!) Before college, I don’t think I considered myself a feminist—I didn’t see the many ways, large and small, that sexism, misogyny, and numerous privileges and biases permeate in my life and the larger society. After my first WGS class, I was hooked, and made it my major as soon as that was possible!

My favorite WGS-related experience was working on the Vagina Monologues (one year as a participant, and one year as a co-director). The group of people who were willing to take evenings and weekends to gather and work on the performance were wonderful! I also really loved my WGS capstone class—everyone wrote really interesting papers! I ended up submitting my capstone paper to a conference and presenting about it, and that experience was pretty cool as well!

What have you been doing since graduation? What are your aspirations for the near future?

After graduation, I spent two years serving in full-time volunteer programs (which subsidized my housing, food, and healthcare expenses): I spent one year working at a nonprofit daycare center aiming to help teen moms in Chicago through an AmeriCorps program, and a second year working at a restraining order office in Milwaukee through another volunteer program. I then worked in Chicago for an additional two years, deciding about and preparing for law school. I attended the University of Minnesota Law School in my hometown, and just graduated in the spring of 2020. Thankfully, I passed the bar last fall, and I’m now a licensed attorney! I’m currently working (remotely) as a fellow and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where I work on criminal legal system policy reforms to help end mass incarceration.

My aspirations are to continue building my knowledge and expertise in the criminal legal system reform field, as well as explore how I can contribute novel ideas and reports to my field. I want to grow as an expert in the intersection of women and the criminal legal system as well. I also consider teaching or writing a book some day!

How did your studies in WGS prepare you for your current work/activism/research project? How do you find yourself incorporating skills that you learned in WGS classes in your life/career today?

My WGS courses opened my eyes to a world of injustices—microaggressions, a lack of intersectional feminism, pervasive racism, classism, and disability discrimination—basically, it was foundational in my journey as a social justice advocate. I carry the lens of feminism with me throughout all of my experiences, from the media and entertainment I consume, to the art I support, to the policies I advocate for. (I have been working on only watching movies that pass the Bechdel test, which I learned about as a WGS major!) I have tried to remain curious about who is telling the stories I hear, who is left out of key conversations, and how to engaging in affected people when coming up with solutions to problems.

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