Archive | Student Spotlights

Student Spotlight: Lauren Graham

We asked Lauren to answer the following questions:

  • What is your hometown, your pronouns, and your major(s)/minor(s)?
  • What areas/aspects of activism (gender, women, children, etc.) and/or social justice do you find most engaging/interesting, and why?
  • Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations.
  • What impact have your WGS courses had on you? and/or: Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate?
  • What does being an Alison Piepmeier scholar mean to you?
  • What are your plans and goals after graduation?

Lauren’s Answers:

Lauren Kendall Graham (she/her/hers)
● Honors College Class of 2023
● Major: Biochemistry
● Minor: Women and Gender Studies
● Hometown: Citronelle, Alabama

Lauren Graham
This summer, I received a SURF grant to co-author and help conduct the “Do You Want a Period?” campaign. This project was created to gather data concerning women’s knowledge concerning contraceptives. So many women are unaware that the withdrawal bleeding that happens at the end of the birth control pill cycle is unnecessary. Contraceptives can change a woman’s period or can sometimes prevent her from having one at all. This study consisted of an interview that determined the extent of the interviewee’s familiarity with contraceptives as well as what would appeal best to them in a campaign. My main role was to recruit and interview participants, as well as co-author sections of the manuscript. This research is important to me as I plan on pursuing a career in women’s health. I am currently majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. I hope to attend medical school and, after my residency, practice within the field of women’s health. I am extremely interested in the current issues that are relevant to women’s health in the United States and further globally. I feel that my research with the Women’s Health Research Team is helping me to prepare for issues and phenomena that I will definitely encounter throughout my career. I feel that there is a stigma surrounding women’s health issues. People my age feel uncomfortable when I bring up issues or current legislation that concern women’s health or reproductive rights. I feel that my work on these projects helps me to communicate better with my peers, most of whom are women, that our health issues and complications are normal topics and that we should not be embarrassed to discuss them. The more I study women’s health, the more work I find that needs to be done. Most women do not understand contraceptives or know about the multitude of options that are available regarding their reproductive health. I want my generation to become informed and empowered about their freedom and options concerning their sexual health. I am most interested in reproductive justice because when I was in high school in Alabama, I watched my state supreme court take away my reproductive rights to my own body. I was an active member of the Women’s Health Research Team from Fall 2020-Fall 2021. In the Fall of 2021, I left Charleston to do an exchange semester in Aalen, Germany where I conducted research. I am a proud member of Alpha Delta Pi ,and I currently serve as the Vice President of Administration for the Panhellenic Council. WGS has allowed me to take courses that discuss issues in our society regarding women’s health. I have also learned so much about families in my current sociology class. Being an Alison Piepmeier is such an honor. Alison Piepmeier was an active feminist who is so inspirational to me. I hope I am honoring her legacy with the work I am doing.

Student Spotlight: Denver Tanner

What is your hometown, your pronouns, and your major(s)/minor(s)?Denver Tanner

My home town is Inman, South Carolina, a small mountain town on the outskirts of Spartanburg, SC. My major is political science with a concentration in Philosophy, Politics, and the law. My minors are Women’s and Gender Studies and Studio Art. 

What areas/aspects of gender activism and/or social justice do you find most engaging/interesting, and why?

I find LGBTQIA+ issues most engaging to me when it comes to gender activism and social justice due to my identity as a non-binary lesbian. This aspect of my identity is very important to me because I spent the first twenty-one years of my life in the closet. Now that I have a supportive community, a self-love mentality that enabled me to be out, I want to support those who continue to struggle with this aspect of their lives. 

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 involved in many extra circular activities. I currently work for the REACH department at the College of Charleston as their student assistant and academic tutor. I’ve worked in these roles for approximately four years. I also work part-time at Cru Catering as a banquet server. I am involved in multiple scholarship programs including HSS LEAP, Ketner-Crunelle Scholar, and the Phi Eta Sigma honor society. Last semester I was the vice president for the pre-law society at CofC.  I am also starting my Master’s degree in Public Administration this semester. In fall 2019, I traveled to Trujillo, Spain for a faculty-led study abroad trip. 

What impact have your WGS courses had on you? and/or: Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate? 

My first experience with a WGS course was as a tutor for the REACH program in spring 2020. I was tutoring a student in an introduction to WGS course. I actually took the same course last semester for a minor requirement and my professor used the same textbook. This introduction to the program was one of my first college experiences in intersectionality, equity, and greatly aided in my pathway to accepting myself as a member of the LGBT community. My second experience with a WGS course was in Trujillo, Spain with Dr. Kendra Stewart. She taught a comparison course about the lives of women in America and Spain. This class is what inspired me to make WGS one of my minors. 

What does being a Ketner-Crunelle scholar mean to you?

Being a Ketner-Crunelle scholar means I get to fulfill one of my childhood dreams – being supported by, while simultaneously, uplifting the local LGBTQIA+ community. It means so much to me to be out and proud and to help those in my CofC community, and the greater Charleston community, celebrate their identities in a safe space. 

What are your plans and goals after graduation?

After I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Political Science, I will continue my education at the College of Charleston by getting my Master’s in Public Administration. I will continue volunteering with a local LGBTQIA+ activism organization. I am currently looking for full-time, salary-based employment at the College of Charleston. 

Student Spotlight: Marissa Haynes

What is your hometown, your pronouns, and your major(s)/minor(s)?Marissa Haynes

My name is Marissa Haynes, and my pronouns are she/her. I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia called Newtown, Pennsylvania. At The College, I am a Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies double major and a Spanish minor.

What areas/aspects of gender activism and/or advocacy for women and girls you find most engaging/interesting/what you’re most passionate about?

Sexual assault awareness is an area of gender activism that I have found myself engaging with most in recent years. The empowerment of women and queer peoples has become a part of my calling. Self defense, for example, is about way more than just learning how to defend yourself physically. It is about challenging a culture that has normalized the constant violation and antagonism of the bodies of women and LGBTQIA+ folx. Another area of advocacy that I am passionate about is the protection and education of children, specifically children from families of a low socioeconomic status and/or who experience marginalization. Children are arguably the most vulnerable members of our society, and as such deserve better than to have decisions made on their behalf that do not prioritize their safety and well-being.

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations.

One of my favorite things that I get to do is being the teaching assistant for the Jiu Jitsu for Self Defense class at the College. In this class, we teach students how to defend themselves using the art of Brazilian jiu jitsu, which is a martial art that emphasizes the use of leverage and physics to overcome an opponent instead of brute force or striking. As the teacher’s assistant, I am able to incorporate Feminist theory into each lesson in order to combat rape culture and empower our students emotionally and mentally, as well as physically. I am also currently interning with an organization called Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) to help them upstart a national podcast called “Feminist Intersections.” As another part of this internship, I am currently working to launch a Women’s and Gender Studies podcast here at The College through which we hope generate important feminist conversations by highlighting the members of our WGS community here in Charleston who are doing important activist work and encouraging those in our community who want to know what they could do to help.

What impact did your WGS course have on you? and/or: Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate?

My academic career in WGS has pushed me to ask and begin to answer difficult questions about the functionality of society as we know it and my role in it. I truly believe in the power of a WGS education to make students not only productive members of society but constructive ones: instilling in students the tools to approach the real world issues that they will inevitably face post-grad and to make effective change in the world around them.

What does being a Ketner scholar mean to you?

It has been an absolute honor to be named a Ketner scholar. This scholarship has simultaneously fostered my passion for activism and provided me with the space and resources to step outside of my comfort zone to advance my potential for changemaking. It has meant the world to me to receive the support that this scholarship has offered me, and it will act as a jumping off point for all of my future activism and professional endeavors.

What are your plans and goals after graduation?

After graduation, I have goals to use my majors and minor to enter the social services and fight for those too often forgotten in the heightened political, economic, and social discussions throughout our country and the world: children. Specifically, I want to put my efforts into improving the child welfare system in ways that will provide better support and more effective systems that prioritize keeping families together in order to proactively and sustainably assist children in need. I’d like to someday earn a PhD in Sociology, and later in life, I hope to return to academia as a professor and mentor.

Student Spotlight: Mariam Amireh

headshot of Mariam Amireh

What is your hometown, your pronouns, and your major(s)/minor(s)?

My hometown is Charleston, South Carolina. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a double major in Communication and Sociology and a minor in International Studies. I am also the current recipient Skirt. Magazine Endowed Scholarship.

What areas/aspects of gender activism and/or advocacy for women and girls you find most engaging/interesting/what you’re most passionate about? 

I am very passionate about social justice and the empowerment of women, children, and minority groups. There is so much injustice in our world, a lot of which is targeted toward women and minority populations and perpetuated through systemic inequity. One way to combat these injustices is through education, which can help empower people with the confidence and strength that they need to be a part of creating positive change.

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations. 

I believe that education is the beacon of a brighter future. The learning process can be challenging, especially for kids that face language barriers, and I am committed to tutoring and mentoring elementary and middle school students to help them overcome this barrier and any others they might face. I have mentored students in Charleston and during my studies abroad, but I have become even more committed to this work as the pandemic has forced students to transition from traditional to online learning formats. Helping my students adjust to this new format while working on the skills and confidence they need to succeed in their studies is extremely rewarding. It allows me to help them gain self-confidence and realize that they can succeed in the classroom and in all aspects of their lives.

I also frequently volunteer in animal shelters and enjoy fostering kittens until they’re ready to be placed for adoption. The only downside to that is that I often get too attached to them!

What impact did your WGS course have on you? and/or: Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate? 

One of the first courses I took during my college career was Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies. It turned out to be one of my favorites! I truly enjoyed it because not only did it present a foundation for a solid understanding of issues relating to women and gender, but it also gave insight into the structural and cultural origins of current inequity and injustice. In Intro to WGS, a variety of topics are presented through a multitude of perspectives, which leads to a broader, more well-rounded understanding of these important issues.

Every CofC student would benefit from taking a WGS course before they graduate because understanding how to navigate issues of gender and sexuality provides historical context and perspective on past, present, and future obstacles to equality. WGS courses also create productive spaces for students to have critical discussions on relevant social issues.

What are your plans and goals post graduation?

After I graduate, I hope to pursue a career that allows me to help underprivileged and underrepresented groups overcome the structural hurdles that restrict them from equal access to opportunities and resources. I’m really interested in finding a position within the field of communication, especially one that intersects with social work. While I am not totally sure where life will take me, especially during these unprecedented times, I am hopeful that my future endeavors allow me to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Student Spotlight: Jody Bell

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are your pronouns? Your hometown? Your major(s)/minor(s)?

My hometown is Greenwich, Connecticut.  I use she/her/hers pronouns and I am majoring in Finance with a minor in International Studies.

What areas/aspects of WGS do you find the most engaging? OR what are you most passionate about?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in some sphere of activism. Whether that was protesting atop my mother’s shoulders when I was 5-6 years old, or organizing walkouts in middle school. However, when I turned 15 something shifted, and I didn’t quite feel content with volunteering or protesting. I was experiencing some serious burnout, and I kept thinking of ways that I could maximize my impact and activism in more efficient ways that aided hundreds or thousands of individuals in need. 

At that time I had a few friends with undocumented parents, and I was in the process of researching what they should do in case of parental deportation. In this process I realized that this was my opportunity to maximize my impact and deliver aid to thousands instead of a few. That’s why I released my first venture; In Case of Deportation (icodhelp.org). I took all of the research I compiled, and released it in an online format that was holistic enough to help any individual with undocumented parents learn about their next steps.

It was this shift from a more “follower” centered activism role to a leadership position that really ignited my passion and made me understand what I was truly capable of. It lit a fire in me that has seeped into my perception of myself, and motivated me to just keep producing new, innovative, and sometimes unorthodox ways of engaging in activism. 

photograph of Jody Bell speaking at a "Girls with Impact" event

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing, or any involvement you have on campus with clubs or organizations.

I still have a major focus on the undocumented/mix-status communities. Most of the work I’m doing currently is drawing awareness to this issue here in South Carolina, where immigration is not a major focal point. So, I am going to be a TedX speaker about this topic this March, and I am currently working to create a college-student-specific branch of In Case of Deportation. 

Given the events of this past summer, I have also committed to educating myself about the Black Lives Matter movement, and doing what I can to begin activism work within that sector. I engaged in an independent research project with Honors Faculty Professor, Lancie Affonso, and freshman, Brandon Alston, to assess equity within the College of Charleston’s maintenance and dining staff. Through this research, we learned that these groups are predominately Black (60.3%) and are at the absolute frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through examining employee benefit packages, risk mitigation work, and community spread in the areas that employee’s live, we are working to uncover how our campus offers a microscopic view of systemic racism, and thus describes how the Black population is disproportionately affected by COVID-19. 

What does being a Ketner scholar mean to you?

Currently I have no financial support for my education. I already work two jobs to pay for my cost of living, however, the Ketner scholarship has greatly alleviated the financial burden of my tuition. Without this scholarship I would most likely need another job, and thus wouldn’t be able to devote my time to the activism initiatives that I am passionate about. Quite frankly this scholarship has given me the financial freedom to aid my community through my work.

What are your plans for the future?

While I am currently just a sophomore, I have pretty big plans! I do interpret activism through an unorthodox lens — hence why I am majoring in Finance. I hope that once I graduate, I can go into the wealth management field (specifically ESG investing), and aid individuals in sustainable asset management solutions. In less finance-y terms, I want to help people invest in companies that are actively doing good in their communities; this way we can help people accumulate wealth while supporting businesses that aim to do good for the world. 

However, these are just my post-graduation plans. As I mentioned before, I am financing my own education, so once I work in finance I hope to attend law school with my earnings. Specifically, I want to do human rights law; fighting discimination on a case-to-case basis and making a career out of the pursuit of justice.

Student Spotlight: Sarah Claire Mullis

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are your pronouns? Your hometown? Your major(s)/minor(s)?

I am from Greenville, South Carolina. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a Women’s and Gender Studies major, and I’m minoring in anthropology and psychology.

Why did you choose to study WGS?

I first wanted to go into a social science field and just tailor my electives around my interests in sustainability and WGS. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was only truly passionate about my WGS courses. They were the ones that made me crave knowledge, seek action, and reevaluate my individual perspective. I decided I wanted to spend my time learning about things that made me passionate, so I became a WGS major! Its interdisciplinary perspective promotes a holism that takes students further than most majors.
Sarah Claire Headshot

What areas/aspects of WGS do you find the most engaging? OR what are you most passionate about?

I am particularly interested in/passionate about reproductive justice, and race/gender/sexuality and environmental studies. I have a lot more to learn, but I am interested in plant medicine as a method for emotional and physical healing. There is a movement called rewilding I am really interested in as well.

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing, or any involvement you have on campus with clubs or organizations.

I am on the leadership board for Alliance for Planet Earth and the new WGS Student Advisory Committee. I’m also the current Alison Piepmeier Endowed Scholarship recipient.

What does WGS mean to you? Why should every CofC student take at least one WGS class before they graduate?

WGS courses are important because they provide a perspective students really can’t get from any other discipline. They show that there is more to life than meets the eye, and they teach students how to look below the surface at the true issues facing individuals and populations.

What are your plans post-graduation?

WGS teaches you things that can be applied in every aspect of life. Studying minorities and injustice builds more empathetic, intuitive people, and this can be used regardless of what you are doing. I am interested in becoming an herbalist (plant medicine) and doula. I hope to use plant medicine to provide people with access to low-cost medicine that can also be emotionally healing. Specifically, I am interested in promoting herbal resources related to family planning/reproductive health. But I still have a lot more to learn.

Student Spotlight: McKayla Cook

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are your pronouns? Your hometown? Your major(s)/minor(s)?

My hometown is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am a Biology major (B.S.) and Spanish minor.

What areas/aspects of WGS do you find most engaging/interesting? What are you passionate about?

Reproductive rights is an aspect of gender-based activism I am especially passionate about, and a big part of this is comprehensive sexual education. For me it’s about having an informed choice about what happens to our bodies and how to care for and love them. What happens to our own bodies is something only we should decide, and in the area of reproduction this right is continuously disregarded. Repro rights are truly human rights.
Makayla Cook headshot

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations.

On campus, I am the president of Planned Parenthood’s Generation Action chapter where we offer students ways to support our local Planned Parenthood, protect reproductive rights, gain education on healthy safe sex and legistlature surrouding repro rights, and gain a community that values bodily autotomy. We also volunteer for other organizations such as the SC democratic party, for example, to phonebank for this recent election. I am the treasurer of the sports club, belly dance, which this is my 7th semester participating in. I am also a Supplemental Instructor with the Center for Student Learning for BIOL111 this semester, and I am a Senior Leader for the SI program as well, mentoring new SI’s. This semester I am also working on a Bachelor’s Essay on proteomics research with Dr. Michael Janech at CofC.

What does the Ketner Scholarship mean to you?

The Ketner scholarship for me has been a source of community, inspiration, and motivation. I have gained much awareness of the community/CofC and what I can do to help improve it, and have met the kindest coolest people along the way, and it drives me to keep fighting for equality. I am so grateful for the mentorship of Dr. De Welde and the generosity of Linda Ketner that has changed my life for the better and shaped my college experience into something positive and persistent.

What are you plans post-graduation? And how will you take what you’ve learned in WGS with you once you’re no longer a student here?

After graduation, I will be taking the MCAT and applying to medical school. During my gap year I plan to work with my phlebotomy certificate, research (probably in women’s health), and continue to volunteer with Planned Parenthood as well as engage with local activism. My Ketner community has taught me that there are endless connections to make, work to be done, and ways to make positive change, you just have to start talking to people! No matter where I am or what I do I can get involved.

Student Spotlight: Cam Lacey

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What are your pronouns? Your hometown? Your major(s)/minor(s)?

My pronouns are she/her. I am from Westchester, New York, and I’m double majoring in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Why did you choose to study WGS?

I don’t know if I have an answer to that question. I think WGS found its way to me. I had the great privilege of attending the number one all-female boarding school in the country, Miss Porter’s. My time at Porter’s was 100% the best time of my life. However, while attending this amazing institution geared to the improvement and growth of women, I never had any classes where the sole focus was on the woman as an individual. The WGS program at the College of Charleston gave me the opportunity to fulfill the hole that Porter’s couldn’t fill.Cam Lacey headshot

What areas/aspects of WGS you find most engaging/interesting/what you’re most passionate about?

I, personally, am a fan of the structure of WGS courses. Within the major, about 99% of my classes have been discussion based, as opposed to stereotypical lecture classrooms. This has been helpful to my personal growth because I learn better when I have the opportunity to talk it out with my peers versus constantly being talked to. Subsequently, I am passionate about the students. All WGS students are incredibly passionate about all issues that concern WGS. Even the issue they might not be incredibly crazy about, they support. The major truly feels like a small family, calling it merely a community would be almost insulting to how close-knit it really is.

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 currently serving as the president of the Charleston 40 Tour Guide Association and have been a tour guide for 3 years. I have recently added on the position of Public Relations for the remainder of the Academic Year. Also, in the Office of Admissions, I have been a Student Ambassador for the past 4 years. I have been an orientation intern through the office of New Student Programs for 3 years. Last summer, I transitioned into the role of Senior Customer Service Representative. I served as a Peer Advisor in the Office of Academic Advising & Planning Center. I am a member of the Illustrious Iota Omicron Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

What does WGS mean to you? and/or: Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate?

I think it is incredibly important for every CofC student to take a WGS class before the graduate. The College of Charleston is built on the foundation of a liberal arts education. Although it was annoying at first, it is truly beautiful because students are given the opportunity to dip their foot into every pond and be boundless, we have the great privilege of deciding what out future to be. Yet, in order to make the most inclusive future imaginable WGS has to be in the conversation. The same people have been in my classes throughout my time in the College, and it proves that those people care about equal opportunities and inclusivity. However, the conversation needs to leave the same group of people and impact a larger population in order to make a recognizable difference.

You’re about to be graduating soon, so we HAVE to ask you this question: what are you plans post-graduation? And how will you take what you’ve learned in WGS with you once you’re no longer a student here?

After I graduate in May I am going off to Nursing School, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time! I am set to attend Columbia University where I will earn my M.S in Nursing and DNP in Nurse Midwifery. I truly believe that everything I have learned within my field of study will play a role in how I choose to set up my career. I have learned a variety of concepts across departments ranging from Women & Religion, Managing Diversity and the Sexuality of Childbirth.

Student Spotlight: Tanner Crunelle

We sat down with WGS and English double-major Tanner Crunelle to talk about his passions, his work with I-CAN, and his involvement in activism on campus and beyond.

Why did you chose to study WGS? 

I chose to study WGST because of a few reasons. One, all the WGST professors — or at least those who consistently thought about race, gender, sexuality, and oppression — seemed to be my favorite. I also found a lot of WGST coursework both on accident and at a crossroads in my life. After dropping my education major, I had to take stock of what brought me joy. It’s destroying and rebuilding things like gender, I’ve come to find, through language, and direct action. All while clarifying new ways of relating to people along the way. tanner headshot

What areas/aspects of WGS you find most engaging/interesting/what you’re most passionate about? 

There is immense joy in thinking culturally, which means also across traditional boundaries of disciplines in academe. Much of my work is in reading cultural texts of many forms against the tendency to be skeptical, stingy, pessimistic reader and is dissatisfied with disciplinary logics of argumentation, representation, production. What would it mean for the things we read and study to give us joy and show possibilities, rather than dampen our spirits with claims to “truth?” I think this is a theoretical and conceptual problem, but one intimately tied to our ability to actually enact these possibilities through our various activisms. WGS coursework allows for that exploration.

Tell us about any extracurricular work you’re doing (ex. volunteering/local activism), or any involvement you have on campus with clubs/organizations

In January, I’ll start a certification program to become a yoga teacher. I recently saw a tweet about how the pain we have inside us, how we can’t sit on it, that we can and therefore must channel it into healing others. With our queer bodies facing unprecedented violence in this modern age, self-care must be thought of as a matter of survival. Figuring out our own boundaries so we can be love generously. Nourishing our flesh so we can carry on doing the things it allows us to do. Rewriting the very basis of how we think about nonviolence, locating it in ourselves and in our muscles, tendons, blood, bone, marrow, our every last sinew. Through this teaching, I look forward to becoming even more deeply connected to Charleston as my home, and my LGBTQ+ siblings working tirelessly in addressing our place-based trauma. In addition, I have various on-campus projects coming from the Intersectional Cougar Action Network (I-CAN), which is a coalition of minoritized students demanding a more just CofC campus, and from Out Front, which aims to foster queer community and support queer students at CofC through various directed initiatives and interventions into institutional policy and programming. I also chair the student planning committee for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) upcoming Diversity Equity and Student Success conference.

Why should every CofC student take a WGS class before they graduate? 

Being able to call in a variety of seemingly unrelated sources and perspectives, and having faculty nourish this tendency of mine, has been the most formative trend across WGST faculty. But I wouldn’t know that was something I could do safely, and have it be appreciated, had I not taken a WGST class. So try one–and experiment. Do all of the reading! Ask lots of questions! Make a fool of yourself! It will pay dividends in your personal life, enrich your thinking in other classes, and give you a lot of great concepts to work with for the rest in whatever careers you end up in.

What are you plans post-graduation? And how will you take what you’ve learned in WGS with you once you’re no longer a student here?

Most likely, I will next spend some time traveling the world and teaching English in Europe. Then I will start with my PhD. I knew I was good at school, but I couldn’t see myself as an author, as someone authorized to speak and write with authority, until the WGST coursework I pursued and advisors I worked with at CofC. There’s nothing scarier to The System than someone who knows where they’re going, why they’re there, and how they’re going to overthrow whatever the current regime may be. I think I have lots of those tools now, and a powerful analytic to bring to all the conversations I’m a part of.

Student Spotlight: Kristen Graham

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.Kristen Graham

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.

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