I consider my classroom a think tank, where students become producers, rather than mere receivers, of knowledge. Class is part TED-style multimedia lecture, part informed debate, part collaborative work. One of the primary concerns of my classes is to allow students to realize the history of women’s and LGBTQI global, historic, and persisting inequality accompanied by discussion of strategies for change. I also bring a wide array of gendered topics and activities to my students – this semester we talked about the childfree lifestyle, ungendered toys, we “leaned in,” saw Girl Rising in the theatre together, had a potluck book club discussing The Beauty Myth, attended the Women’s Leadership Symposium, and used our smart phones to tweet Jeopardy voicing our displeasure at their sexist category “What Women Want” linking it to the famous hashtag #NotBuyingIt. I think when your students start bringing their friends to class, it is to some degree a measure that the students find the course relevant. Last semester, the class discussion was so lively that I started holding After Hours to continue the conversation. One topic that kept resurfacing was global LGBTQI and women’s rights—students were disturbed that a young girl in Africa would be forced to undergo FGM, that the girls in China are kept home from school, that being gay in many places on the planet is to take your very life in your hands. I’m hoping that the future research I plan to undertake on the globalized nature of sexism, heterosexism, and transphobia will enrich future class discussions.
As an Engaged Faculty Fellow at UM, my Women’s and Gender Studies classes include a civic engagement component. My creed is that scholarship has legs. The knowledge must leave the classroom, and students and faculty alike have an ethical responsibility to learn from their surrounding communities and to use their expertise to improve their community. In a sense, theory becomes action in my classes. For instance, last semester we learned about the perils of LGBTQI homelessness in the text and later on students worked on this same issue while volunteering at Miami’s Aqua Foundation for Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender women. Another tradition in my course is for the class to put on a fundraising event on campus. Last year we hosted a screening of Miss Representation at which we gave attendees blank postcards where they could write to the major networks requesting more diversity of size, gender, ethnicity, ability, race, and sexuality in the media. I try to teach students that knowledge, service, and advocacy are a powerful trifecta they can deploy for life.
I immersed myself in the diverse campus of UM; one of the aspects I enjoyed mentoring and teaching a diverse body of students, in fact, UM was voted the most diverse campus by Princeton Review in 2011. I worked to nurture that diversity through my work as the Program Director and President of the Women’s Commission, my position as faculty advisor for the Black Female Development Circle, my promotion of Diversity Week, my founding of the Sexual Assault Survivors Group and my faculty advisor role with National Organization for Women @UM. I was part of a delegation to establish gender neutral bathrooms on campus. I served as gender advisor for the UM School of Law for their conference on gender violence, CONVERGE. I am also developing our new Women’s and Gender Studies website where I am setting up an “Activism” page and a Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) 45-page Resource List which I compiled over several months and which includes WGS Tweeters, assorted WGS articles, WGS viral videos, WGS quotations, a WGS playlist, WGS films, WGS book recommendations, and classic WGS bumper stickers.
I believe in great collaboration across the university – I’ve worked with rare books librarians on a feminist zine exhibit, I’ve cosponsored events with SpectrUM, the LGBTQI group on campus, I’ve lectured about sexuality in my colleague’s religion class. This interdisciplinary nature of a vibrant campus is what has tested and grows my scholarship and pedagogy.
My Women’s and Gender Studies class is a tour de force of gender, sexuality, and feminism: We look at the historical, legal, political, philosophical, and social underpinnings of each gendered issue we encounter. And, of course, we must relate gender and sexuality to larger arguments happening in the realms of race, class, ability, age, education, nationality, religion, and ethnicity. The course focuses on the lives of women—women at work, women in the bedroom, women in the boardroom, women in government and women’s international sisterhood. We also measure how women’s and gender issues are enacted around the globe. And we explore the changing patterns of relationships between the genders and possibilities for the future. Special emphasis is placed on the connection between theory and practice. This course also incorporates projects that promote social change, gay rights and the empowerment of women.
In addition to my graduate work in literature and Women’s and Gender studies, I have a master’s in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in psychology so I bring a rich, cross–disciplinary perspective to my classes. My assignments share a commitment to developing critical thinking, reading, and writing skills while tracing connections between literary texts and their historical, political, and cultural contexts. I have many years of experience teaching at institutions ranging from a historically black university, to a private liberal arts college and a Research I university, so I have instructed a diverse body of students, and I treasure the intellectual diversity of the classroom. My pedagogy continues outside the classroom; I mentor my students through one-on-one conferences and service projects.