Gender issues faced head-on at Rider

Dr. Sharon Mirchandani was recognized with the Sadie Ziegler-Bernice Gee award for her research on female composers and forthcoming book.

By Chris Mitsoulis

A highlight of this year’s University Day activities was the annual Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium, an event filled with student panels, awards and presentations about today’s gender issues. It was held yesterday in Sweigart Auditorium.

The colloquium, held each spring on the Lawrenceville campus, is the culmination of the work of students and faculty in the area of Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Two awards were presented at the event, honoring a faculty member and a student.

Sharon Mirchandani, associate professor of Theory and Composition at Westminster Choir College, Westminster College of the Arts, was awarded the Sadie Ziegler-Bernice Gee Award. The award, established in 1986, honors faculty, staff and administrators who have contributed significantly to ending gender-based discrimination on campus, in their field and in their communities. Mirchandani’s research has focused on female composers; her book on the American composer, Marga Richter, is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press.

Mynik Pizzigoni, recipient of the 2011 Virginia Cyrus Scholarship, is earning her B.A. in Liberal Studies from the College of Continuing Studies. Pizzigoni is a minor in the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. She is a non-traditional student and the first person in her family to go to college. She was also a featured student panelist.

A focal point of the day-long event was the keynote performance of Yellow Rage, which featured Asian-American poets Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh, who founded the “spoken word” group. The performance is a mixture of spoken word and musical acts that draw on diverse genres including hip-hop, theatrical monologues and free verse in an effort to address topics such as cross-cultural conflict, sex trafficking, domestic violence and anti-Asian discrimination.

At the heart of Yellow Rage’s poetry is a desire to present a perspective that challenges ignorance and hatred, and holds people of any race, gender, ethnicity or religious belief accountable for ideas and behaviors. Through anger, pain, joy, celebration and humor, Vilayphonh and Myers strive to facilitate honest dialogue with their poetry. They hope to move themselves and others forward to recognize the humanity of others and acknowledge the human desire for peace, healing, happiness and love.

The group has been featured in the HBO television series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and the DVD of the show’s first season. It has also released two CDS, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, Yellow Rage, Volume 1 and Yellow Rage, Handle With Care, Volume 2.

Four student panels also offered their perspectives on this year’s colloquium theme: transgressions. A faculty committee that deemed these works to be among the most outstanding selected the student panelists.

“Students from all colleges and schools were allowed to submit papers to the committee,” said Mary Morse, acting director of the Gender and Sexuality Studies program.

Presentations included topics such as “Women’s Roles, Religion and Globalism,” “Gender and Literature,” “Gender and the Media” and “Taking Action: Gender and Sexuality Outside the Classroom.” In all, there were more than 20 student panelists presenting.

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