By Megan Lupo
tudents with a variety of majors will present their original, diverse works related to gender or sexuality studies, along with a highly-anticipated keynote address, at the Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium in Sweigart Auditorium on March 29.
The colloquium is a 35-year tradition started by the founder of the Gender and Sexuality Studies program, Virginia J. Cyrus, as an opportunity for students to present their work on women’s issues. It has since evolved into a wider “spectrum of gender and sexual equality,” according to Mary Morse, English professor and director of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.
The event has been embraced by academic departments throughout Rider, as shown in the presenters’ different fields of study.
“The students who present, while some are gender and sexuality studies minors, the majority are from all across the university, and all kinds of disciplines,” Morse said. “So what it really begins to illustrate is how much these issues are important to students throughout the university.”
For English and philosophy major, Rebecca Foulks who is presenting her piece, “The Intricate Web of Relationships Between Young Women and Their Mentors in the Novels of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen,” was inspired by an empowering class.
“My piece was inspired in part by the influence of one of my professors, Laurel Harris,” she said. “I took her 20th Century British Literature class last spring, followed up by an independent study involving modernist female authors.
“Learning about all these incredible, talented women from an incredible, talented professor has just been an overwhelmingly illuminating experience. I am also very inspired by all the female modernist writers, particularly Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Bowen.”
What Franziska Schmitt, who is completing her masters in Business Communication, is looking forward to most is listening to the students’ works that are fueled by the passion of their interests.
“I am excited to get to know other presenters, learn from them, and hear their stories,” she said. “Indeed, gender and sexuality organizes much of our lives. While interacting with each other in any circumstance, we often know only one single story, and these single stories create stereotypes and are incomplete. But when we reject the single story and realize that ‘her’ is never a kind of a single story, we regain a kind of paradise.”
Schmitt is presenting her piece called “Gender Quotas: Do They Accelerate Workplace Diversity?”
“My work for this chapter focuses on underrepresented women in the German workforce,” she explained. “It was most exciting to evaluate that German society recognizes the need for greater acceptance of gender diversity and is taking steps in that direction.”
Morse is eager to learn what’s important to students, in regards to gender and sexual equality.
“I think there’s still a very strong interest in feminist issues, but I also think we’re looking at historical patterns or looking at the kinds of issues that are confronting anybody now who is an activist or trying to become an activist in matters related to gender and sexual equality,” she said. “I’m really impressed at the number of submissions we get and the number of students who are really consciously thinking about and examining these issues in an academic way.”
English major Samsara Siler, who is presenting her work “15 Things I Wish I Knew at 15: A Tribute to Young Women,” sees the relevance of having such an event.
“There is so much controversy lately about gender, identity and equality,” she said. “It’s important to be informed, and this is a fun, creative way to keep people informed.”
In addition to the student performers, documentary filmmaker Nancy Kates was unanimously chosen to be the keynote address by the Gender and Sexuality Studies faculty.
Morse was “very impressed” with Kates’ film work “Regarding Susan Sontag” and wants students to know that filmmaking can help them understand and highlight issues.
Describing the colloquium as a “very inclusive event” that also has “students from the Westminster Choir College contributing,” Morse’s statement is agreed upon by the students involved, as well.
“These are very important topics, and help bring together people and create a safe space for expression,” Foulks stated.
Originally printed in the 3/22/17 edition.