By ALICEN HACKNEY
The women’s and gender studies (WGST) major has been disconnected in its interdisciplinary setup since its beginning. Sophomore WGST and English creative writing double major Sarah Parker is looking to change that by starting a foundational club for the department.
“Because the women’s and gender studies major is an almost entirely interdisciplinary major, students choose courses from all other departments at UMW that are WGST designated to fulfill their requirements,” said Parker.
“This gives me a broader range of disciplines to explore in connection to women’s and gender studies, but unfortunately the interdisciplinary nature of the WGST major has prevented me from connecting with other WGST majors in the ways that students in more centrally-focused majors are able to.”
“Really, my intention for starting this club is to create a space where WGST majors can find a sense of community, be more involved with the WGST program, and have more opportunities to explore their interests in a variety of ways outside of specific coursework,” said Parker.
Leading up to the interest meeting on Friday, March 29, Parker had already started receiving support for the club from faculty and students alike.
“I’ve received a number of emails from WGST majors and affiliated faculty who are interested in the club. I definitely didn’t expect this much support for the club so soon, but I’m very excited about getting this club up and running as soon as possible,” said Parker.
“The support I have gotten thus far is extremely encouraging, and makes me even more certain that this is something that the women’s and gender studies department could greatly benefit from.”
Through the women’s and gender studies club, Parker hopes to implement her own ideas for the club such as tabling to raise awareness to different issues, offering voter registration and petitioning, while also being open to the ideas and project proposals of those whole join.
“Right now, I see this club becoming a networking opportunity for WGST students and faculty, and a way to promote the program on campus and engage in activism on campus and in the Fredericksburg community,” said Parker. “One of my primary ideas for what this club will become is a space that’s constantly growing, changing and adapting to the students involved, as well as the UMW and Fredericksburg communities.”
Students who attended the interest meeting were able to share their initial ideas and hopes for the club.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about women’s and gender studies in general,” said sophomore English major Alex Slaughter. “It is a small major, and although I’m an English major there are a lot of classes in the major itself that overlap. It’s interesting to learn more and also see things from a different perspective.”
“We see each other in the first required classes, and then we just take classes that are more like geared towards what we’re taking in our other departments or like that align with what we prefer more, so it’s nice to have an area where we could bond and get to know each other, and also be working towards what we’re learning in the classroom,” said sophomore women’s and gender studies major Khaila Nelson.
The club has also seen support from WGST professors and faculty of other disciplines.
“I am hopeful that our majors will take their own initiative and collaborate on projects that are meaningful to them, whether that’s educational in focus, bringing greater awareness to feminist and social justice issues, or whether it’s involving projects that would benefit the Fredericksburg community and build connections with the community around the university. I trust them to choose efforts that are meaningful to them and that are inspired by their choice of major,” said Dr. Kristin Marsh, a sociology and anthropology professor within the WGST major and faculty advisor for the club.
Moving forward, Parker plans for the women’s and gender studies club, prospectively titled the WGST Student Association, to be official on campus in the fall 2019 semester.
“It’s so exciting to explore new disciplines, new ways of thinking and new experiences through different departments that all tie back into the core of women’s and gender studies,” said Parker. “The ways that race, class, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, and a plethora of other factors all build a deeply intersectional way of understanding the world and all of its many cultures is something that I want to bring into this club through discussions, departmental events, fundraising, outreach, engagement and activism.”
The club plans to meet bi-weekly while also sponsoring other, topic-specific events. The club is still looking to fill many leadership positions.