Women’s and Gender Studies seniors present culminating experience research

Juliette Gaggini, News Co-Editor

On Monday, April 5, the first three presentations of the 2021 Women’s and Gender Studies Student Speaker Series were given via Zoom. This year, the series is spread out over the course of three dates, with the remaining presentations happening on April 16, and April 20. Attendees have to register online before the event to have access, with registration links attached to the Speaker Series posters.

The series consists of 10 seniors who presented research projects, honors theses or internship experiences to students, faculty and staff. This year, the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) senior majors are presenting their independent research, which was conducted in the Fall 2020 Advanced Seminar in Women’s and Gender Studies course (WMST 400). This series was a culminating experience for senior WGS majors, with a learning community being formed together despite the different fields of research being pursued. 

Each event consists of three or four presentations with time for questions after each individual presentation, and time for broader group questions and discussions at the end. Each student’s research was independent and stemmed from different motives of interest.

For the first event, there were 22 attendees, including students, faculty and family. The first presenter was Meredith Sullivan ’21, whose research was titled, “Gender Based Discrimination at the University.” In her presentation, Sullivan addressed questions such as, “Why study gender based discrimination?” and related national statistics of gender based discrimination to issues that are present at the University. To collect data for her research, Sullivan used surveys, focus groups and Instagram polls. 

The second presenter was Hannah Lifter ’21 with her research titled, “A Contemporary Understanding and Analysis of Interpersonal Violence (IPV): The societal impacts and gender influences of IPV in queer relationships and the toxic environment that COVID-19 creates for victims of IPV.” In her research, Lifter discussed the prevalent issues of IPV through the pandemic lockdowns, an issue that is already underreported with a lack of education on IPV. Lifter also looked into the gap in research about IPV in the queer community. Lifter’s research was centered in 21st Century America on young women, the queer community, modern forms of media and COVID-19 and the relations to IPV.

The third and final presenter of the first night of the Student Speaker Series was Kate McGrath ’21. McGrath’s research was titled, “Diabetes Disparities: The Importance of Diverse Treatment Plans for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” Through her research, McGrath discussed issues of food insecurity and lack of access to health care with focus on the increasing numbers of Type 2 Diabetes in the United States.

“This research project was especially important to me because I was able to share it with my peers,” McGrath said. “Type 2 Diabetes is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. This is due to a myriad of environmental factors and inequalities in our healthcare system. These inequalities prevent patients from understanding their diagnosis and getting the resources they need to lead healthier lives.”

Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Erica Delsandro worked intensively with the student presenters on their research across the Fall semester in the Advanced Seminar in Women’s and Gender Studies. When asked about the WGS Student Speaker Series, Professor Delsandro said, “A strength of the research undertaken by WGS senior majors is that most of our students are double majors, which means that their projects are truly interdisciplinary. WGS is interdisciplinary by nature, but when students bring their additional majors to bear on their WGS projects, their research represent the social justice possibilities that emerge through intersectional feminist frameworks.”

Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Coralynn Davis was excited about all of the great work done by the presenters in this year’s Student Speaker Series. “We hope that those who attend the presentations will experience the diverse set of research questions that WGS students have an opportunity to explore in our department. We want to showcase the intersectional feminist methodological tools students are equipped with through their education in our department enabling them to explore social justice angles on the topics they explore — whether about questions of health, sport, relational violence, social media, incarceration, sex education, motherhood, or representations in popular culture — all of which are subjects in this semester’s presentation series,” Davis said.

When asked about the future of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department as whole, Davis said, “The WGS Department has spent the past several months in self-reflection on the current strengths of our program and opportunities for expanding and further improving our offerings to students and the University more broadly. We hope to have the opportunity to bring a new faculty member on board whose teaching expertise complements those we already have in areas of growing student interest, especially in gender and health. We also hope to expand the opportunities students in our program have for engagement with the broader world.”

Even as Women’s and Gender Studies Department continues to grow, the department will continue to be shaped by students’ passions. “WMST 400 affords our majors the chance to follow their passions by taking on projects that they might not have a chance to pursue otherwise.  When our students lead with their passion, their final projects are on fire! I am so proud of our students: their work is a model for ethical, engaged, and compassionate research,” Delsandro said. 

Students and faculty are excited to see the rest of the presentations for the 2021 WGS Student Speaker Series. At 5 p.m. on April 16, the second session of the series will be presented on Zoom. Presenters and their research include Patience Agasaro ’21, “From the Streets to Tweets: The Legitimacy of Social Media Activism;” Delia Hughes, “The Impact of Language and Sex Education on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Youth;” and Kristin Smith ’21, “An Intersectional Investigation into Maternal Mortality in the United States and its Interaction with Societal Expectations of Motherhood.” 

At 5 p.m. on April 20, the third and final session will take place. Presenters and their research include Claire Martin ’21, “Understanding Rape and Sexual Violence in Scandinavia through Nordic Noir’s Depiction of Women;” Steph Person ’21, “Love Sucks: The Vampire Boyfriend’s Perpetuation of Toxic Relationships;” Ariel Booker ’21, “Women’s Rising Incarceration In America;” and Delia Sipe ’21, “Understanding the Intersections of Sex, Gender, and Sport.”

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