A MATTER OF DEGREES
By Current Women's Studies Students
What has women’s studies meant to your life? And what are you currently doing with your women’s studies degree? Those were the questions we put out to women’s studies graduates and current students, and we got responses from all corners of the nation, and even a few from abroad. Here are just a few of them:
"Women’s studies has given me a voice, and now as a crisis interventionist, I’m using it at a domestic violence center, speaking up for those who have been silenced."
—LUCÉ TOMLIN-BRENNER, B.A. IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY, 2006)
"I’m interning at the Arizona Center for Disability Law, advocating for the legal rights of people with disabilities. Women’s studies gives my law degree depth and meaning. It gives me the tools and space to understand the relationship between law, gender and identity and it made me a powerful advocate for change."
—ALEXX TRACY-RAMÍREZ, CANDIDATE FOR J.D./ M.A. IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA)
"Women’s studies saved my life—literally—by encouraging me to get out of an abusive relationship. Figuratively, it showed me better possibilities for women and for myself. In teaching women’s studies at Norfolk (Va.) State University, I hope that I am giving back to my students what my professors gave me—the hope and fulfillment of a better life for themselves, for their children and thereby for all of us."
—KAREN TATUM, M.A. IN ENGLISH AND WOMEN’S STUDIES (UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON, 1996)
"Pursuing an M.A. in women’s studies confirmed that feminism is my professional and personal passion. My degree took me to the U.N. and Congress. At the U.N., I worked on policies to improve gender parity. I then began a fellowship with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), where I was able to help pass a resolution about rape in the Congo."
—PAMELA O’LEARY, M.A. IN APPLIED WOMEN’S STUDIES (CLAREMONT UNIVERSITY, 2008)
"I conduct research on women in the U.S. military who have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. I am comparing whether men and women experience the violence of war differently or similarly. I plan to use the results of my studies to change the ground combat exclusion policy for women."
—MARGIE SERRATO, CERTIFICATE IN WOMEN’S STUDIES AND PH.D. STUDENT IN ANTHROPOLOGY (TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY)
"I have gained an understanding of the inequalities that exist between men and women and the role that gender plays in the construction of identities. For my master’s thesis, I intend to conduct empirical research on same-sex couples who raise children in the Netherlands and analyze the way in which these parents construct their communities and create “safe spaces” for their children."
—MARK BARTKIEWICZ, B.A. IN ENGLISH AND WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES (COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, 2008), M.A. STUDENT IN
GENDER, SEXUALITY AND SOCIETY (UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM)
"I am using my training in feminist studies in my classroom as a political science professor at a community college to teach the very real presence and effect politics have on the average lives of women in our communities. I think it is important to illustrate that feminism is not just isolated to a women’s rights class but permeates all disciplines in a college, and all walks of life outside of our college doors."
—ELIZABETH ULLRICH, B.A. IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AND WOMEN’S STUDIES (CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO, 2003), M.A. IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AND WOMEN’S STUDIES (PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2005)
"I currently work in export support for a global logistics company, troubleshooting IT issues —seemingly on the opposite end of the spectrum from women studies. [But] I bring my education into the workplace everyday— working on committees to incorporate same-sex partner benefits, extending fair-trade agreements and investigating government policy."
—MARLENA BLONSKY, B.A. IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, 2008)
"I am breaking ground for women’s professional sports at Sky Blue FC, the N.J./N.Y. team of the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS). We are about to kick off our historic first season. My women and gender studies background helped to drive me to take on such challenges; I truly believe [the WPS] will create lasting social change by providing strong, healthy, female role models to young women."
—JILL APPLEHEIMER, B.A. IN WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES (THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, 2005), M.S.W. (UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2008)
"I hope to teach women’s studies at a community college or a women’s prison so that women who may never be able to attend a university can benefit from the wisdom given to us by women writers and activists. Women’s studies has given me the tools to change the world."
—THE REV. DANA WILSON (AGE 57, SHE POINTS OUT), M.A. STUDENT IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (TEXAS WOMAN’S UNIVERSITY)
"Women’s studies filled mental and emotional voids an entire lifetime of education had not satisfied, enabling me to examine the world with a sense of clarity and purpose I’d never known. Whether I remain in academia or pursue work that benefits women outside the classroom, I’m excited about my options."
—ERIN “TONI” WILLIAMS, MINOR IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, 2008), M.A. CANDIDATE IN WOMEN’S STUDIES (UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA)
"Women’s studies gave me the tools to work within the system for social change. It also gave me a sense of community during and after my undergraduate years. For the past eight years, I have worked for civic and political organizations, specifically focusing on public policy for reproductive rights advocacy organizations. Women’s studies taught me to not fear networking!"
—KELLY BADEN, B.A. IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AND WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES (THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, 2001) AND GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN WOMEN, POLITICS AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP (WOMEN AND POLITICS INSTITUTE AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, 2004)
"Most of my life I’ve journeyed to gain perspective. Only after completing a graduate degree in women’s studies did I realize my journey has a purpose. Currently, I work for Brave New Films as a political communications associate. I’m also an online content writer for YouthNoise.com. Both organizations’ missions emphasize social justice in the new media age.
—TARA L. CONLEY, M.A. IN WOMEN’S STUDIES
(TEXAS WOMAN’S UNIVERSITY, 2008)
For the full version of this article, pick up a copy of the Spring 2009 issue of Ms. on newsstands, or have a copy sent to your door by joining the Ms. community at www.msmagazine.com.