History in the Making: Leaders, Scholars and Change Agents in Women’s and Gender Studies at LMU

By Julia Wade, associate director for restorative practices,
and Clementine Castro, program associate for the PLACE Corps Program 

The Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) Department at LMU fosters a vigorous intellectual environment that engages students in a critical understanding of the complex ways gender shapes the world around them, particularly in relation to race, sexuality, class and other social factors.

The WGST Department was founded by Dr. Nancy Jabbra in 2005. Under the direction of Dr. Stella Oh, the department has grown extensively and now includes five full-time, tenure-track faculty members. WGST is currently chaired by Dr. Sina Kramer, who specializes in feminist theory, political theory, critical theory and continental philosophy. The most recent faculty additions include Dr. Amanda Apgar, whose research focuses on cultural representations of disability and how they interact with discourses of race, gender, and sexuality, and Dr. Sandibel Borges, whose research focuses on experiences of LGBTQ Latinx migrants in Los Angeles and those of LGBTQ returning migrants in Mexico City.

The WGST Department has traditionally been a hub for leadership on various issues. For example, Oh was integral to the redesign of the University Core Curriculum and served as the Core director, and in 2016 she received the Popiden Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Mairead Sullivan has contributed greatly to the LMU Faculty Learning Communities program and continues to work collaboratively with Dr. Jennifer Williams of African American Studies  around anti-racist pedagogy and ensuring strong feminist perspectives are present in our campus’ diversity, equity and inclusion work. Sullivan also received the LMU Ascending Scholar Award in 2020. In addition to these leadership and service positions, WGST faculty are advocates for women’s issues, LGBTQ students and LMU’s women staff, faculty and students in addition to providing support to students as Community Resource Advisors.

WGST graduates are a tribute to the hard work, dedication, innovative and reflective lens of the department’s faculty. WGST student scholars have been highlighted as both valedictorians and University Scholars in recent years. Alumni go on to contribute to, and impact, many fields including law, public policy/administration, counseling, social work, education and more. The department consciously fosters alumni connections with their annual Fall Welcome event, which celebrates returning students and welcomes prospective students. This past fall notable alumni guest speakers featured, Claire Ramirez ’09, who earned a master’s degree in social work and focuses her professional work on mental health within military and veteran families, and Haewon Asfaw ’11, a co-founder of two organizations focused on social justice, including Black Lives Matter.

In addition, WGST hosts events throughout the year that address scholarship and social justice issues aligned with diversity, equity, and inclusion.  On Oct. 28, 2020, the department celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women’s suffrage by featuring historian Ann Cahill in a talk about her book, “Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement.” On March 8, 2021, the department hosted “#Undocutrans: Health Justice, Policy and Healing” featuring Héctor T. Plascencia, a movement consultant, community builder and social justice advocate. On March 15, 2021, the department co-sponsored a dynamic event featuring Dr. Harriet Washington, award-winning author and ethicist, in which she portrayed the historical roots of racial mistreatment in the U.S. medical-research arena, and discussed contemporary challenges to ethical health care, including the dissemination of vaccines and the elision of informed consent through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women’s and Gender Studies invites our community to engage in the critical examination of traditional academic fields, as well as current social justice issues to dismantle the gendered assumptions that underwrite them. This is a crucial component of our work to build a truly inclusive campus community. To learn more about the outstanding contributions of the Women’s and Gender Studies faculty and students as inspirational leaders, scholars and change makers, visit the WGST website and explore the XX newsletter, originally started by feminist students in the 1970s and recently revived by current students.

OIA Buzz

  • Continuity of Community: Community Check-in Survey | Deadline March 26

The Community Check-in Surveys have provided a snapshot of how LMU is doing over the past year. The third community check-in survey will be open March 15-26. The surveys will continue to assess our virtual campus, sense of belonging, and perceptions of the university related to COVID-19 and racial justice.  The second part of the October 2020 results – on gender identity, caregiver and disability status – will be available later this month. Other reports are available at the links listed below. Contact OIA@lmu.edu for questions.

We welcome all staff, students, and faculty to fill out the March 2021 Community Check-in Survey by Friday, March 26.

Access past survey briefings:

  • A Faith that does Justice: Interfaith Perspectives | March 19, 2021 (click flyer to register)
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  • Join us for the next Systemic Analysis Consultation Workshop and receive access to the Systemic Analysis Brightspace course, which will provide a systemic analysis guidebook and equity scorecards for student, staff and faculty. The next workshop is on March 24, from 11 a.m.-noon.
  • Celebrate Women’s History Month with LMU:https://lmu.edu/whm
    View Offerings from Human Resources
  • The “In Six Words” project websiteis now live! View current submissions and contribute your own story.

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This week, we feature a story from one the co-chairs of the Committee on the Status of Women: Sheri Castro-Atwater, professor of counseling and school psychology

“Finding Strength Mid-Life: Voicing Re-Imagined Narratives”

Dr. Castro-Atwater says: “Freedom comes from speaking truth to power in a long-awaited female narrative – speaking ‘the other’ truth against the tradition of male patriarchy and white supremacy that surround decision-makers in powerful organizations. The ugliness of inequity rears its head and inaction is not an option. It won’t be pushed down until other voices combine to rise up and out and TAKE CONTROL of the table. The good news: The table is round and represents the circle of Hope. The time is past due.”