December 2016 newsletter from Women's and Gender Studies @ ISU
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From the Director: Dr. Ann Oberhauser

In 2012, the Nigerian novelist Chimananda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk titled “We Should all be Feminists” where she talks about the anger she feels at the injustice of how gender functions today.  Adichie argues that “Anger has a long history of positive change.  In addition to anger, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”

Given recent political and social events, there is wisdom in these words and hope for the future.  Through our efforts, we can continue the fight for feminist issues and broad efforts to maintain social justice in our society.

In the past few weeks, we have seen students, faculty, and many others on campus sharing their concern and demanding fair treatment of immigrants, people in the LGBTQ community, African-Americans, and others who may feel marginalized and vulnerable to some of the recent political rhetoric and actions.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at ISU has seen an increase in our majors as more students want to make a difference especially given the current political and social landscape in our country and around the world.  One student who recently declared a WGS major wanted “to make a difference … and learn how to empower others to do the same.”  These differences can take place through your activities on campus, in the classroom, and in your own communities. 

I am proud to be a part of this program and work with talented faculty and students who are making a positive impact at Iowa State University. You can read more about their successes and impressive work in this newsletter.  We are looking forward to the spring semester with the great courses that address topics such as media and sexuality, lesbian studies, gender and development, and human trafficking. 

Finally, the program is busy preparing for the second annual Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies conference on April 1st, 2017 with graduate and undergraduate students from around the state.  See our website ( ) for updates on these and other events.

Good luck with the end of the semester!  Have a wonderful winter break!

Student Highlight: Ana Haigh

I was a first year student at Iowa State when I took my first Women’s & Gender Studies class. In looking back, I can see how much I have changed as a student and as a woman since that first class. A beautiful revelation came to me during that class, and I realized that my low self-esteem and negative body image, my need to please others, all stemmed from the ways women are portrayed and confined in a patriarchal society. Everything I hated about myself was not coming from within, but was being drilled into me from every angle. This realization was the most liberating thing to happen to me as a young woman, and loving myself became my own personal revolution.

I have not taken a single class that has affected me as deeply as those in Women’s & Gender Studies. After taking that first WGS class, I never looked at the world in the same way. I became aware of the oppressions that are reinforced by social institutions, and was determined never to be ignorant again. In the powerful words of Minnie Bruce Platt, “I gain truth, when I expand my constricted eye, an eye that has only let in what I have been taught to see.” Women’s & Gender Studies encourages us to question everything we think we know about sex, gender, sexuality, race, class, and other intersections of oppression. It gives us the tools to deconstruct and then reimagine an understanding of the way the world really works. I am grateful for my experience as a student in the Women’s & Gender Studies program.

Women’s & Gender Studies is not something I will leave behind after graduation. While schoolwork can be stressful and hectic at times (most times), I do love education and plan to continue on to law school or graduate school at some point. I am interested in politics and public policy, and can see myself having a fulfilling career in D.C. Or I can see myself going to graduate school on the west coast and getting a degree in non-profit work, social work, or counseling. My end goal, after experiencing a life outside the comfort of Iowa, would be to work at a university as a professor in Women’s Studies. This year I have been working as a peer mentor for the Writing Gender learning community and it has certainly got me thinking about the kind of professor I would want to be. I want to give young students what my professors have given me, which is a confidence in myself and my potential that I never thought was attainable until that very first Women’s & Gender Studies class.

Faculty Highlight: Dr. Linda Shenk

Dr. Linda Shenk, Women’s and Gender Studies faculty affiliate, is an Associate Professor in English. Her research focuses on early modern drama, particularly Shakespeare; Queen Elizabeth I as a learned queen; late sixteenth-century international politics and diplomacy; storytelling; participatory action research; and resilient, sustainable cities.

More recently, she was one of the founding core members of a transdisciplinary research team at ISU that integrates the tools of data-driven science for sustainable cities with community engagement, specifically to empower marginalized populations. Her 16-member research team received funding through the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research in Data Driven Science at Iowa State.

Her work in the humanities gives her an outlet to use narrative and attention to social structures as ways of empowering individuals who engage with researchers as partners.  This research co-designs tools and approaches to create more relevant policies and programs for sustainable cities.

A key component of her research within the data-driven science project is working with a high school youth group in Des Moines. She aims to empower them as leaders in the conversation about climate change and action. This spring, she has big plans that involve transforming an under-used community garden into a neighborhood gathering place and perhaps even some film-making. These youth--many of which are women of color—show tremendous compassion and intellectual vitality about their projects.

Featured Alumna: Shreya Bhardwaj

Shreya Bhardwaj was an honors student who graduated with three majors, Women's and Gender Studies, Economics, and International Studies, from Iowa State University in 2015. Her research on the lives of veteran women in the United States and government policy in India inspired her current interest in public policy.

One of her most memorable moments in WGS was taking the Feminist Theory class and particularly the discussions which taught her to use critical thinking in her education. Bhardwaj is currently a graduate student in public affairs at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her concentration is in economic policy and specifically how tax policies affect poverty and income distribution. She is also an editor for the Cornell Policy Review where she has written on topics related to sexual assault on college campus.

Bhardwaj stated that "all professors I came to know through the program have been some of my strongest supporters without whom I would not be able to pursue my interests." She recommends that other students combine WGS with another major or minor in hard sciences, art, or business to enhance their learning experience in a feminist perspective.

"Parlez-vous francais?" - 2016 NWSA Conference

Written by Dr. Michele Schaal
The Program of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) was well represented at this year’s National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conference in Montréal, Canada. The conference is a great way to demonstrate the groundbreaking research WGS faculty, students, and alumni conduct. Abby Dubisar (English) gave a paper on "Tracing Power and Resistance in Food Narratives" and Wendy Lu, WGS Teaching Assistant, gave a poster presentation on "International University Students’ American Feelings and Experiences of Be/Longings." Michèle A. Schaal (WLC) organized a panel of scholars and activists titled “Trans* Lives, Cis Privilege and Decolonial Interventions.” WGS alumnae Mary Bonvillain, Sarah Chase Crosby, and Leah Wilson also gave papers in a panel "Unsettling Heteropatriarchy through Feminist Connections: Virginie Despentes's Feminism in Dialogue," organized by Dr. Schaal. Alissa Stoehr, one of our lecturers, attended the conference and reported using the provided space and resources to work on an upcoming publication—in addition going to a variety of panels.

The conference included many fantastic panels in areas as diverse as teaching, activism, research, LGBITQA+ issues, inclusivity, intersectionality, (de)coloniality, alliances, Indigenous feminisms, the 100th birthday of the 19th amendment, and transgenderism. The yearly NWSA theme was “Decoloniality” and included talks by Native American artist, activist, and scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Chinyere Oparah, Audra Simpson, and Kim TallBear on the topic of “Decolonizing Institutions” and featured artists and activists Natalie Diaz, Favianna Rodriguez, and Tali Taliwah.

The NWSA 2016 was also a great opportunity to meet and mingle with a variety of feminists from all over the world—some of whom are living legends. Some scholars offered a preview of their “Feminist Freedom Warriors: A Digital Video Archive Project” with interviews with prominent and historical feminists from across the world, including Amina Mama, Angela Y. Davis and Margo Okazawa-Rey (a founding member of the Combahee River Collective), to name just a few of these fantastic activists, scholars, and artists.

Guest Article - "Supporting DACA Students is our Feminist Duty."

By Itzel Padron Zuniga, WGS Major
During the recent election, Donald Trump built a campaign promising to fix the immigration system by deporting undocumented immigrants at a higher rate than the Obama administration. He has also promised to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which allows undocumented people who arrived as children a temporary exemption from deportation and the ability to work and seek higher education. Thus, we must work to protect the rights of DACA students here at Iowa State University.

On November 16, ISU was part of a national student walkout with over 100 colleges/universities demanding that our institution be declared a sanctuary campus and implement policies that will uphold dignity, respect, and permanent protection for the immigrant community on campus. Currently, more than 350 university/college presidents signed a statement supporting the rights of DACA students.

As feminists, we must support the rights of undocumented people in our communities and must take action to ensure their protection. There will be more opportunities for awareness and action events posted on the “Resistance, Action, Information Network” page on Facebook. You can also contact me at if you have questions or want to know more.

Campus Partners

Career Exploration Services
Career Exploration Services (CES) is a division of Student Counseling Services and it is dedicated to promoting the academic and personal well-being of Iowa State University students.  The primary mission of the staff of Career Exploration Services is to engage students as active participants in the career exploration process in order to improve decision-making skills and self-efficacy for making career choices. 

Recreation Services
The Iowa State Department of Recreation Services aims to create an environment through exceptional recreation facilities, programs, and services where Recreation Services can inspire, educate, and empower students and members of the Iowa State community to cultivate lifestyles to enhance health and wellness.
All students currently enrolled at Iowa State University, and who are assessed the current Activity, Services, Building & Recreation Fee, are issued a Student Pass.

Campus Events

"Give Thanks"- Dec. 6, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., Harl Commons, Curtiss Hall
Join the Women’s and Gender Studies Program to mingle, network, and contribute to a great cause.
Bring a snack to share and a toiletry item to donate to Ames’ women’s shelter - ACCESS.  Suggested donations include, but are not limited to, full size soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant, or any women’s sanitary products

WGS Noontime Talks- Dec. 7, 12:00 p.m., 294 Carver Hall - Dr. Amy Bix, Department of History
One of the biggest changes in modern science and engineering isn't a discovery, invention, or technique, but rather a revolution in assumptions about who can and should enter those disciplines. Sixty years ago, most American observers focused on steering more young white men into science and engineering. Today, the call to expand STEM opportunities for K-12 female students draws wide-ranging support from the White House, activists, teachers, parents, Girl Scout troops, corporations, celebrities, scientists and engineers. Amy Bix explores when, how, and why evolving ideas about gender roles, education, and the nature of STEM opened up this transformational advocacy for diversity and outreach.

Breakfast with Santa- Dec. 10 - 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Reiman Gardens
Kids, bring your parents to Reiman Gardens to enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet including eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and donuts! Santa will visit from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Undergraduate and Graduate Resources

General Safety Concerns
For additional information on how faculty and staff can assist students where they have some concern for student safety or well-being, please review the updated 
Faculty and Staff Guide to Assisting Students of Concern. 
For immediate help in an emergency, contact ISU Police by dialing 9-1-1 from a campus phone, or by calling 515-294-4428.

Student Assistance and Outreach Services
Many students unexpectedly face difficult times during college, be it for academic or personal reasons. Unexpected life events, personal crises, or other difficulties can interfere with college success. Whether it is something as simple as not being able to find one of your classes to something as tragic as the loss of a loved one, the Student Assistance staff will listen to your experiences and help you understand ISU policies and services that may assist in your situation.

Staff members are available to meet from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. To schedule an appointment, stop in to the Dean of Students Office (1010 Student Services Building), email or call their office at (515) 294-1020.

The Dean of Students Office Serves Graduate Students
If you have concerns regarding your own personal safety or well-being, or are experiencing a crisis and are seeking support or resources, please contact the Dean of Student Office by e-mail at or call 515-294-1020 for assistance.

Calling for Contributions! 
We want to read your writing! Starting in the spring of 2017 we will be publishing the work of ISU students and faculty. We ask for quality and intrigue in up to 3 poems or flash fictions, or prose up to 500 words.
Please submit your work to no later than January 16th, 2017.

WGS Newsletter edited by Elisa Cardenas and Danielle Wolf
Facebook- WGSisu
Twitter - WGS_isu
Copyright © 2016 Iowa State Women's and Gender Studies, All rights reserved.

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