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Summer 2020 Newsletter

July 2, 2020

Dear Friends of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies,

I wrote the letter below in early May. For various reasons, it did not go out to you immediately. And now we have all been rocked by grief and rage at the murder of George Floyd. Many faculty and students in gender, women, and sexuality studies have participated in protests and in mutual-aid projects in south Minneapolis; members of the department have written a statement and supported each other financially.

Meanwhile, scholarship by faculty and students in this department directly addresses many of the issues raised in this moment, including the meaning of and need for abolition of policing and prisons; the intertwined effects of gender, race, and economic hierarchies; and the ways those hierarchies are reproduced through our institutions. Our ongoing work is more important than ever.

Many thanks for your interest and support,

Read on for my earlier letter:

Dear Friends of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies,

I hope this message finds you healthy and safe. As we come to the end of what has been an astoundingly challenging spring semester, I write to recognize both the remarkable work that has been done in these last couple of months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by our faculty, graduate instructors, students, and staff, as well as their truly remarkable accomplishments throughout the year.
In GWSS, as across the University, all our instructors turned on a dime, taking up a variety of alternative modes of instruction to keep their classes going and keep students engaged wherever they were to wait out the pandemic. Our Director of Graduate Studies Aren Aizura and Director of Undergraduate Studies Diyah Larasati, as well as Department Administrator Kari Pederson and Graduate Program Coordinator Casey Kenney, have played critical roles in responding to constantly breaking news, changing policies, and students’ material and emotional needs, all while managing the changes to their own work and home lives and logistics.
Meanwhile, many congratulations are due to our faculty and students.

  • Professor Jigna Desai and Dr. Kari Smalkowski’s community-engagement project, Minnesota Youth Story Squad, was awarded a $50,000 grant over two years to do work on racial, food, and environmental justice storytelling with middle- and high-school youth in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Their collaborations include working with GWSS feminist environmental and sustainability studies scholar, educator, and activist Dr. Michelle Garvey.
  • Professor of the College Richa Nagar published Hungry Translations: Relearning the World through Radical Vulnerability (University of Illinois Press, 2019).
  • Sima Shakhsari, whose promotion to associate professor was just announced, published the monograph Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender, and Sexuality in Weblogistan (Duke University Press, 2020).
  • Associate Professor Aren Aizura (profiled below) won the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Sylvia Rivera Prize in Transgender Studies for his book, Mobile Subjects.
  • Meanwhile, Dr. Kari Smalkowski was awarded a two-year postdoc through a joint effort of CLA and the Provost (Office of Equity & Diversity).

In other great news, Jessica Horvath Williams, who has been in the neighborhood of the department through her involvement with the Critical Disability Studies Collective while completing her PhD in English at UCLA, has won a President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Minnesota for next year. She will be in residence in GWSS, where she will teach a course in feminist disability studies and share her work in our colloquium series.
Our grad students continue their amazing record of accomplishment. 

  • Nina Medvedeva has been awarded a nationally prestigious and highly competitive Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.
  • Nithya Rajan won the 2020 Woodrow Wilson Women's Studies Fellowship, one of only 10 awards given in this annual national competition, as well as a UMN Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for 2020-21.
  • José Meño Santillana was awarded the highly competitive Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for 2020-21.
  • SeungGyeong “Jade” Ji has been awarded a UMN Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship as well as a UMN Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for 2020-21. 
  • Sara Seweid-DeAngelis has been awarded the 2020-21 Predoctoral Teaching Fellowship at UMN Morris. Sara was also awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship for next year. 
  • E Ornelas won a 2020-21 Predoctoral Teaching Fellowship at UMN Duluth. 
  • Eunha Jeong Wood was awarded an ICGC Pre-Dissertation Research Grant for next year and was selected to take part in the RIGS 2020 Dissertation Proposal Workshop in summer 2020. 
  • Samhar Khalfani and Magaly Ordoñez were selected to participate in the Interdisciplinary Dissertation Proposal Development Program in summer 2020.

This semester has also been remarkable in that we welcomed Jake Rudy to Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies as our new undergraduate academic advisor. Jake is in his third year as an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and his sixth year as an advisor on campus. He earned a master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Kansas and a bachelor's degree in sociology and political science from the University of Northern Iowa. Jake brings great energy and ideas to the job and has already proven himself a force of stability and source of clear, consistent communication for our majors and minors during the sudden uncertainties they faced this spring.
Jake’s arrival also indicates the departure of longtime GWSS Academic Advisor Judith Katz (see interview below). Certainly, Katz has well-earned her retirement, but her unique presence and deep understanding of and commitment to GWSS will be sorely missed. We have determined to honor her decades of contributions to our department with an undergraduate award focused on creative writing (in keeping with Judith’s contributions as a writer) in her name. To make a contribution to the Judith Katz Award, please make a gift to the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies Fund with a note in the special instructions section that your gift is for the Judith Katz award.
At this time, we also especially welcome gifts to support our graduate students. The Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies Emergency Support Fund provides stipends, tuition support, medical benefits, or related support to students in the department who might otherwise have to suspend their studies due to financial hardship. Meanwhile, the Susan Geiger Fellowship Fund for Feminist Scholarship supports the research of graduate students in the department with the goal of strengthening the research relationships between faculty and students and advancing the field of feminist studies.

With warmest regards,
Miranda Joseph, Professor and Chair