The Division of Multidisciplinary Programs is hosting the fourth annual Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium, an event that will focus on student research. It will be held on Feb. 28, starting with a keynote speaker at noon in the Liberal Arts North building. Presentations will take place afterward in classrooms on the fourth floor of the Ferguson building.
According to Dr. Linda Levitt, communication studies professor and coordinator of the women’s and gender studies minor and symposium, women’s and gender studies is an interdisciplinary minor open to all students, so the symposium allows students to present their research and engage a broad spectrum of perspectives.
“[Dr. Joyce Johnston] has long taken a leadership role in organizing meaningful events for students, as well as the Pre-Law Academy that SFA hosts for high school students each summer,” Levitt said. “Seeing the kind of student response to other events, it seemed a natural next step to put together a symposium for women’s and gender studies. Faculty members don’t always get to see how research is applied holistically in interdisciplinary programs, but students are clearly synthesizing these approaches. This is a way to share that with the University community.”
Submissions for students or faculty to present research in the symposium will be open through Friday. The form can be found on the Multidisciplinary Programs web page, and a faculty sponsor is not needed.
“This year we have a number of submissions from outside of the disciplines in the women’s and gender studies minor,” Levitt said. “I’m hoping that the conference will show that gender is an important aspect of identity across our everyday lives and experiences and is therefore part of everything we study here. The presentations will be as varied as a multidisciplinary program should be. We’ll have students critiquing music videos and films, discussing the importance of Girl Scouts, analyzing masculinity in Japanese manga, sharing their artwork and so much more. The symposium is always interesting and engaging because of the variety of topics.”
Dr. Joyce Johnston, assistant dean of the College of Liberal and Applied Arts and director of Division of Multidisciplinary Programs, said the symposium allows students to discuss a wide variety of topics that can be tied back to women’s and gender studies.
“It’s conceived as an opportunity for students from all disciplines across campus to be able to present their research or to engage in discussions all related to women’s studies, gender studies, questions of LGBTQ+, so it’s designed to be an afternoon of exchanging ideas,” Johnston said.
According to Johnston, presentations will range from traditional research presentations, PowerPoints and posters, to fine arts presentations.
“Even artists who are producing sculptures or paintings, or whatever the case may be, have the opportunity to display their work, so long as it’s related to women’s or gender studies,” Johnston said.
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Sydney Kroll, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of trauma and psychological assessment.
Kroll said she is glad SFA offers this event for the community and was honored to be invited to speak at the symposium.
“I sometimes get so busy in private practice that it begins to feel somewhat isolated, so the prospect of collaborating with the University and other professionals is exciting,” Kroll said. “I worked a lot in women and gender studies when I was at UT-Austin, and I’ve missed this part of my work. I have spoken at numerous state and national conventions on various topics, though this tends to be with other psychologists. It will be fun for me to speak with students and professionals outside my field.”
For her talk, Kroll said she will discuss secondary impact of news stories about sexual harassment and assault and hopes to stay for student presentations as well.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from students and learning about the new theories and issues surrounding these topics,” Kroll said. “I grew up on the SFA campus, and spent many years at UT, but I’ve been outside university settings for the past few years. I miss the energy and passion on college campuses. I’m definitely trying to hold that afternoon open, so I can check out some of the other presentations.”
According to Johnston, the symposium is not limited to just the feminine side of women’s and gender studies.
“If you’re only looking at women and women’s empowerment, you’re not really getting the whole picture,” Johnston said. “Questions of masculinity come into play, [along with] LGBTQ+ and trans identities. This all falls under the idea of, ‘How do we see ourselves? How does gender affect our lives?’ So, it’s not just women’s studies. I think anyone who attends the symposium will see that it’s really a diverse group from lots of different fields, which I think is a good thing.”