Women and Gender Studies Conference goes global in 2012

Christine Lee, Life Editor

To fulfill the Wilkes general education requirement, all students must take a public speaking class or two oral presentation option classes and a senior capstone.

For students enrolled in Women’s Studies 101, giving a presentation as a part of the annual Women’s and Gender Studies Conference fulfills both of these requirements in a unique way.

“This year’s Women’s Studies 101 students are completing critical analysis of the roles women in various films such as ‘All About Eve,’ ‘Woman of the Year’ and ‘Thelma and Louise,'” Women’s and Gender Studies director Jennifer Thomas said.

This year’s conference focuses on the theme of women across the globe, a theme Thomas said she chose to highlight the everyday actions of ordinary women.

“Although women represent approximately half of the world’s population, their accomplishments often go unnoticed and they are often not afforded leadership positions,” Thomas, assistant professor of psychology, said.

Although this year’s events have a global focus but not all of the events have this focus. Women’s and Gender Studies Intern Julia Cikota said this year’s theme is nice because people can learn about women’s issues at home and abroad.

“A lot of the events have a more global focus but the nice thing is not all of the events do,” Cikota, junior psychology major, said. “So while that’s the overall theme of the conference and one good reason to come to the conference is because you can experience things and learn about women from other cultures you can also learn about the conditions women here in the U.S.”

The conference will also go beyond Wilkes’ campus. This year’s conference is a partnership between Wilkes and neighboring King’s College, with presentations from both Wilkes and King’s professors and students.

King’s College Women’s Studies Director Robin Field had taken King’s Women’s Studies students to this conference in the past and Misericordia University’s gender studies conference last year.

After attending these conferences over the years, it occurred to Field to combine the resources of the Women’s Studies program at King’s and the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Wilkes.

“It seemed like a good idea to combine our resources and try to work together so that’s what happened with me speaking to Dr. Thomas and getting our administrations’ support,” Field, an English professor at King’s College, said.

Field hopes with the combined conference that Wilkes and King’s students get an opportunity to interact in a unique way, particularly by going to each others’ panels or combined panels of students from Wilkes and King’s and exchanging ideas.

“Some of the panels have students from both colleges to present so they’ll get to hear each others’ work and then I hope they’ll go to panels where there are students from only one college or university and be able to exchange ideas,” Field said. “We are studying the same things and have important ideas to talk about dealing with women and gender.”

All panel sessions will take place at Wilkes on the second floor of the Student Union Building in the Ballroom, Miller Room and Savitz Lounge with the exception of the keynote speaker, which will take place at 7 p.m. at Burke Auditorium in McGowan Hall at King’s College.

The keynote speaker this year is assistant professor of sociology at Boston University Ashley Mears, a former runway model who will speak about how the fashion industry puts labels on people to make them more valuable.

Another highlight of the conference will be a luncheon on Tuesday, April 17 featuring Esther Petrie, a nurse who has been collecting and sending used, outdated, leftover and retired medical equipment to needy parts of the world for over 20 years. She is joined by Kathye Gentry, a Physician’s Assistant who has participated in medical missions all over the world as a volunteer health care provider.

Those interested in attending the luncheon can contact Thomas at [email protected] for an invitation. It will feature a variety of international dishes.

Other highlights of the conference include a screening of the documentary “A Walk to Beautiful,” a performance of “The Waiting Room” by the Acting II class, an evening of dance featuring modern, Indian and African dances, and a poetry reading by Wilkes and King’s students and faculty.

Field hopes through this conference that students can see how interesting it is to present research at a conference and to pass along more ideas about Women’s Studies, as it applies to all disciplines.

“The ideas discussed within a women’s studies class or the minor itself are very important and applicable across various disciplines so someone who’s majoring in biology should minor in women’s studies just as well as somebody who’s majoring in English could do so,” Field said.