Message from the chair

kBrown - chair's message

Let me introduce myself; my name is Dr. Kimberly Brown and I am the new Chair of the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Welcome to the 2014-2015 academic year!

Apart from my appointment as Chair, last year was a transformative one for our Department. We officially changed our name from Women’s Studies to Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS). Our departmental emblem, the ampersand, symbolizes our inclusivity of sexual minorities, racial diversity, and our commitment to social justice, as the name change more appropriately reflects our student demographic, faculty research interests, and scholarly innovations in the interdisciplinary field. And while our faculty and students are definitely GSEXy, it is important that we emphasize that GSWS is our department’s official acronym. Without the WS designation, it is quite easy to forget a history of struggle hefted on the backs of women who not only fought for female equality, but who paved the way for many others seeking representation within the ivory tower. That commitment is the linchpin of the scholarly activism we emulate.

Counting myself victorious after surviving my first year as Chair, I have high hopes for this semester. I would like to thank the outgoing Chair, Dr. Janet Hutchinson, for her leadership and her continued dedication to our Department. Upon retiring, Dr. Hutchinson established a $1,000 scholarship to be shared by two GSWS students who plan to attend graduate or professional school upon graduation. Dr. Hutchinson will be missed, but through this act of kindness, her legacy will live on.

GSWS had many well-attended events this past academic year. GSWS teamed up with the School of Social Work to invite Pop Culture Scholar and recent Yale Doctoral Graduate, Madison Moore, to engage our students with what he aptly labeled, “Beyoncé: A Masterclass in Fierceness.” Additionally, as part of my final project with the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and in partnership with various university units, GSWS was delighted to host Civil Rights Leader, Author and Activist Elaine Brown, who delivered an impactful lecture titled, “Where Do We Go From Here?: Social Justice in the New Millennium.”

Brought to us by Art Mafia, GSWS put on two art shows. The theme of Fall/Winter Art Show (2013) was “Politics of Place and the Poetics of Space.” Local and VCU student artists presented their creative interpretations of the ways that bodies (broadly defined) interact with various spaces and how the interaction between/among bodies and spaces opens up political, poetical, and aesthetic possibilities. The Spring/Summer Art Show (2014) was titled, “Performing (Place Placing) Identity.” Artists explored alternative and participatory forms of creative expression to complicate and challenge the social construction of identity and the imposition of so-called high art cultural places on artistic expression. Artists addressed the appropriation of cultural practices by fine art institutions and examined how classism, racism, and sexism are still enacted within these places.

Please take a moment to explore our newsletter for other highlights from last year and to get a preview of what’s to come this academic year.

Here’s to a productive semester!

With respect,

Kimberly Nichele Brown, Ph.D.