PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- Students at Rhode Island College received their wish last year as a new minor in Queer Studies has been implemented and is gaining momentum.
Director of the Gender and Women's Studies program, Dr. Leslie Schuster, explained that Queer Studies is an important field of inquiry which examines the histories, lives, identities, experiences and struggles of queer people. Moreover, the program creates a safe space where students' identities and experiences are visible in education. There are also professional benefits for students and employers. “A minor in Queer Studies will prepare students for a large variety of careers. Students can work in LGBTQ+ nonprofit agencies, law, local and national politics, health care settings, counseling centers, journalism, news media, theater, film, fine arts, and education.” A nursing major explained it would, “help me to better care for patients of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
Dr. Schuster reports that the implementation of the Queer Studies Minor might have been the quickest approval of a new program in RIC's history. Students in Dr. Dottolo's Introduction to Queer Studies course, a new class in the program, contacted Dr. Schuster in Spring of 2019 requesting a minor in Queer Studies. Dr. Schuster was invited to the class where the students advocated for the program and explained the many reasons they believed that a minor in Queer Studies was needed. The addition of the Queer Studies minor is to analyze LGBTQ+ rights and concerns on a academic type forum; it also provides specialized work for students who intend to work in the LGBTQ+ community, while preparing them with focused training. Motivation from students helped the faculty of the Gender Studies program put together a proposal which was approved before semester’s end.
Professor Matt Garza is teaching at RIC for the first time this semester, in a new course: Contemporary Queer Performance. They were expecting a classroom full of LGBTQ+ students -- instead, the course is overflowing with students who may not identify as LGBTQ+, but want to become allies. “[The students] want to strengthen their intersectional perspective; want to bring queer-centered frameworks and wisdom into their disciplines and ways of being. For those students who identify as LGBTQ+, it's so beautiful and powerful to witness those students thrive in class, syllabus and culture of learning that validates LGBTQ+ lineage and legacy.”
Gender Studies Professor Janice Okoomian rewarded the courses within the program’s majors and minors. “Students consistently tell me that what they learn in our courses transforms them. They often say how affirmed and empowered they feel by learning to see their own lives -- and the larger world -- through an intersectional feminist lens. These comments come not only from our majors and minors, but also from students who have taken even one of our General Education courses.”
President of RIC's Bachelor of Social Work Organization, Michael Wynn told The Anchor, "[a]s a society it is important to continue to develop an understanding of each other and discover who we are as a whole. In order to do that we have to learn about each other's histories and perspectives. The queer studies program allows us to develop this goal through a variety of methods including historical, cultural, and sociological environments."
Cheyenne Velazquez, a RIC senior and Gender and Women’s studies major reiterates that the Women's’ Studies program, and the Queer Studies minor, get to the root of dismantling misinformation. “No person should be cast out because of their beliefs, Identity, gender, or race. With the right information and awareness, we continuously bridge the gap, allowing all of us humans on many levels to know each other and bond. As a woman, it opened my eyes to the struggle so many had to endure and the hard work that came before us to make us aware and become the women we are. Many of us say, we are not our grandmas, that's because our grandmas paved the way. We are who we are, because of those that were before us.”
Brianna Mattis, another Gender and Women’s Studies major, agreed that overall Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies matter; they set up “a future of becoming learners, workers, innovators and future successors who are knowledgeable- [Allies] for independence and creativity and who aren’t afraid to start a new revolution in the face of a new generation.” Those interested in the Gender and Women's Studies program or Queer Studies minor can take classes this summer and fall. Offered this summer will be Gender and Society, and Bombs and Bombshells. Offered this fall will be Gender and Society; Lights, Camera, Gender!; Gender-Based Violence; Men and Masculinizes; Global Queer Cinema; and Field Experience. Students within a different major that are interested in a class can opt into a gender course for their connections credit.