Gender studies brown bag discussions foster community

Sometimes, it can feel like there’s a wall up between a professor and their students, with a clear division between the two. Especially for new professors joining the Geneseo staff, it can be difficult to connect with and keep track of all of them.

These are just two of the numerous motives behind professor of English and theater Melanie Blood’s plan to revive “Women’s and Gender Studies Brown Bag Discussions,” an informal forum in which professors can share their research and class topics with any interested students. According to Blood, the purpose of these events is to allow “students, faculty and staff from many different home disciplines [to engage] in a dialogue.”

“I wanted students and faculty to have a chance to meet the new faces who have an interest in women’s and gender studies,” Blood said.

The fourth discussion out of five featured adjunct professor of history Morgan Denton presenting on “Madams, Fancy-men, and the Unfortunates: The Power Dynamics of Prostitution in Dublin” and took place on Tuesday April 7.

The fifth discussion will feature professor of English Jess Fenn presenting on “Writing by Ear.”

Assistant women’s and gender studies and philosophy professor Heidi Savage and assistant philosophy professor Amanda Roth, as well as Denton and associate professor of art studio Doug Anderson, facilitated past discussions in the first semester.

The first semester’s speakers, Savage and Roth, were selected not only due to their interest in women’s studies but also because of their appointment as the two permanent professors between the philosophy and women’s and gender studies department.

The second semester speakers, Denton, Anderson and Fenn, are all newly appointed professors at Geneseo. “I wanted new students and faculty to meet,” Blood said. She emphasized that these discussions are great for explaining research because “you can present it in a really casual setting.”

This semester’s discussions all correlate with women and gender studies classes that will be offered in the upcoming fall 2015 semester. For example, Denton’s discussion on Tuesday centered on the role of gender in the Hebrew Bible, on which he will be teaching a course in the fall.

While Blood admitted promotion for the department is a bonus to the program, its intention is to facilitate discussions on these interdisciplinary topics. “It’s not meant to be exclusive,” she said. “A lot of the time, people’s research in their own fields intersects with women’s and gender studies.”

Attendance at these events varies strongly and is not limited at all to the students in the women’s and gender studies minor. Blood said that students frequently learn about the discussions through social media, Women’s Action Coalition and Pride Alliance, and that they draw in a variety of majors for this reason.

“I do see people who I’ve never met before,” Blood said. “It’s fun having new, young colleagues with exciting research interests.”