By Kaitlyn McCormick
An itinerary decorated with a guest keynote speaker, student and faculty awards and three student panels, the Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) program is preparing to hold its 41st annual colloquium on March 28.
The event, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences in tandem with GSS, will run all day in Lynch Adler Hall 202 from 9:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and welcomes Kristy Drutman as its keynote speaker.
Drutman, founder of BrownGirl Green, a media platform centered on diversity in the environmentalism field, will present her talk, “Owning Your Environmental Story: Feminism as a Tool for Climate Change” at 1:10 p.m.
Professor Erica Ryan, GSS director, expressed her excitement for not only the colloquium but a keynote speaker whose focus centers on the timely topic of climate change.
“Kristy is young, she’s in her 20s, so she has a very sort of Gen[eration] Z appeal, which I think our students are really going to love,” Ryan said. She also lauded Drutman’s resume, including that while she is young enough to appeal to the college demographic, she regularly attends climate conferences, interviewing figures like Cory Booker and Al Gore and was even invited to watch the State of the Union address at the White House.
“She’s just wonderful, and I think that she’s going to have a lot to say that our students will relate to,” Ryan said.
In addition to a decorated guest speaker, the day will highlight three student panels: “Gender and Media,” “Historicizing Sex and Gender” and “Literary Constructions of Gender.” The panels will highlight student research through papers and multimedia presentations and combine GSS studies with many different relative fields.
“I would love if students who came to the colloquium who haven’t thought a whole lot about that before [could] get a sense of the significance of being aware of the way sexuality plays a role in our society,” Ryan said.
Junior music production major Asha Burtin will be presenting on the first panel about women in hip-hop, as well as accepting the 2023 Virginia J. Cyrus Scholarship for “academic performance and work on behalf of women and girls,” according to Ryan.
Associate professor Allison Weidhaas will also be recognized with the 2023 Ziegler-Gee Award.
Burtin explained that her application letter for the scholarship centered around the research she had done in her GSS minor, titled “Where Are the Black Riot Girls?”
The research, from the fall semester, focused on the “Riot Girl” feminist movement of the late ‘90s, and she took a special interest to focusing on the racial demographic of the movement through a paper and small documentary.
“I find it important to apply voices like my own, as well as queer voices,” Burtin said.
Outside of the research that earned her the scholarship, Burtin is currently focusing on research pertaining to people of color within the queer community through her minor.
Both Burtin and Ryan urged students who may have a curiosity regarding topics in GSS and may not know where to begin to attend the colloquium and hear their peers’ work.
“I just think it’s important to hear about perspectives that are not your own,” Burtin said. “A lot of the research I find interesting, a lot of the stuff that I like to read about is pertaining to my own specific experience [as a] Black woman, and so [I] think it’s important to attend things like this so that I can learn about experiences that I don’t go through myself.”
Ryan encouraged potential audience members as well, especially contextualizing GSS to the current national climate.
“I think something like our colloquium can help make them see the way our society categorizes people, the way our society constructs things like gender norms … conceptions of sexual orientation, conceptions of sexual identity,” Ryan said.