Letter From the Chair

WGS Deparment Chair, Jane Lehr

I am delighted to share these updates with you about the amazing students, faculty and staff that are Women’s and Gender Studies at Cal Poly.

Teaching, learning and doing in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Cal Poly is designed to promote scholarly inquiry, education and activism. We use an integrative approach to explore the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, dis/abilities, citizenship status and other social categories within both national and global contexts. Our students are empowered to question and contribute to knowledge creation, community formation, activism, creative practice and policymaking from interdisciplinary feminist perspectives. Areas of exploration include femininities, masculinities and other gender identities. Our Learn by Doing approach in Women’s and Gender Studies provides students with important intellectual and practical skills for creating, enacting and evaluating efforts to create a more socially just, equitable and inclusive world. 

Women's and Gender Studies at Cal Poly

Cal Poly established the minor in Women’s Studies in 1990. Soon after, Dr. Ann J. Cotton (Mathematics, ’92) graduated with the first minor in Women’s Studies. Today, Cotton is a clinical psychologist in the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

During the 2015-16 academic year, 17 students graduated with minors in Women’s and Gender Studies from Cal Poly. Another 72 number of students returned to Cal Poly as WGS minors in fall 2016!  

Today, Women’s and Gender Studies at Cal Poly is a visible and valued part of the university community. Inside and outside of the classroom, our students, faculty and staff in Women’s and Gender Studies at Cal Poly are working to achieve the “enriching, inclusive environment where every student, faculty and staff member is valued” that President Armstrong imagined and shared as part of Vision 2022.

Indeed, the Women’s and Gender Studies Department is recognized as a campus leader in efforts to respond to President Armstrong’s charge in Cal Poly’s Diversity Strategic Framework: “Our motto is Learn by Doing. We’ve been studying and talking about diversity and campus climate for a long time. We’ve been doing the learning – now it’s time for the doing.” The Women’s and Gender Studies Department provides many opportunities to Learn by Doing this important and hard work, and we are excited to share some of these with in this newsletter.

Achievement and Activism

Recently, the College of Liberal Arts honored Professor Lizzie Lamoree with the “Outstanding Career Achievement in Teaching by a Lecturer” award in recognition of her outstanding teaching in the Departments of Women’s and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies and Social Sciences. 

Triota – Cal Poly’s feminist activist community and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department Honor Society – was recognized by Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong as the outstanding student organization for the 2015-16 academic year.

In May 2016, I was awarded a “Phenomenal Woman Award” by the Gender Equity Center, which is one of Cal Poly’s three Cross Cultural Centers. This was an incredible honor, especially as the recognition occurred in the intermission of the first ever performance of Cal Poly’s “Original Women’s Narratives (OWN): PowHerful Voices of Storytelling.” OWN is a “play created by and for women, highlighting intersecting identities to empower women to share their own voices and in doing so experience the power of storytelling for themselves.” 

Indeed, I am never more professionally proud and awed than when I have the opportunity to celebrate and learn from the amazing thinking, scholarship, and engagement projects undertaken by Women’s and Gender Studies students, faculty and staff. 

Vision and Visionaries

For me, one of my most exciting areas of collaboration over the last two years has been with the Cal Poly Queer Studies Working Group. This group was created to partner with the Women's and Gender Studies Department to develop and increase curricular and co-curricular experiences related to the academic discipline of Queer Studies, with the broader goal of enhancing the visibility of scholarly inquiry, education and activism in this area. Participants in the group include faculty, staff and students – and new members are welcome. With the support and collaboration of the Queer Studies Working Group and other campus partners, the Women’s and Gender Studies Department submitted a proposal – currently under review by the Academic Senate – for a new interdisciplinary Queer Studies minor. We are hopeful that this new minor will be included in the 2017-19 catalog.

Finally, I want to close by thanking the many faculty throughout the university who teach Women’s and Gender Studies courses, our amazing students and staff, our phenomenal campus and community partners, and our alumni. We really would not be able to do the hard, complex, and important work of Women’s and Gender Studies at Cal Poly without you.

I believe that you and we are what bell hooks calls “visionary feminists.” In her book “Feminism is for Everybody” (2000), hooks argued, “To be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while imagining possibilities beyond that reality.” She goes on to say that it is through this imagining and reconstruction that “visionary feminism offers us hope for the future.” As visionary feminists, you are on the front lines in efforts to confront and solve many of Cal Poly’s and the world’s current and future challenges. Thank you so much for imagining and creating a more just and equitable world.

For the latest updates from the department, please check out the WGS Facebook page. Please also provide us with updates on your academic, professional and personal development. We would be delighted to hear your news. Stay in touch!

Jane Lehr 
Chair, Women's and Gender Studies Department
Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies Department

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