UMSL campus quadrangle on North Campus. Photo: Cate Marquis / The Current ©

 

By Hung Nguyen, Staff Writer for The Current

For several years, powered by book donations from different sources on and off campus, the Gender Studies program has hosted a book fair in an effort introduce students to the program and also to get to know students currently in the program. This year, the fair was hosted on November 2-3 inside the program’s brand-new home across from the Department of English and History on the fourth floor of Lucas Hall.

Students got a chance to get a few great books to take home, and the fair was an effective way of advertising.

Professors were able to benefit from the experience, too. “What I like about the book fair is that it enables me to talk to and meet students on common ground,” Dr. Kathleen Nigro, Department of English and Gender Studies program adviser. Nigro said that she enjoys speaking to students about books they both may like and getting to know them without the hierarchy of the classroom, to decrease the traditional classroom power distance.

Part of the book fair was a collection and raffle to help a homeless single mother, which was an example of the many collaborative efforts of the program with the community to promote service and practical applications of theory in serving humanity. Though different courses will incorporate service learning in different degrees, service appears to be a significant component of the program. After completing requisite coursework, students are encouraged to intern at different community centers that serve high-risk, needy populations in a variety of fields.

“We’re really gender, race and class. We want students to not only learn the theory about these topics, but how to apply them in real-life situations,” Nigro said.

“Gender studies is not an ‘ivory-tower’ discipline,” Dr. Sally Ebest, Department of English and the Gender Studies program director, said. “I can’t think of any profession that an understanding of human behavior and relationships will not complement. Service learning is important to me, and I try to incorporate it as a way for college students to connect or re-connect with their community. Sometimes the university is sort of isolated from the rest of the community surrounding it. Sometimes students forget that they have the chance to go to college because they have had opportunities others may not have had. It’s a great privilege, and to me privilege comes not with power, but with responsibility, a responsibility to do good for others. Service learning gives students a chance to re-discover their humility and dampens their maybe heightened sense of self-worth amidst intellectual experience.”

Even more inviting is the program’s interdisciplinary nature. Students may fulfill requirements by taking courses that cross-list in the Departments of English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology and more, depending on the course topic. Students do not have to take “extra” classes that they do not need, and the program is an un-intimidating 18 credit hours that can be tailored to the students’ career interests.

Nigro and her “America’s Slave Narratives” class will be hosting an open reading on the concepts of identity and personhood on November 28 at 11 a.m. in the SGA Chambers. They will also be collecting money in any denomination to support the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation at this event.

© The Current

(Note: this article includes a correction, of a quote originally attributed to the wrong person.)