When people come together for something they truly believe in, the things they can accomplish can have a real, meaningful impact not just on one another, but on the faces of the future, as well. Such is the case with the College of Charleston Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program’s annual event, “Yes! I’m a Feminist” (YIAF).
“YIAF is a celebration of the broad and diverse community that is WGS,” says Kris De Welde, director of the WGS program and professor of WGS and sociology, and affiliated faculty member in the African American Studies Program. “While we have opportunities to come together throughout the academic year, this event – open to the broader community and inclusive of everyone at the College – is one event that brings us all together. Within the frame of celebrating feminism (in its most expansive manifestations), we are able to honor the strength and resilience that emerges when we are in community with one another.”
The seventh annual YIAF celebration will be on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., in the Cistern Yard. With hearty hors d’oeuvres, specially baked goods from Sugar bakeshop, wine and bubbly, as well as music from feminist DJ Lanatron, the event will provide plenty of inspiration and conversation, and aims to double the amount in the WGS program’s new Student Opportunities Fund.
“The WGS Student Opportunities Fund allows us to provide direct support to students pursuing experiential learning opportunities that are available outside of the traditional curriculum,” says De Welde. “Our goal is to raise $25,000, and we know we can reach this with support from our committed sponsors who have been with us over the many years that the program has contributed to the intellectual and activist life of the College and the community.
“Our mission is to ensure that WGS students have opportunities to explore topics of interest to them and relevant to the broad interdisciplinary field of gender studies,” she continues, noting that this exploration could be through study-abroad programs or mentored undergraduate research. “Many students benefit tremendously from the financial support that we can offer them directly in pursuit of academic and professional goals, and indirectly through programming, speakers and events we organize on campus and with community partners. Funds raised during the YIAF campaign make all of this possible.”
And that is not lost on students like Tanner Crunelle, who – through the WGS program’s support – has worked on a National Science Foundation grant, presented research at a regional conference and this November will present his paper, “Towards Equit/ecology: One Student’s Praxis,” as part of the panel session, Invisible Labor on Campus: Race, Emotion and Controversy, at the annual National Women’s Studies Association conference in San Francisco.
“The WGS program has been my conceptual home for exploring how the politics of race, gender, and sexuality all interact to create our realities,” says the Honors College senior who blends his English major with creative writing, Southern studies and women’s and gender studies coursework to reinforce on- and off-campus activism. “Most importantly, though, I feel most connected to our CofC community when I’m in the presence of WGS faculty, students and staff – a gentle but firm reminder of the immense hope we can gain from learning about and critically questioning our world.”
Claire Zlotnicki, who is currently studying abroad in London thanks to the support of the WGS program, agrees.
“Every day I get to learn about issues related to women’s studies from a different perspective,” says the senior WGS major. “Hearing what the women in my classes here, who have come from all over the world, have to say in discussion is so enlightening, and I will bring these new understandings back to Charleston with me, where they will continue to inform my study and understanding of issues in women’s and gender studies. Getting this new perspective and hearing from all these different voices would not have been possible without support from donors at ‘Yes! I’m a Feminist.’”
Of course, the students aren’t the only ones who benefit from this support: When they’re allowed to explore these new perspectives and bring them back to the College community, the WGS program – and the greater community – benefits, too.
“We expect our students to give back to the College of Charleston, the Charleston community and the state through their one-on-one involvement in outreach programs. I feel there is no other program in the state where students are challenged on so many various academic levels, nor a program that pushes for inclusion and acceptance of all persons,” says Callie Shell ’83, chair of the of the WGS program’s Community Advisory Board. “I am continually impressed with what the WGS’s students and faculty achieve and give back to my community. These students are creating a better future for all of us.”
And that is exactly what happens when we all come together for something we believe in.