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Women's Studies at Aquinas College

Gender, Identity, and Sexualities Symposium

The Gender, Identity, and Sexualities Symposium, formerly known as the Resourceful Women Conference, is an interdisciplinary conference featuring undergraduate student presentations on gender, identity, and sexualities. It is an opportunity for undergraduates to work with faculty mentors to showcase their work from all academic areas – literary analyses, research projects, scientific studies, art, music, poetry, theatre, dance – addressing issues related to women, gender, identity, and sexuality.

Congratulations to the Gender, Identity, and Sexuality Symposium 2021 Herbruck Prize Winners: Students Brittney Carter, Hannah Lashbrook, Sydney Morris, and Samuel Preston! Their presentations can be found, alongside the 2021 Symposium Program and the Keynote by Charisse Mitchell, CEO of the YWCA of West Central Michigan, in the Grace Hauenstein Library’s Women’s Studies Library Guide.

A Brief History of the Resourceful Women Conference

By: Bethany Kilcrease, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at Aquinas College
The first Resourceful Women Conference (RWC) was held in honor of Women’s History Month on March 22, 1997.  The first organizers of the annual (now biennial) conference hoped to provide a venue for students to present undergraduate research and creative writing in an academically-rigorous but also collegial environment – an atmosphere designed to help students develop as “critical thinkers, effective communicators, and advocates for gender equality.”*  Moreover, due to the generosity of writer Diane Herbruck (pseudonym Emma Bonta), a prize of up to $500 is available for the most outstanding student papers of the conference. 

Given the multidisciplinary nature of women’s studies, the RWC brings together faculty, staff, and students from across disciplines to participate in a day-long discussion of women, gender, sexuality, and related topics. Because each student presenter is paired with a faculty mentor, the RWC provides an opportunity for students and faculty to work together in an academic setting outside the classroom. In addition, the conference also enables networking among members of the Aquinas College community and the students and faculty of other local institutions and colleges. Over the years, undergraduate students from Calvin College, Davenport University, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Michigan State University, Muskegon Community College, Oakland University, and the University of Pittsburgh have submitted and presented papers. Not only are students from other colleges invited to submit papers for presentation, but keynote speakers are frequently women from outside the immediate Aquinas community.

In 2020-21, in the context of planning a virtual conference in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the planning committee also elected to expand the name of the conference to Gender, Identity, and Sexualities Symposium to better encompass the broader themes of the event and reflect its smaller, one-day nature. Despite the changes in format and name, the overarching goals of our gathering remain the same: to provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors in an academic setting outside the classroom, and to showcase their work from all disciplines related to women, gender, sexuality, identity, and related topics.

Notable Key Speakers

  • Dr. Kelly Dittmar ’05, scholar at the Center for American Women & Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and author of “A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Presence Matters” (2020)
  • Charisse Mitchell, CEO of the YWCA of West Central Michigan (2021)

The Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center Strategic Plan for 2005-7 aimed to develop the RWC into an event “widely recognized as an important forum on gender and women’s issues...participated in by undergraduates throughout Michigan.”**  Given heavy faculty participation and consistently high-quality keynote speakers and student entries, the Women’s Studies Center has succeeded in positioning the RWC as one of the most important opportunities for undergraduates to present original work at Aquinas College.
 
* “Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center Strategic Plan 2005-2007,” p. 3.
** Ibid.