Kelsey Cotton '17

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In 2017, Kelsey Cotton graduated from Aquinas College with a major in Spanish and a minor in Women’s Studies. After graduation, she served a four-month term as an AmeriCorps service volunteer, facilitating service learning on an animal sanctuary in Southern Oregon. She currently works full time as an Office Administrator at a non-profit organization for economic development in Aurora, Illinois.

In her post-graduate life, however, Kelsey says, “There is not a Women’s Studies course that I took whose content I do not think about every day.” She speaks about the uniqueness of the Women’s Studies program at Aquinas College, saying she has never encountered two students who took the same combination of courses for their Women’s Studies minor, so each graduate has a distinct skill set.

There are three courses Kelsey credits especially with shaping her perspective on the world. “Women, Girls, and Leadership” with Dr. Haworth-Hoeppner informed her about the barriers to women obtaining leadership roles--how to identify them and how to break them. Dr. Wickering’s “Arab Women” course changed Kelsey’s view of femininity, sexuality, menstruation, covering, and polygamy from the perspective of Arab culture and her own culture. The course “Women in American History” with Professor Chamberlain gave Kelsey the opportunity to learn about the intentional marginalization of women, especially women of color.

Kelsey speaks fondly about the Women’s Studies faculty at Aquinas, saying that it is clear they truly care about their students, in and out of the classroom. Looking back at her time at Aquinas, she remembers one day fondly, prefacing her memory by saying that no faculty or staff in the Women’s Studies program ever projected or enforced their personal and/or political opinions in or out of the classroom in any capacity:  On the day of the 2016 Presidential Election, all of the Women’s Studies faculty came to classes in pantsuits, ready to support the discussion of a woman president. Then, after the election, faculty created spaces for students who were feeling unsafe, unsupported, marginalized, or simply upset, to experience support. This intentional support “made all the difference to me as a Women’s Studies student,” Kelsey says.

Almost a year after her graduation, Kelsey is happy with her choice to minor in Women’s Studies. She recalls how the Women’s Studies minor affected her Aquinas experience: “Before pursuing the WS minor I definitely felt aimless as far as my degree was concerned; but...the WS minor empowered me to take courses that inspired me and choose projects that allowed me to research my areas of interest.”

And in terms of going forward? Kelsey notes, “I learned so much through this minor that it makes me excited to continue my study of women, marginalized communities, gender, and sexuality in some capacity at the graduate level.”