It is with great honor and humility that I accept the Outstanding Graduate of Women and Gender Studies award.
When I told people I was majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, they would typically roll their eyes, then ask snidely, “what are you going to do with that?” While there are many responses to this question, as evidenced by the amazing collection of people in this room, I would argue that there are so many things that I continue to “do with that,” from helping girls to express themselves to advocating for media reform and justice.
My time at USM is marked by a wealth of intellectual and personal development. Whether it was reading Pat Califia in Wendy Chapkis’s Politics of Difference class, grappling with feminist Marxist economics in Susan Feiner’s class, learning about female authorship in Lorrayne Carroll’s Early Women Writers course, or discussing Foucault in Eve Raimon’s Contemporary Feminist Theories course, my professors challenged me to think critically about the world and my place in it. But the learning extended beyond the classroom. My professors always took the time to discuss ideas from class in their office hours or support student-led initiatives. As a 20-something year old, this was truly radical.
As a professor now myself, I hope to inspire in my students the same love of knowledge and social responsibility that was the gift given to me from the WGS program at USM. As one colleague recently stated about her own professors in graduate school, they made it look so easy. But the reality is, it is challenging work. Now more than ever, WGS programs are crucial for helping students to make the world a better place.
In conclusion, I cannot thank this amazing faculty enough for helping me to become the person I am today.
[A 1997 graduate of USM with a BA in Women's Studies, Carolyn Cunningham received her PhD from University of Texas Austin and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Masters in Communication and Leadership Studies program at Gonzaga University in Washington state. Her research and teaching examines social impacts of new technologies, with a particular focus on gender, race and class. She is passionate about media literacy and has worked with several nonprofit organizations aimed at encouraging girls' media production. Her current research project is an ethnographic study of girls' video games.]