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Maggie O'Leary, Women and Gender Studies Major
When and why did you decide to become a Women and Gender Studies Major?
I chose to be a WGS minor because I think in a way I always have been--it's difficult not to be drawn to the subject matter when you are surrounded by women who are assertive, capable, and independent, and when you love other family members who fall outside of constructed social and sexual expectations.
What have been your favorite Women and Gender Studies courses so far? Why?
I loved Intro to the Study of Women with Dr. Nikki Berg-Burin and a Fluid Sexualities capstone with Dr. Yvette Koepke. Intro to the Study of Women is such an important course because it introduces students to the reality of their own privileges (or their lack thereof). Students are forced to question how their own relative comfort only exists to the detriment of others who face cultural inequity due to the color of their skin, their ethnicity, gender and sexual identities, economic and educational opportunity, and physical ability. And Dr. Berg-Burin was a phenomenal instructor, of course! :)
The Fluid Sexualities course was a beautiful marriage of my two great loves: Gender and sexuality studies, and my primary academic interest in English Literature. The course felt like a scholastic boot camp at times, but I learned much about others and even more about myself and how our identities are at once staggeringly important and theoretically arbitrary.
How do you feel that your Women and Gender Studies courses have advanced your undergraduate career or otherwise influenced your life?
My WGS courses have completely changed and thoroughly enhanced my ability to think critically and deconstruct the premise of the world around me. By this, I mean that my knowledge base--or what I thought was correct and preferable and substantial for everyone--is wildly, even hopelessly, flawed. I am able to examine what surrounds me through lenses that are interchangeable and present me with a disgusting number of aha moments and an even more terrifying number of inconclusive, bothersome what ifs. Practically, a WGS minor allows me to work more efficiently and empathetically when interacting with other people--it makes me expect the unexpected and constantly be aware of difference and similarity.
What are your future plans?
My future plans include a lot of reading and writing. The idea is to shuffle off to grad school for more English studies and some traveling. After that, I anticipate a career as a wildly financially successful public high school teacher.