Urvashi Vaid, LGBT attorney/community organizer, to keynote MTSU women's & gender studies conference

Creating Global Change, the MTSU Women's and Gender Studies Interdisciplinary Conference, will unite scholars from all over the world March 23-25 to engage issues related to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. The conference this year will be held in the Student Union Ballroom area (2nd floor) on the MTSU campus.

A pre-conference student showcase will feature student scholarship, creative performances with a film and discussion on March 22.

This year’s conference features a keynote address entitled “Irresistible Revolution” by attorney and LGBT+ activist Urvashi Vaid at 3pm Thursday. A spoken word art performance by Andrea Gibson, the author of Pansy, will take place also on Thursday, at 7pm.

On Friday morning at 11:30am there will be an empowerment workshop, “Beyond Hashtags: Using New Media to Combat Campus Rape Culture,” facilitated by feminist blogger and anti-violence advocate, Wagatwe Wanjuki.  After an afternoon of papers and a Women in STEM roundtable, the Friday workshop will be coupled with a 5pm film showing and discussion of Unslut, a project that uses personal story sharing to work against sexual bullying and “slut”-shaming in our schools, communities, media, and culture.

The conference will end on Saturday with a full line-up of stimulating paper panels from around the globe.

“We have an incredible lineup of speakers and panels on the program," said Dr. Vicky MacLean, the current Director of Women's and Gender Studies and conference coordinator, "with global representation of paper panelists, and incredible regional and local faculty and student involvement, including several student organizations involved in Student Showcase and co-sponsoring the featured events. The students are particularly energetic this year and have really embraced the entire conference.”

This is the 12th biennial WGST Conference, which began in 1995 when Nancy Rupprecht was the first director of Women’s Studies at MTSU. Anne Cantrell, Professor Emerita, and past president of the AAUW-TN, chaired the first conference and will be attending this year’s conference dinner with former WGST directors who will share reflections on the conference history and growth.

The first conference was entitled “Women and Power” and under Elyce Helford’s directorship introduced our “woman holding the bowl” logo, conference mug, and rotating conference themes every other year. The following directorship by Tina Johnson added a pre-conference student showcase designed to feature scholarship and creative activities of MTSU students. This year's student showcase, to be held on Wednesday, has grown bigger than ever including students from outside universities. 

Five of MTSU's progressive student organizations have joined forces and funding to help sponsor the major conference events. Lambda, SAFE (Students Active for Feminism and Equality), Planned Parenthood Generation Action, MT Student Sociologists, and AAUW-Students have each organized a session for Student Showcase.  SAFE will be holding its traditional silent auction fundraiser from 9am-3pm Wednesday. At 11:30am, MTSU Dance Program students will perform “Our Lives, Herstories,” choreographed by dance professor, Meg Brooker.  At 12:30 Planned Parenthood Generation Action will host a workshop, “Our Bodies, Our Rights” followed by spoken word art performances sponsored by SAFE at 1:30.

Performances will include Nina Moriah’s “Nasty Woman” which has become a YouTube sensation since Ashley Judd performed her script at the January 21 Women’s March on Washington, DC.  Wednesday’s student showcase will end with a film showing and discussion on transgender experiences, Becoming Johanna, also in the Ballroom at 4:10.  All of the days sessions are conveniently scheduled with the official class schedule and faculty are encouraged to bring their classes to all of the day’s sessions.

“It is our hope and vision that the conference will serve as an inspiration and catalyst for global social and cultural change," said Dr. MacLean. "The conference theme and emphasis on social movements is appropriate in these political times when many women believe that it is our season to lead and to have our voices heard as we redirect the political agenda of our country, and indeed of the world. I hope that women and all of our allies who embrace this vision will attend this celebration of our strength in numbers.”

All featured events are included in the National Women’s History Month Calendar of events and are free and open to the public.  Information on the preliminary program can be found online.





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