In the cold, West Michigan winter of 2009, the Women and Gender Studies program at Grand Valley State University introduced its students to the wonderful and intriguing world of Triota. Triota, also known as Iota Iota Iota (try saying that three times fast!) is the Women and Gender Studies National Honors Society that offers students the chance to excel in the areas of WGS by encouraging its members to strive for excellence in academics, giving back to the community through feminist activism and social advocacy, and to spark creativity in ways to engage the campus and community in the WGS program.
Since the birth of Triota on our campus there have been some extremely kick ass student initiated programs to come about, which of course, could not be done without the guidance of our awesome and supportive faculty and staff. With all of that being said, I thought it would be cool to highlight students and the programs they have developed in different Campus Feministing blog posts.
Last week Friday, I was given the opportunity to sit down with Lena Drake, a Creative Writing and WGS major at GVSU, Editor in Chief of the magazine Breadcrumb Scabs (look for more about Breadcrumb Scabs in future posts!) and student researcher extraordinaire. GET THIS: This past summer, she was flown out to Las Vegas through a student scholarship program to a sex worker conference. After her trip, she turned her experiences into pieces of poetry. Lena is also currently researching the social paradigms behind cosmetic surgery with a faculty member. On top of that badass resume, Lena is the mastermind behind the Triota Student Lecture Series at GVSU, the topic that will be discussed in this weeks’ blog post.
The first question I had for Lena, as I am beyond intrigued by her creative, academic-minded thought process, was how she came up with the idea for Triota Student Lecture Series.
“The idea for the Triota Student Lecture Series was a very random occurrence! I was having a spaghetti dinner with my partner, Corey Cooper, one night and we were having a discussion about some of our many feminist ideas and how much we’d like to do speeches and/or papers on these topics at GVSU. We did some more brainstorming on how this could happen, and at the next Triota meeting, I presented the idea that rather than only having outside speakers, we should get students from GVSU to discuss their own topics of feminist interest in front of a crowd of their peers.
While outside speakers are awesome, I think that giving the students the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd of their peers is extremely beneficial. It makes speaking about topics of interest and areas of research more accessible to the general student population. It’s all about listening to people who are just like them in the sense that they are students typically in the same age range. I think it’s a good break from the normal famous speaker, or someone they have never even heard of, or even the same old routine of listening to professors lecture in a classroom setting. It’s refreshing because they get to witness real enthusiasm from their peers, and I believe that enthusiasm demonstrated from others is a great tool for sparking personal inspiration.”
It is safe to say that not all feminists are WGS majors, and being that, I was curious to know what Lena believed was the ideal type of student to present at Triota Student Lectures Series
“One of my main goals for the Triota Student Lecture Series was to help people understand that feminism doesn’t necessarily have to be what they expect: The WGS Major speaking strictly about areas in the field of WGS, and doing it in front of a crowd of WGS students, faculty, and staff. For example, two out of the four presenters in our first lecture series were not WGS Majors and didn’t have any intentions on being one, YET they still had interests that really applied to feminist issues. There are many diverse topics in the Triota Student Lecture Series and it helps students realize that topics they are interested in actually do relate to feminism and that these topics do extend farther women vs. men, race, class, gender, environment, etc. There are so many areas of study that are applicable to feminism.”
Since I was unable to attend the first lecture series, I asked Lena to give an example of a lecture given by a non-WGS major.
“For example, my partner is a psychology major interested in learning about cognition and the way that people learn. The topic highlighted was the theory of Need for Cognition, which basically measures not how smart someone is, but the measure of how interested someone is in learning new things. They may not be the so-called smartest person, but they may have an interested in constantly learning, concentrating, and questioning. Using this theory, Corey saw connections between feminism and how important it is to question things. Society can basically tell you what to do and then you have to follow the mainstream whether it is good or not, so what was examined was how to foster and encourage young people to question how the main stream media tries to eliminate the need for cognition and the desire to question. While Need For Cognition is not strictly a WGS theory, it is clearly connected to feminism.”
Being that the Triota Student Lecture Series is new and still developing, I asked Lena what she hoped for in the program’s future.
“I really want to see all types of students, WGS and Non, making connections between their interests and feminism. Beyond that, it would be very cool to have people present art and lecture about its feminist symbolism, or feminism tied into creative writing. It would also be awesome o see more academic, empirical studies… basically we strive for diversity in our topics.”
To wrap things up, I wanted to know when the next Triota Student Lecture Series was so I could highlight some of the research in Campus Feministing. It turns out that at the end of this semester, once students get a chance to wrap up their research and research proposals, we can expect another lecture series! I, personally, cannot wait and hope I can share some of the feminist research that I will be working on this semester… and hopefully you, the readers, can too! Again, comments and discussion are welcomed and encouraged!
PS- My apologies to Lena and GVSU WGS Department for taking a while to get this blog published! I am basically useless when I’m sick with a cold !