By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
The Women’s Studies Department has awarded two students who have achieved academic excellence in the major the new Felicia Sturzer Scholarship. Students with an overall GPA of 3.0 and a 3.5 GPA in Women’s Studies who have taken at least 15 hours of Women’s Studies courses are be eligible.
“I think this scholarship will not only support our majors, but also help raise awareness of the Women’s Studies program at UTC and increase interest in our program,” says Dr. Marcia Noe, the Director of the Women’s Studies Program.
The 2014 winners are Kaitlin Cottle and Sania Khan.
Cottle, a senior majoring in both Women’s Studies and English, was drawn to Women’s Studies because of her interest in activism.
“I came to the University as an English Major and I also got involved in the Women’s Action Council,” says Cottle. The Women’s Action Council (WAC) is the official student organization partnered with the Women’s Center. They are dedicated to advocating for women on the UTC campus and the Chattanooga community.
“I got involved and I realized that I didn’t know what I needed to know to pursue real social justice. So I took an intro class in Women’s Studies to learn about what I was doing. Then I absolutely fell in love with the course, with the department, and the major. Women’s studies is very concerned with bridging the gap between activism and academia and making what you learn so valuable in your everyday life,” says Cottle
She is still involved in the WAC, the External Affairs Committee, and is currently the President of Spectrum, UTC’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Heterosexual Alliance. She is also participating in Elect Her, a series of training sessions aimed at providing female students with the resources to be elected to student government as a way to advance women’s role in politics.
Sania Khan is a junior majoring in both Women’s Studies and Psychology. Khan, whose parents are from Pakistan, is particularly interested in the global aspects of Women’s Studies.
“Women’s studies appeals to me because of the global impact,” says Khan. “I believe that every feminist has a reason that they are fighting for the rights of women and mine is for the rights of women internationally. It’s all about helping people. There’s so much hate in the world, which is why I also want to look at it from a psychological point of view, to help end that.”
Khan is a photographer-activist who has collaborated with the Women’s Center and the Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults on feminist projects. She had a photography exhibit of domestic assault and sexual violence survivors during the Take Back The Night event.
“I got to meet survivors and it related to both of my majors. It was a life-changing experience,” says Khan. “My pictures were then posted in the courthouse and the Mayor got to see them, which was awesome. I’ll be doing another exhibit of victims of self-harm for an event called Feel Good Naked.”
Khan is involved in WAC; she is the president of Omega Phi Alpha, a service sorority; and she is the Connection Development and Art Chair of Women Investing in Student Empowerment (WISE). She also volunteers with organizations like the Signal Centers and the Partnership.
This scholarship was named for Dr. Felicia Sturzer, the founding coordinator of the UTC Women’s Studies Program who retired in May 2013 after 35 years teaching at our University. An anonymous donor hoped to honor Sturzer while also encouraging academic achievement in the Women’s Studies Program.
“I think it’s important to support our majors as much as possible and make sure they have the resources to finish their education,” says Noe. “Both Kaitlin and Sania are ideal recipients of the Felicia Sturzer Scholarship. I have taught both students, and they are mind-blowingly awesome, not only in terms of their academic achievement but also in terms of their involvement in and commitment to feminist activism in the UTC and Chattanooga communities,” says Noe.
UTC provides both a major and a minor in Women’s Studies, designed to equip students to understand women’s problems, analyze them from the perspective of several disciplines, and develop research-based solutions.
“Women’s Studies didn’t originate in the ivory tower, it originated in the streets. It originated in the 1970’s, during the Women’s Liberation Movement. It was women saying, ‘We’ve got a problem here – women are oppressed. How do we find research-based solutions to these problems?’” says Noe. “It’s important because it is grounded in the here and now. It confronts real world situations such as sex trafficking.”
The interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Program combines courses that explore how power relations are gendered and complicated by issues of race, class, and sexual orientation.
“Women’s Studies focuses heavily on difference and intersection. We recognize that oppression is multifaceted. We talk about not only women, but also gender, race, class, etc,” says Noe.
These issues are explored from disciplinary perspectives such as history, political science, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and communication.
“I’d say we have ten to fifteen different departments in the University that offer Women’s Studies courses,” says Noe.
Students are taught to think analytically, read critically, argue cogently, and speak eloquently about gender-related issues across the disciplines.
“I think the concept of deep, multi-disciplinary learning that Women’s Studies offers is very important,” says Noe.
This semester, the Women’s Studies Program is offering thirteen class sections including three new classes: History of Modern Sexuality in America; Fiction, Fashion, and Feminism; and Women in Buddhism.
The Women’s Studies Department hosts lecture series, organizes awareness events, and is involved with community organizations such as Girls Inc. and the Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults.
In celebration of Women’s History Month in March, the Women’s Studies Department is partnering with the Women’s Center, Student Development, Student Health Services, the Counseling and Personal Development Center, and the Campus Activities Board to bring in Kjerstin Gruys as a speaker. Gruyes lived for a year without mirrors and wrote a memoir called Mirror Mirror Off The Wall. She has appeared on 20/20 and The Colbert Report.