About the courses, from the instructor:
During Fall semester, 2016, 10 undergraduate students at Miami University enrolled in two courses taught by me, Dr. Ann Fuehrer, Associate Professor of Global and Intercultural Studies. The courses included WGS 401, The Role of Women in [a] Transforming Society, which is a senior capstone seminar in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program (WGS), and WGS 402, an Engaged Practicum targeting students who wish to put their expertise in feminism into action to implement a project or action. The classes for the Fall semester of 2016 had two focuses that intertwined, chosen by me because of my desire to support a project being conducted by a colleague in WGS, Dr. Kathy McMahon-Klosterman, and because of the timing concurrent with the 2016 United States presidential election. In planning the courses the previous summer, I believed that upperclass students in WGS would benefit from focusing on these two themes.
First, my colleague, Kathy McMahon-Klosterman and a friend, Joanne McQueen, are two local feminist activists who have been involved in local chapters of the National Organization for Women (NOW) since the mid 1970s. During the 1970s and 1980s, Joanne also operated a business, the Fantastic Feminist Enterprise, which sold merchandise related to feminist activism. For more than a decade, Joanne created an archive of scrapbooks of materials related to Kathy’s and her activities. In the late 2000s, Jo donated approximately a dozen scrapbooks of materials, as well as other artifacts such as buttons and posters, to the Center for Digital Scholarship at Miami University. Kathy and several WGS students began to scan and index the scrapbooks in order to create a digital archive. I became aware of Kathy’s digitizing work several years ago, and saw an opportunity for students in the Fall 2016 WGS 401 seminar to complete the digitizing of the archive. My motivation was to assist Kathy in the project, but also to familiarize students with skills involved in the process of digitizing an archive. I believed such skills would be useful to the students in future careers and activism, particularly since 4th wave feminist movements are often characterized as primarily digital movements.
Second, the timing of the classes also, obviously, coincided with the 2016 US presidential election. Because of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy, this was an historical election, and I didn’t believe I could teach WGS classes without focusing largely on the election.
This website chronicles the activities and products of the 10 students enrolled in the two classes. Assignments for the WGS 401 class involved each student in scanning and indexing the contents of one of Joanne’s scrapbooks; creating a blog and writing six blogposts linking the work of NOW in the 1970s and 80s, as well as Jo’s Fantastic Feminist Enterprise, with intersectional gender-related themes that emerged in the presidential election; and planning and making a presentation at a half-day symposium that occurred on election day, November 8, 2016. The symposium was entitled “Election 2016 His/Her/Hirstory: A Symposium of Projects Offering Intersectional Analyses.” The symposium included not only the work of the 10 students in WGS 401 and 402, but also papers authored by graduate students in another course I was teaching, WGS 601, Graduate introduction to WGS, and by students who responded to an open call for papers and posters.
My assessment was that the classes and the symposium were highly successful. A key to the success of both, in addition to the enthusiasm and work of the students, was working with a digital librarian, Jody Perkins, who was embedded in the WGS 401 class. Jody instructed us in the tools and skills of digitizing an archive, and worked tirelessly to organize our work around the digitizing, the blogging, and the planning and execution of the symposium. The model of an embedded librarian was highly successful, and crucial to the success of the class. I will be teaching WGS 401 again in the Fall of 2017, and plan on involving students in working with the archive to create digital exhibits, with a thematic focus on intersectional feminist activism related to prevention and response to sexual assault.