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Northwestern Women’s Center presents May 15 symposium on gender, education and progress

Deana Lewis
Deana Lewis, executive director of the National Women’s Studies Association

The Women’s Center at Northwestern University will present its annual symposium online May 15 and will feature opening remarks by Deana Lewis, the executive director of the National Women’s Studies Association. 

This year’s theme, “By Degrees: Gender, Education and Progress” speaks to the University-wide commemoration of 150 Years of Women/Womxn at Northwestern.

The Symposium will be held online from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required.

The Symposium will engage directors of Women, Gender and Sexuality (WGS) Centers, in considering the persistence of institutionalized sexism, cisgenderism and other intersecting forms of inequality in higher education.

Lewis’ opening remarks will be followed by a panel discussion between five WGS directors -- all of whom are queer, feminist scholar-administrators -- from across the nation. The panel will explore multifaceted structural actions required to transform higher education into a social institution that is inclusive, equitable and liberating for all.

As academic institutions rally to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the gendered impact of the pandemic both on and off college campuses has not gone without notice. Contributions of WGS Centers have become critical and stabilizing partners in university planning processes during the transition to the remote learning and working environment. The Symposium’s focus on the contemporary and historic roles of these Centers on college campuses is both intellectually relevant and timely for academic institutions that are committed to gender equity and inclusion.

For the past 50 years, WGS Centers have served as critical sites of feminist praxis and continue to play a leading role in advancing gender equity and inclusion in higher education. This Symposium will note the incremental and positive changes for women, queer, trans and non-binary people in higher education settings, highlight these groups’ extraordinary contributions to university life and acknowledge their continued struggles in higher education.

The Symposium was originally scheduled to be held in person on March 11 as both the signature Women’s History Month program of the Women’s Center as well as a central component of the founding meeting of the Gender Justice and Digital Life Global Working Group in partnership with the Buffet Institute for Global Affairs. The international Working Group of faculty, students and activists who are working to end gender-based violence, who had been expected to arrive on campus in March, will now participate online.

The session will open with remarks from Lewis about the historic relationship between WGS Centers and the interdisciplinary academic field of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies.

Following opening remarks, Sekile Nzinga -- Northwestern Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Women’s Center Director and gender and sexuality studies lecturer -- will facilitate a conversation between WGS Centers directors Natalie Bennett of the University of Illinois Chicago, Angela Clark-Taylor of Case Western Reserve University, Kaitlin Legg of the University of Rochester and Ann Russo of DePaul University.

The event will conclude with breakout room opportunities for participants to share knowledge and network with participants.

The Symposium is co-presented with The Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.

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