Outstanding WGS Alumni - Sandra Carpenter (BA, 2012)
What was your degree at EKU—major/minor, year of graduation?
o My degree from EKU is a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing with a Women and Gender Studies Minor. I graduated in Spring 2012.
Why did you choose to minor in WGS at EKU?
o I chose to minor in WGS at EKU because I naturally gravitated towards women’s literature in the classroom and toward feminism in my personal and activist life. As a first-generation college student, WGS provided me with the academic “home” in which I found that my own academic contributions were valuable and insightful. WGS faculty consistently make special efforts to ensure the academic and personal development of their students—guidance I greatly needed and wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere.
What was your most memorable course and why?
o My most memorable course was Women’s Literature. Dr. Day created a syllabus that had something to offer to every student enrolled. Throughout the class discussions, my classmates and I became very close. Dr. Day assigned a creative culminating project and allowed me to partner with another student, who would eventually become one of my best friends and fellow academic feminists. We worked together to write and perform a spoken word poem/song adapting the agency of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. My friend and I didn’t realize it until much later, but this particular assignment also sparked our own life-long commitments to analyzing culture, women’s literature, and our positionalities within the academy. This class was the perfect example of feminist collaborative learning and has set the stage for how I wish to conduct my own courses.
How did you apply what you learned in the classroom at EKU?
o An easier question to answer would be how haven’t I applied what I learned in WGS classrooms at EKU? From the moment I took my first WGS class, I began participating in feminist activism and haven’t stopped since. I’ve volunteered for rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, worked with folks affected by HIV/AIDS, performed in The Vagina Monologues, and any other crisis agencies that I can serve. Outside of volunteer opportunities, I’ve become an active member of social justice networks and organizations within my professional and local communities.
WGS classes at EKU also helped me develop my intellectual confidence. I began my college career as an undergraduate student who frequently missed classes and sat silently in the back when I did attend. By the time I graduated, however, I had found my voice inside the classroom and within the EKU community, even challenging myself to share my story in front of thousands as the student speaker for my commencement ceremony.
How did your WGS minor affect your further career, educational, and activism goals?
o My minor shaped my career goals. Since graduating EKU with a minor in WGS, I’ve pursued feminist studies at the graduate level and earned my MA in Women’s and Gender Studies in May at the University of South Florida. I'll be starting my PhD in Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington with a full graduate assistantship in Fall 2016.
Studying Women and Gender Studies at EKU specifically has shaped my investment in researching feminism in Appalachia. As I progress through my graduate studies and research, I’ve been disappointed to see how little is being published on the radical social justice movements occurring inside Appalachia, so I’ve used the tools first given to me at EKU to analyze and highlight the good work that is being done back home. Although I’m currently writing hundreds of miles away from home, I never feel too far with the words of Appalachian activists such as bell hooks, Dorothy Allison, and Bianca Spriggs to guide me through my feelings of (un)belonging within the academy and dominant culture writ large.
What advice would you give current or prospective EKU students based on your own experience?
o Undergrad was a scary experience where I tried on many ill-fitting hats before I found my place within feminism and WGS. My best advice would be to not spend too much time trying to fit into one specific community. EKU offers countless clubs and organizations, so I’d say find ones that nourish your personal and intellectual commitments and move on from ones that stifle them. Also, eat all the free food. All of it.
Dr. Lisa Day
Published on May 09, 2016