From left: Margo Okazawa-Rey, Kyandreia Jones ’19, Phinix Knight-Jacks ’19, Pavitra Sundar, and Mariam Durrani.

Several faculty members and students were part of an all-Hamilton panel at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conference in Atlanta.

“Undergraduate ‘Community Engagement’ Learning and Teaching: Transnational Feminist Methodologies,” featured Assistant Professor of Literature Pavitra Sundar, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Mariam Durrani, and Lecturer for the Levitt Center Margo Okazawa-Rey, who also organized the roundtable. Seniors Kyandreia Jones and Phinix Knight-Jacks were also part of the discussion. The participants presented on course trips and assignments that involved linking academic work to the world beyond the classroom.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Studies Meredith Madden was part of the group that planned the session but was unable to attend the conference.

According to its website, the National Women’s Studies Association was established in 1977. Among the organization’s main priorities are “promoting and supporting the production and dissemination of knowledge about women and gender through teaching, learning, research, and service in academic and other settings.”

Reflections on the conference from panelists Kyandreia Jones ’19 and Phinix Knight-Jacks ’19:

Last week (November 8-11), we had the pleasure of attending the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia entitled, “Just Imagine. Imagining Justice: Feminist Visions of freedom, dream making and the radical politics of the futures, accompanied by Professors Pavitra Sundar, Margo Okazawa-Rey and Mariam Durrani.
This conference was an enriching, transformative experience. We had the opportunity to join Professors Sundar, Okazawa-Rey and Durrani on their panel titled “Undergraduate ‘Community Engagement’ Learning and Teaching: Transnational Feminist Methodologies” about the importance of experiential learning. We also attended various workshops, roundtable discussions and panels led by inspiring professors and educators from all over the country. On the last night, the grand ballroom was filled with members of the conference gathered to hear Keynote Speakers, Pulitzer Prize Recipient Alice Walker and educator Beverly Guy-Sheftall. 

During our roundtable discussion, we shared our experiences in Professor Pavitra Sundar’s course “Indians, Aliens and Others” which we took our sophomore spring. We discussed our individual Hamilton Assignments, shedding light on the ways in which the institution impacts us as both women and black people. As we took our classmates through a day in our lives, we walked the other scholars attending the event through our unique experience on the hill. There is value in validating the experience of the unheard and the ignored on campuses such as Hamilton’s. We demonstrated where theory meets practice. We unmasked the subjects in our readings and revealed that there are people who share the same truth sitting in the classroom. 

Similar to Professor Sundar’s course, the conference allowed us to see the structures that lead to conflict, discomfort and ignorance which is the first step to deconstructing these issues and to building a place where all students may live in an empowering, healthy community. As women of color and seniors, the conference provided us with the tools necessary to carry onto Hamilton’s campus constructive and nuanced conversations about femininity, race, sexuality, politics and other crucial topics.

We would like to thank the Kirkland Endowment (KEAC), Dean of Faculty Office and the Literature and Creative Writing Department for funding our trip. Also, we would like to send a special thank you to Professor Pavitra Sundar, for not only inviting us to present with her, but for also challenging, encouraging and believing in our voices, intellect and futures.

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