The Future of WGSS
In 2021, Dr. Winnubst describes a complete 180 for the Department and its relationship to the university. In 2021, the university hired various feminist allies at the highest leadership positions at OSU. We have the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Gretchen Ritter, who has been fighting for funding and hiring efforts. Executive Dean, David horn, has also been exceptionally supportive and is also a longtime affiliated faculty member of the WGSS Department. We also have Provost Mellissa Gilliam who has been engaging with WGSS in unprecedented ways. For one, Dr. Winnubst shares that she has been reorganizing the Office of Academic Affairs by hiring three senior Vice Provost members, two of which are black feminist scholars. One of which, Dr. Wendy Smooth, is directly a part of the WGSS faculty. Lastly, we have a feminist university President in Kristina M. Johnson who has been much more supportive than previous university Presidents.
On top of the already strong and dedicated feminist work happening amongst the Department faculty, there is a lot to be hopeful for regarding the Program's future. Dr. Winnubst shared that last year the Department was able to make two hires, with one being a joint appointment with the Department of African American and African Studies, with the second being a fellow to faculty position. Even more, the Department has been awarded two more job searches! One is searching for an indigenous feminist scholar, while the other is looking for an expert on trans studies.
Dr. Winnubst believes that the consistent and growing support by the administration and students is a result of the Trump presidency. The university recently approved a new general education (GE) requirement in gender, race, and ethnicity. The result of the 2016 and 2020 elections have shone a humongous floodlight on the importance of everyone having a foundational knowledge of social inequities as a result of systems of oppression (such as the patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, etc.). Of course, Women's Studies and AAS are at the forefront of challenging the university as an institution to be a source of activism and a catalyst for structural societal change.
Another cause for celebration for the future of WGSS at OSU can be seen in the new LGBTQ+ Studies minor the Department offers. Dr. Winnubst hopes that this program can also grow, maybe one day becoming a major.
Dr. Winnubst stated that she also eyes plans to hire a feminist disabilities scholar because this perspective could be better represented within the Department. She also shared with me that this next year as chair will be her last. So, there will be searches for a Department chair next academic year.
Finishing off this interview with Dr. Winnubst, we both were left with the impression that the WGSS Department is stronger than it has ever been and will potentially keep growing and growing. With unprecedented support from the university, the future looks bright. And, in light of the recent Roe v. Wade overturn and persistent attacks on women's and queer person's sexual and reproductive rights, the future for feminist discussion in and outside of classrooms will be especially poignant and focused.
With optimism characterizing the feminist future on campus, we must also remain vigilant. But, Dr. Winnubst explained at the end of our interview that "people are hungry, you know that I feel that the students are coming better prepared than I've ever seen them. And hungrier than I've ever seen them into these conversations and so I'm excited to see how that continues to really grow, and I think with the, with the support we're getting I think it will."
Knowing the program's history and present, I have complete faith that the future will continue to push the boundaries of the field of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and continue to challenge social institutions and the university as an institution. I believe feminism is partly characterized by growth and change and movement. So, there is only movement forward and I am so honored and galvanized to get to work as an incoming graduate student this Fall and participate in this next chapter in OSU's WGSS Department's history.