By Len La Rocca
The College invited alumnae from the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies program for a panel held to celebrate Women’s History Month on March 6 at 6 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.
The panelists discussed how WGSS has become a practical major that has led to fruitful careers.
Alumnae of the WGSS program Erin Shannon (’16), Alyssa Fountain (’13) and Hakima Lamour (’04) addressed the backlash that WGSS is an allegedly useless major and countered that claim with the evidence of the careers they have found with the degree.
“People don’t believe you get jobs in our WGSS program, but our alums are living to disprove that,” said Ann Marie Nicolosi, a professor in the WGSS program who lead the panel.
Shannon is in graduate school at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, currently working toward her master’s degree in women’s studies.
Fountain, who graduated with a double major in WGSS and psychology, is a psychologist and president of the College’s collegiate recovery alumni program for recovering addicts.
Lamour is a popular cake artist who formerly worked at Pennsylvania’s only black-owned and operated a.m. talk radio station, WURD 900.
The panel kicked off with Nicolosi asking the alumni about the most important lessons they learned in the program.
Fountain was eager to speak about how she became a better critical thinker. According to Fountain, technology’s ability to give anyone a voice who may carry a distinct bias to oppress others, such as the emergence of fake news propaganda, pollutes the minds of social media users.
“What I use the most in my day-to-day living was how to be a conscientious consumer of information,” Fountain said.
One of Lamour’s most valuable lessons from the program was understanding equality amongst interpersonal relations.
“It helped me understand equity in relationships, like how supervisors should be treating employees,” she said.
WGSS even helped Shannon discover that she was not heterosexual.
Realization of privilege was another major takeaway from the program.
“I was poor and I am black, so I was a double minority,” Lamour said.
Fountain had an eye-opening experience while studying her major. She realized her privilege was far greater than she had imagined prior to the program.
“I had no understanding of the privilege I was raised with,” she said.
Nicolosi shifted to discuss President Donald Trump and the current controversy surrounding his treatment of women.
“I don’t think anyone was ready for this,” Lamour said. “This is a level of hate — level of vitriol that nobody was ready for … WGSS puts it in better context for me. It forces you to figure out why somebody is saying or doing something.”
Fountain’s work with woman of sexual abuse skyrocketed when Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward this past year to tell of her experience with sexual assault and named now Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh as the attacker.
“When Kavanaugh was on the front page of the newspaper, we had more women scheduling to talk about their trauma than in the last 365 days,”Fountain said.
Students in the WGSS program were comforted by the alumni’s reported success in their careers.
“I liked it,” said Dylan Broadwell, a senior WGSS and psychology double major. “It was a requirement for my class that I had to come to this event, but I also was planning on coming to it anyway just because as a WGSS major everyone tells you all the time, ‘oh, what are you gonna do with that?’ It’s interesting knowing that people actually did something with their degree.”
The panelists’ words also resonated with students, who were not in the WGSS program.
“I’m curious to hear because … I’m not a woman,” said Joshua Grabenstein, a sophomore computer science major. “So I’m out of touch to some of the issues that might be affecting them and it can better me as a person if I realize I’m doing one of these things.”
Nicolosi concluded the panel with advice to all WGSS majors in attendance.
“Don’t let anybody laugh at your degree,” Nicolosi said. “Be proud of your ability to advocate for yourself and others.”