Angela Davis. Noam Chomsky. Denis Goldberg. Amy Goodman. Cornel West.
These are just a few of the prominent visitors who have come to Dartmouth to engage with students, faculty, and community members as part of an annual seminar and public lecture series organized by the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth (GRID).
Now in its second full year, GRID recently announced the theme of its spring 2015 seminar, “Just Words: Free Speech and Social Change,” which will draw a slate of more than a half-dozen feminist scholars, journalists, bloggers, and activists to campus between April 17 and May 12. Among them are Code Pink cofounder Medea Benjamin, author Rebecca Solnit, political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, Women’s Media Center cofounder Robin Morgan, and Guardian contributor Hannah Giorgis ’13.
According to Annabel Martín, GRID’s inaugural director, “GRID was created to bring together all of the gender-related research that takes place on the Dartmouth campus under one umbrella. It’s a three-pronged approach—research, teaching, and activism.”
The institute and its flagship seminar offer an interdisciplinary model. The annual seminar is made up of 15 faculty fellows representing disciplines as diverse as anthropology, medicine, business, and philosophy. The group gathers regularly throughout the spring term to delve into the work of guest speakers, then meets for discussions with those speakers in conjunction with the guests’ public lectures.
For Amy Allen, the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities, the GRID seminar conversations have been “incredibly fruitful.” She says, “To meet in person with these scholars has given me perspective on what sometimes seem to be narrow scholarly issues. It’s helped me think differently about how my own work can be in conversation with a broader audience.”
Allen is a member of GRID’s steering committee, a diverse group that has included Daniel Benjamin, the Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding; Lisa Baldez, director of the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning; Associate Professor of German Veronika Fuechtner; Institute of Arctic Studies Director Ross Virginia; Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies Aimee Bahng; and Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Eng-Beng Lim.
What makes Dartmouth’s model distinctive is that it welcomes undergraduates, says Martín, who is also an associate professor of Spanish, comparative literature, and women’s and gender studies. “Many campuses that have gender research institutes work closely with graduate students. At Dartmouth we’ve opened the door for undergraduates. For us it was important to have the student involvement, because our undergraduates rise to the occasion.”
Concurrent with the faculty seminar, 10 students have the opportunity to take the for-credit “Women’s and Gender Studies 96: Advanced Research in Gender Studies,” led by a GRID postdoctoral fellow. In addition to their coursework, the students attend all the faculty seminar sessions and guest speaker events. They also collaborate with each other and with faculty to produce articles for publication on the theme of the seminar.
GRID’s first post-baccalaureate fellow, Stephanie Chavez-Yenter ’14, took “WGST 96” as an undergraduate. “To work through issues with faculty as an intellectual community, where students’ ideas are just as valid as theirs, was phenomenal,” says Chavez-Yenter, who is from East Lansing, Mich. “It shows you what academia really is. And it was very cool getting to talk through issues of activism with Angela Davis.”
Martín adds, “For students who see themselves as future leaders in the world of change, GRID wants to offer an intellectual space for thinking about how change happens and why it matters.”
In addition to organizing the seminar, GRID offers a two-year postdoctoral fellowship that brings young scholars to Dartmouth. GRID’s first postdoctoral fellow is Brianne Gallagher, a resident fellow at Triangle House, the College’s living learning community for LGBTQIA students. Gallagher’s research focuses on the intersections between gender, war, and trauma.
GRID also cosponsors a number of student internships, including ones in Guatemala, India, and, most recently, at the Sackler Institute for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Asked about GRID’s future, Martín smiles. Among her dreams: increased student and faculty research on gender issues, both at Dartmouth and with international partners; strengthened infrastructure connecting GRID and the other gender-focused organizations on campus; more GRID-sponsored events; and more alumni engagement.
“The sky’s the limit,” she says.