Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 2
spring 2016
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Alum Spotlight: Andrew Dowe

YC ’08 (WGSS/AFAM), GSAS (WGSS/AFAM/AMST)

 
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My desire to better understand ongoing debates over LGBTQ rights at the time drew me to my first WGSS course, Prof. Megan Sinnott’s ‘Nationalism, Politics and Sexuality’ in Spring 2005. I left Prof. Sinnott’s class with a new interdisciplinary toolkit, a new sense of the possibilities of scholarship and a new major: WGSS.

As it often does for majors, WGSS quickly became my home on campus—I began working for the Larry Kramer Initiative (LKI, now LGBTS) that same semester, and classmates from WGSS courses became close friends and partners in various social and political endeavors. We soon realized, however, that the home we found on the third floor of WLH was not nearly as sure as we assumed. The yearly changeover in LKI-funded visiting faculty, including Prof. Sinnott, left some scrambling for advisors, and the University’s hesitation to fund LGBTS beyond the gift that funded the LKI called one of the major’s concentrations into question.

A renewed institutional investment in WGSS and LGBTS drew me back to Yale in 2010 as a PhD student, where WGSS continued to regularly welcome a diverse array of emerging and established scholars into meaningful and engaged conversations, including graduate and professional students from across campus involved in the popular Graduate Colloquium, begun years before by an LKI visiting professor.

Being a part of the WGSS community has been one of the most enriching parts of my Yale experience, and teaching for WGSS has been the best part of my experience as a graduate employee. Returning ‘home’ this past semester was, however, bittersweet, as it has been in many semesters past and will be again next Fall. The departure of an alarming number of diverse and dynamic faculty affiliated with WGSS has left many students in the same position as my peers and I once found ourselves.

Walking the halls of the third floor of WLH, I am constantly reminded of the many impressive scholars who have made their homes here in WGSS and who have made it a home for so many. The inexplicable brevity and precarity of their tenures raise questions for me about my own future in academia—if an institution as well-resourced as Yale won’t invest in values it extolls, who will?

These losses are a sobering reminder that the dedication to fostering a diverse and supportive community for rigorous interdisciplinary work that I have come to take for granted in WGSS is not yet a Yale tradition. Instead, with new time-limited initiatives, the administration again promises to recreate that which a lack of institutional investment has repeatedly let slip away.

My conversations with just some of the hundreds of enthusiastic students who enroll in WGSS courses each semester, however, remind me of my own discovery of WGSS as an undergraduate, unaware of institutional realities, and of the importance of continuing the work of the many dedicated scholars who have made and continue to make WGSS a model academic community, a central hub of rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship at Yale, and a home for so many.

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