Women in Science Symposium Addresses Students’ Futures

By Anika Gullapalli

On Friday, February 11, 2022, the University of Detroit Mercy Chemistry Club hosted their 5th annual Women in Science event through Zoom. Over 100 students and faculty took the time out of their evening to attend this thought-provoking event.

Three panelists presented in breakout rooms on different topics. Dr. Jacob Kagey, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Detroit Mercy, talked about how more privileged members of the scientific community can and should support more marginalized members. He asked students to consider what they can do to support equity in science. Many students talked about allyship and ways they could help advance the goal of equal pay for scientific professionals of all genders.

Dr. Andrea N. Matti, a Senior Lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Wayne State University, discussed how many women in science have to balance work and family, as many people think it is the woman’s job to take care of the family. She provided statistics on how women often leave their jobs to help their families out. However, she herself is a working mom and talked about how the balance between work and family is not as bad as it seems. Many students, especially women, expressed their preference for working rather than spending most of their time taking care of a family. They feel the husband and wife should collaborate so that they both can work the jobs they want.

Finally, Dr. Angela Asirvatham, Associate Professor in the Biology Department at Misericordia University, talked about the diversity of students at private colleges. She explained how little diversity there is at Misericordia, where the majority of students are Caucasian. She asked students who attended the event why they were interested in the University of Detroit Mercy and what their university could do to attract more students from other races. Students talked about programs, scholarships, the small size, and other reasons they had decided to attend Detroit Mercy.

Overall, the event was very successful. Students in attendance enjoyed the different topics addressed and found them useful in preparing them for the future.

2021-22 Undergraduate Writing Competition Winners

Poetry winners
Short Fiction/Personal Essay winners
Academic Essay winners

Faculty Accomplishments and Current Projects 2021-2022

Dawn Archey, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of Mathematics, co-published with Professor Linda Slowik, Professor Xiaohui Zhong, Professor Kathleen Zimmerman-Oster, and Provost Pamela Zarkowski “Understanding How Social Support Alleviates Work Interference with Family among Faculty” in the Journal of the Professoriate. This work is based on analysis of the data from the Faculty Workplace Experiences Survey that they conducted to study gender differences in workplace climate, especially as they impact women in STEM. The study received an NSF ADVANCE grant. https://caarpweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/social_support_alleviates_work_interference_slowik_et_al._12-2-2.pdf

Greg Grobis, Associate Professor and Chair of Performing Arts, received a Fulbright Hays GPA Brazil Trip scholarship and will be studying in Brazil in July 2022. Based on  this and other research he will develop a Theatre and Social Change project called “Unheard Voices” which will be centered on gender and LGBTQ issues of oppression. Professor Grobis plans to use methods from A. Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed to create this project for presentation in April 2023.

Amanda Hiber, Associate Director of the WGS Program and Senior Lecturer in English, led the post-show discussion of the Theatre Company’s production of The Addams Family Musical, focusing on Morticia and Wednesday Addams as Goth feminist cultural icons.

Hsiao-Lan Hu, Director of the WGS Program and Professor of Religious Studies, published “Buddhism and Liberation of Gender and Sexual Minorities: From Anātman to the Bodhisattva Ideal” in Faith(s) Seeking Justice: Dialogue and Liberation, published by the World Council of Churches. Ze presented “Multiply Queered, Singularly Queered, Victimhood, and Spiritual Growth” at the conference Queering Religious Paradigms: Critical Approaches to Gender & Sexuality/-ies in Religious Thought and Practices. Dr. Hu gave a public talk “Perceiver of the World’s Cries—Avalokiteśvara Practices and Queered Identities” held by the Zen Mountain Monastery. As the current Vice President of Sakyadhita: International Association of Buddhist Women, ze also organized the 17th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women that took place in December 2021 and had 1,080 attendees from around the globe. Ze has a collaborative project with Dr. Sharon Suh of Seattle University and Dr. Tamara C. Ho of University of California, Riverside, entitled “Asian American Feminist Guidebook to Teaching Buddhisms in America.” Hir manuscript Identity and Unhappiness: A No-Self-Help Book for the Misfit is to be published in the Hauntings series by the New York University Press.

Genevieve E. Meyers, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science, presented a paper “Public Sector Workforce Development in Uganda: Transitions and Trajectories in Gender Equity” at the American Association of Public Administration Annual Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida. She is revising the paper for possible publication.

Allegra Pitera, Professor of Architecture and Community Development, is currently researching Architecture History & Theory topics and examples that provide a more diverse, balanced, nuanced, and non-western-centric worldview. The intention is to work collaboratively with other faculty to update the undergraduate Architecture History & Theory courses. To best engage students in critical thinking along with effective learning and application outcomes, best practices in the methods of content and delivery, discussion, and assessment are being explored.

Interview with Tariq Masri-zada, graduating in May 2022

What attracted you to the WGS minor?

What attracted me to the Women’s and Gender Studies minor was its uniqueness and the expansive perspectives offered by the program. I always knew that my perspectives were different than those of my community and culture, so I felt the need to go further. My first class in the program was Study of Fiction taught by Megan Novell and she mentioned on the first day that this minor required six classes and a portfolio in the graduating semester. Megan gave me the push and I took off running. My initial reasons for joining this program were vastly different than the outcomes I expected so for those diversifying views, I thank all of the professors and faculty in the WGS department.


What has been most interesting about your experience with the Program so far?

The most interesting aspect of this program I found was the growth in my perceptions of society and everyday life. The content taught in these courses was eye-opening for many reasons, most importantly, because of the societal disparities amongst different genders and races that I learned about across the world and our history. Learning the sad realities of our past and present have helped to diversify my views and enabled me to educate others about community justice. I feel that my respect for other groups and minorities has grown to truly define what equality means in my life. The lens that I have now is massively different than the lens I had before starting this minor.


Have you found any aspect of your WGS studies surprising?

What I found most surprising about my studies in this field is the limited public knowledge about injustice across the world. Had I not chosen to obtain this minor I would never have been able to learn about certain calamities that happened in our history. Many injustices caused by humanity are simply not taught in the normal curriculum to preserve the image of our nation’s history and those on top of our society. Hence, the hidden truths that I learned through this minor surprised me and allowed me to better comprehend how and why our societies are the way they are.


Has your work as a WGS minor impacted your other course work?

This minor made me capable of dissecting the content of other classes that have biased viewpoints. A prime example of this is my Catholicism class in which the writings and history are dominated by white Christian males. Jesus was a great leader and prophet in my eyes, however, there have been injustices and biased acts committed in his name. If we are supposed to love everybody, even our enemies, then why do people choose to spread hate in his name? I am a spiritual person that knows right from wrong, and religion should not be used as a tool to bring harm to others.


Have you seen any intersections between your work as a WGS minor and your experiences outside the classroom?

My experiences outside the classroom were most impacted through my learnings in the field of women’s and gender studies. Growing up in a home with Middle Eastern cultural norms, I found myself internalizing biases taught by family, friends, and the community as a whole. Liberty means that I should be able to do what I want as long as I am not bringing harm to anybody around me. There is a reason that my parents raised me in America and that is the liberty to be who I want without restriction. Although this is mostly true there are still social norms that some people must be willing to break to grow past the negativity. The ability to be outside the norm without fear brings me joy. This minor is the most effective tool in allowing me to live freely and to help others learn how to live freely.

Fall 2022 WGS Courses

WGS 2000: Gender, Sex, and Justice
Instructor: Megan Novell
Mon., 4-6:30 – Online
Fulfills Core requirements: IT4, IT6

Provides students with an introduction to the discipline and critical rubrics of Women’s and Gender Studies including: the development of major theoretical concepts and issues of feminist and gender theories; strategies of resistance and activism; history of the women’s and gender movements in the U.S.; global feminisms; and critical reflection on particular aspects of women’s daily lives such as violence, sexuality, reproduction, representations of the body, creativity, law, politics and religion.

ENL 2450: Study of Poetry
(only CRN 17694 is WGS)
Instructor: Megan Novell
Tues., 4-5:30 – Online
Fulfills Core requirement: E2

Discussion and close analysis of poems, designed to improve critical skills, increase understanding of the genre of poetry, and show how poets voice the human concerns of their time. Discussion and close analysis of several forms of poetry, designed to improve critical skills and increase understanding of the genre of poetry and its role as a cultural artifact.

ENL 2550: Study of Film
Instructor: Heather Hill
Mon., 4-6:30 PM
Fulfills Core requirement: E3

Introduces students to key genres, technologies, and styles of films as well as major film theories and critical approaches. Through close observation and discussion, students learn to analyze and appreciate film as an art form while investigating the role of film as a barometer of cultural values and beliefs.

ENL 2750: Diverse Voices in Literature
Instructor: Amanda Hiber
Thur., 4-6:30 PM
Fulfills Core requirements: IT4, IT6

Introduces students to issues of difference, identity, and literary representation through the careful analysis of texts drawn from a wide range of voices and multiple genres. Students explore how authors negotiate the complex relationships between aesthetic, cultural, and political dimensions in their work. By the end of the semester students will demonstrate an ability to analyze literary texts and develop a critical vocabulary and set of reading and writing practices for approaching a wide range of human differences.

HIS 3650: Women in Modern Europe
Instructor: Diane Robinson-Dunn
Tues., 4-6:30 PM

This class covers the history of women in Europe from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. The lectures, films, events and course packet readings focus primarily on Western Europe, England and France and to a lesser extent Germany, while the textbook gives an overview of women in Europe more generally. We will examine their role in the political, intellectual, social and economic developments of this period, including first-wave feminism of the 19th century and second-wave feminism of the 20th. We will consider also how historical processes impacted upon their roles in society and the relationship between representation and experience. A central theme of the course will be an exploration of the construct of gender and the operation of the politics of gender and sexuality.

POL 3100: Women and Politics
Instructor: Genevieve Meyers
Tues./Thur., 2-3:15 PM
Fulfills Core requirements: C2, IT3, IT4

This course provides a broad analysis of women and politics as a field of study. It examines the way in which women and politics interact and influence each other. Focus is not just on the role of women in political life but on gender as an analytic category, and how theories of sex and gender apply to politics. The course examines the role that women play in politics in the United States and around the world. Women’s rights, political participation, and feminism and its interpretation and manifestation across nations and cultures, are examined. An analysis of the role of women in political life, the suffrage movement, gender gap in political attitudes and voting; and variation in representation, employment and economic status is offered.

PYC 2750: Human Sexuality
Instructor TBA
Fulfills Core requirement: IT4

Study of approaches to sexuality in order to promote a deeper understanding of the central role which sexuality plays in human life. Aspects of sexuality include evolutionary, genetic, physiological, hormonal, developmental, emotional, dynamic, interpersonal, legal and cultural. Particular emphasis is placed on appreciating functional explanations for many common and uncommon behaviors associated with human sexuality.

RELS 3610: Religions and Sci-Fi
Instructor: Hsiao-Lan Hu
Tues., 4-6:30 PM – Online
Fulfills Core requirements: D3, IT4

This course will employ the academic approach of cultural studies and lead students to examine the representations or misrepresentations of religions in Sci-Fi films and television series, discern their endorsements or criticisms of traditional religious doctrines, investigate their anxiety about or celebration of cross-cultural and interreligious encounters, examine the fairness or the lack thereof in their portrayal of the gender, racial, cultural, or religious “others,” and critique the genre from the perspectives of gender justice, racial justice, and inter-cultural justice.

RELS 4140: Gender and Religion
Instructor: Sharde’ Chapman
Tues., 6:40-9:10 PM
Fulfills Core requirements: D3, IT4

Examination from a gender standpoint of the experiences of women and men in various religious traditions, including issues of social status, leadership, teachings, ethics, reform. The course will be taught from a (pro) feminist/womanist perspective.

2021 Feminist Scholarship Colloquium

By Rosemary Weatherston


Google “Why do men ask women to smile?” and you’ll return up to 949,000,000 results. In her book project, Smile for Your Lives, Women and Girls, Professor Emerita Dr. Elizabeth Hill attempts to explain why.

Guests at WGS’s 2021 virtual Feminist Scholarship Colloquium enjoyed a preview of Dr. Hill’s project, which was supported by a WGS Feminist Scholarship Grant.  These annual WGS grants are awarded to full-time, part-time, and adjunct faculty members to support scholarly work that critically examine the place of women and/or gender in culture and society.

In her project Dr. Hill uses theories and research from the field of evolutionary psychology to shed light on some of the reasons why some oppressive gender-based patterns in relations between the sexes may be resistant to change despite legal and social progress in other areas.

In her Colloquium presentation “Why Expect Women to Smile? An Evolutionary Explanation” Dr. Hill focused on the widespread expectation that women smile as an expression of obedience and submission. As she pointed out, there are many types of smiles, and only some express happiness.  Dr. Hill discussed the increasing prevalence in smiling in the U.S. society and the policing of powerful women’s facial expressions, such as the widespread attacks on Hillary Clinton’s “smirk” during her presidential campaigns. Dr. Hill also analyzed expressive patterns in primates for insights into how smiling became an expression to signal obedience to “dominant” individuals. Women’s smiling she explains, is often a response to fear of male anger; specifically, it can display subservience, a disposition to obedience. She argued that research from evolutionary psychology suggest that these expectations about obedient women stem from motivation to control women’s sexual behavior.

Dr. Hill’s talk intrigued audience members, and the subsequent discussion ranged from the #metoo movement, to the idea of “resting bitch face,” to how pandemic-related mask mandates might be impacting the ubiquitous expectation that women “smile, sweetheart.”

Winter 2022 WGS Courses

WGS 2000: Gender, Sex, and Justice
Instructor: Genevieve Meyers
Class Meetings: Online/asynchronous

RELS 4141: Gender in Asian Traditions
Instructor: Hsiao-Lan Hu
Class Meetings: T 6:40-9:10 PM/Online

PYC 2750: Human Sexuality 
Instructor: TBA
Class Meetings: TR 9:55-11:10 AM/Online

PYC 2400: Family Development and Parenting
Instructor: Kristi Digioia
Class Meetings: W 4:00-6:30 PM/Online
NOTE: This course has a prerequisite of PYC 1000 (minimum grade of D) 

PYC 3540: Sex Differences and Sex Roles 
Instructor: Lee Eshelman
Class Meetings: W 10:00 AM-12:30 PM
NOTE: This course has a prerequisite of PYC 1000 (minimum grade of D) 

ENL 2550: Study of Film
Instructor: Nicholas Rombes
Class Meetings: TR 11:20 AM-12:35 PM

ENL 2750: Diverse Voices in Literature 
Instructor: Megan Novell
Class Meetings—Sec. 01: T 4:00-6:30 PM
Class Meetings—HONORS Sec.: W 4:00-6:30 PM

ENL 3140: Renaissance Literature
Instructor: Heather Hill
Class Meetings: TR 11:20 AM-12:35 PM

WGS faculty dive into the gender politics of “Antigone”

By Mary Liz Valesano


On Saturday, October 30, Heather Hill (Professor of English, WGS Affiliate Faculty) and Megan Novell (Interim Title IX Coordinator, Adjunct Professor of English, and WGS Affiliate Faculty) hosted a talk-back following a performance of Sophocles’ Antigone by the Detroit Mercy Theatre Company.

The talk-back centered on gender and power dynamics between the grieving Antigone and newly powerful Kreon. Hill and Novell led the audience through a comparison of the two characters, exploring how Antigone represents love of family and loyalty to higher law, whereas Kreon represents love of power and loyalty to the state. The conversation also covered how the prophet Tiresias has lived as both a man and a woman, and in this story is a pivotal source of wisdom and truth.

Approximately 30 audience members participated in the discussion, including students, faculty, and community members. This event was one installment of the Detroit Theatre Discussion Project, an initiative by the Department of Performing Arts that is being supported by the Michigan Council of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

Interview with Bek Hirschmann, graduated in May 2021

What attracted you to the WGS minor?

I was attracted to the WGS minor because of its ability to seep into all the other areas of study I was doing. No matter what class I was in–literature analysis classes, psychology classes, philosophy classes–the principles of WGS were woven into the curriculum. When doing anything, either in an academic setting or out in the world, it is important to be aware of one’s identity and how it interacts with others and society as well as others’ own identities. WGS was a program I wanted to take part in because it didn’t exist in a bubble; it became a crucial part of everything.

What has been most interesting about your experience with the Program so far?

The most interesting part of the program was its ability to make me aware of phenomena, history, and biases that form my own and other people’s daily experiences that usually fly under the radar because it is so normalized. How people view and value race, class, gender, and sexuality, among other factors of one’s identity, affects more than just personal interactions; it is the fabric of our society. From how characters are written in works of fiction to actual legislation in the real world, one cannot pretend that any of the above factors don’t play a role. Rather, they usually end up being a deciding factor.

Have you found any aspect of your WGS studies surprising?

There’s no part that I would necessarily consider “surprising;” however, my WGS studies showed me my own limitations and offered me a more expansive vocabulary and a more informed and conscientious way of being in the world. As mentioned before, there is so much we don’t consider or try to pretend aren’t even factors when interacting with media or thinking about the world. People’s identities are always at the center of it all, however, and once you start noticing it, it’s impossible to turn away.

Has your work as a WGS minor impacted your other course work?

Absolutely, especially when encountering classic works. I’ve heard many people in today’s world use terms such as “identity politics” or claim that the world today is too soft and takes too much notice of things such as race. However, this simply is not the case. When reading a classic novel from the early 1800s or whenever, one can find instances where race or gender plays a factor, but the interactions and social rankings are normalized in the world of the novel, so it is not the main focus. The fact that the main focus of these novels themselves is almost entirely on white people is a statement. Take Jane Eyre, for example. When the reader encounters Bertha Mason (the woman trapped in Mr. Rochester’s attic) for the first time, while she may not actually be black, she is explicitly written as an “other” with darker skin. Charlotte Bronte then does not focus on Bertha or the horrendous situation she has been put in; we continue on with the hurt feelings and situation of her white heroine. The intersection of race, gender, and mental disability is not the main focus of the reader’s interactions with Bertha Mason, but it is underlying her entire character and our viewing of her. Issues of race, gender, class, and other parts of someone’s identity maybe were not as openly discussed, but it always mattered.

Have you seen any intersections between your work as a WGS minor and your experiences outside the classroom?

Again, absolutely. To basically reiterate my answers to the other questions, understanding my own identity and how that affects how I interact with the world helps me to better understand and be aware of how others do the same and how we all affect each other. In one of my classes, we talked about how privilege is basically being able to exist without notice–without something sticking out that defines you as an “other.” That defining trait can be anything from the color of one’s skin, a disability, one’s gender, an open expression of one’s sexuality, among other things. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, there is what society deems as the “normal” or the “standard,” that through its existence elevates certain members of society while pushing down others. By studying WGS, I have become better aware of myself while also becoming more aware of others. To not take notice of oppression (both socially and systemically) usually leads to unwillingly holding it up. Whether in an academic setting or outside of the classroom, the lessons I learned in WGS help me remain aware and be ready for action.

Voting 101 Event Prepped New Voters

By Amanda Hiber


In advance of the November 2020 election, the WGS Program held a virtual educational event, Voting 101, on October 6, 2020. Over 35 students, staff, and faculty members were in attendance. 

Two representatives from the non-partisan League of Women Voters, Detroit chapter President Rhonda Craig and voting rights activist Charles Thomas, Jr., presented information aimed particularly at first-time voters. Information included essential deadlines and locations for registering to vote and casting absentee ballots. Both speakers emphasized the importance of citizens exercising their right—or, as Thomas enthusiastically put it—power to vote. 

The presenters also shared with attendees the League of Women Voters’ website, Vote411.org, which citizens can use as a one-stop shop for finding their poll locations and sample ballots. The site also provides information on candidates and ballot proposals.  

Both the Political Science department and the Theta Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority co-sponsored the event.