On May 13, 2017, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Program and Chellis House, the Women’s Resource Center, celebrated all the nominees for the Feminist of the Year Award. Nominees and celebrants were able to gather in the backyard of Chellis House as the sun was shining before the big rain hit the area for the weekend. This year, close to 50 students, staff, and faculty members were nominated. After a poetry performance by Tabitha Mueller and Matthew Blake, the awards were handed out. Carly Thomsen was distinguished as the faculty Feminist of the Year. A first-year tenure-track member of the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Program, Professor Thomsen was especially commended for making her courses sites of feminist praxis by requiring her students to do engaged research projects. Students staged a 5K run to raise awareness about reproductive rights, for example and critically examined feminist science in a public forum. Carly Thomsen also served as the advisor to the Queer Studies Academic Interest House and helped make it a more active and engaged space on campus.
Katrina Spencer was distinguished in the staff category. Even though she only joined the library staff as recently as February, Katrina has already made an impact on this campus. She organized the Blowtorch Reading Series in which community members get together once a month to read aloud from the most important texts of our times that address human rights and responsibilities. For this purpose, she has also arranged constantly rejuvenating displays in the library that feature important works for Women’s History Month, for example. She also has made the library more visible in social media during the “Teachable Tuesdays” series on Facebook, reading two minute quotes with students and her colleagues from thought-provoking books.
Five students garnered the prize this year. Morgan Grady-Benson ’18 was distinguished for her work for “Stares & Stairs,” a performance art group that draws attention to sexual assault and misogyny at parties at Middlebury.
Sarah Karerat ’18 was honored for her work with the Vagina Monologues, which she directed, produced and acted in this year. A leading organizer of JusTalks, she also volunteers and serves on the board of WomenSafe.
Sandra Luo ’18 was honored for her work as co-president of Women of Color, which she turned into a welcoming and thought-provoking space for students to come together. Sandra also was the prime force behind organizing a series of events to raise awareness and funds for Standing Rock, thus bringing together gender activism and environmental justice.
Katie Preston ’17 was honored for her many years of service of raising awareness about sexual violence. A member of the Sexual Assault Oversight Committee in her first two years, she has also been a driving force behind It Happens Here, a national speak-out platform against sexual violence.
Another leading member of It Happens Here as well, Jingyi Wu ’17 was also honored for her feminist work. Jingyi has been a vocal about feminist issues over the past four years, appearing in various productions of the Vagina Monologues and shining a light on feminism in China. This year, she brought to campus Lu Pin, the founder of “Feminist Voices,” the leading feminist publication in China.
All of the winners and the nominees gave attendees of the celebration great hope that our future will continue to be just and equitable.