News and notes from the WGS program @ Fairfield

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Fairfield University celebrates 40 years of women undergraduates and 20 years of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program on campus


“Nuns on the Bus” activist to be keynote speaker

Image: Campbell“Nuns on the Bus” organizer Sister Simone Campbell will be the keynote speaker for Fairfield University’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of undergraduate women graduating from Fairfield and the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Program (now called Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies). The public is invited to her free lecture, “The View from the Bus: Opportunities for Making Mischief,” at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 3 at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.  The lecture will be preceded by a gala reception at 6 p.m. in the Quick Center lobby.

“We are thrilled to have Sister Campbell on campus to mark this significant milestone in the history of the University and our interdisciplinary program,” said David Gudelunas, Ph.D., co-director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGS). “Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies is one of the most dynamic programs on campus and we couldn’t think of a more dynamic speaker to help us celebrate with faculty, students, community members and hundreds of graduates of our program.”

Sister Campbell is an attorney, religious leader and renowned advocate for systematic change. She is the executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, which educates, lobbies and organizes for economic and social transformation. In Washington, Sister Campbell lobbies for issues of peace-building, immigration reform and healthcare and economic justice.

During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, Sister Campbell wrote the famous “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill and got 59 leaders of Catholic Sisters to sign, a sign seen by many as critical to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, she was instrumental in organizing the “Nuns on the Bus” tour of nine states to oppose a budget she felt would decimate programs to help people in need. She recently completed another cross-country Nuns on the Bus tour in 2013 focused on immigration reform.

Sister Campbell has been a keynote or featured speaker in many national events, including the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She has appeared on “60 Minutes,” “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” among other media stints.

Sister Campbell is the former executive director of Jericho, a California interfaith public policy organization and she was the general director of her religious community, the Sisters of Social Service, leading sisters in the United States, Mexico, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Sister Campbell’s appearance is the centerpiece of the yearlong 40/20 celebration on campus. Though professional schools admitted women students before the 1970s, the first class of women undergraduates walked across the Bellarmine Hall terrace at Commencement in 1974.  Since then, female students have gone on to many leadership roles on campus and many successful careers after graduating from Fairfield.

“News of Sister Campbell’s visit has been met with great enthusiasm and meaningful support across the university,” said Emily Orlando, Ph.D., co-director of WGS. “ The WGS minor is flourishing and given Sister Campbell’s demonstrated commitment to social justice and her status as a strong female leader and advocate for change within the Catholic church, she struck us as an ideal choice for a celebration of the WGS program in particular and the achievements of Fairfield University women in general. We are so pleased that this event has been met with such widespread support from all corners of campus.”

WGS is an interdisciplinary program that challenges the cultural, intellectual, social and political assumptions about sex, gender and sexuality systems. Courses in the program critically engage issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and other key components of identity, and the ways they intersect. The program was first developed by a group of faculty who met over the two years from fall 1991 to spring 1993 to first envision and then write the proposal for the program. The program was formally approved and inaugurated in fall 1993.

For more information, visit www.fairfield.edu/4020 and follow the WGS program on Twitter @WGSFairfield.

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