Francesca Fox is a senior Media and Cinema Studies major and Gender and Women's Studies minor here at the University of Illinois. Francesca says that she’s really found a home here at GWS, and views her first experience with GWS to be the most defining moment of her college experience.
Francesca explains that, “When I first entered college, I had little to no idea of what I wanted to major in. Being undeclared my first year granted me a lot more freedom to explore and one of the first classes I signed up for was Gender and Women’s Studies 100.” Francesca says that, “my first GWS professor, Dr. Toby Beauchamp was incredibly encouraging and inspiring.” Francesca acknowledged her Teaching Assistant at the time as well, “Silas Cassinelli, [who is] now a mentor and friend of mine. Even now, they continue to support and guide me in studying GWS, which is not a singular experience. I knew as soon as I continued with the course that I wanted to at least minor in Gender and Women studies because the more I explored other courses and major possibilities, GWS was always in my head.”
Francesca also points out that what she found even more impactful was how the“concepts I learned in GWS are present in the world that we live in. So, while it is a college experience, you will find that it's not just in the classroom, but in the world too.”
When asked to reflect upon how her time as a GWS minor has aided her professional and career development, Francesca delved into how her access to spaces and people who foster growth have been the most impactful for her “The GWS department is blessed with incredible and renowned professors, staff, and students that even outside [of] a professional and career environment help you grow. Being kept in the loop about all the opportunities, events, and spaces to foster growth and understanding of yourself more and what you may want to do is a valuable aspect of GWS and with that, the accessibility of advice from your peers and professors is invaluable to the GWS experience.”
To build on that, Francesca also discusses how she envisions herself utilizing her GWS minor in the future, within and outside of her professional future. Francesca explains that, “GWS is not just intellectually engaging but encourages community and organizing engagement on and off-campus. GWS helped me look beyond the classroom and think about the spaces that we may interact in or that affect us. I definitely want to continue this social and community engagement to think about how we can connect to people around us even outside [of] the professional and academic circles.” Francesca says that GWS has taught her “how to communicate what I learn in my classes to people I care about who have, themselves, possibly never thought about constructed concepts of gender, race and the other identity intersections we discuss in classes. I move through the world mindful of that and carefully consider the privilege I have to learn, unlearn and understand that, and how to make sure that can be accessible to those who do not have the privilege (although it should be a right) to have the education I have had in GWS.”
As Francesca approaches her final semester as a GWS minor, she reveals that her favorite aspect of being a part of the Gender and Women’s Studies family has been the unique dynamic between students and faculty members. Francesca says, “The best part of being a part of the GWS family is that not only can you connect and vibe with the students well, but the faculty, staff, and professors are also very supportive and active in making sure classes, events, etc. feel like spaces of security, solidarity, and fun. The dynamic between professors and students is not stifled by intellect or power; there is a genuine rapport within the department.”
Written by Taylor A. Mazique