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Mellon Foundation grant will expand women’s, gender and sexuality studies expertise at Ohio State and across Ohio

May 15, 2024

Mellon Foundation grant will expand women’s, gender and sexuality studies expertise at Ohio State and across Ohio

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The Ohio State University Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation through its “Affirming Multivocal Humanities” initiative. This grant will help enhance the department’s public-facing programming, the undergraduate curriculum and its undergraduate research opportunities. 

WGSS is one of the oldest and strongest in the field and has built extensive research and teaching profiles in Black feminisms, LGBTQ+ studies and transnational feminisms. “These areas feel especially important in our current moment, when gender studies is challenged, and sometimes attacked, both here in Ohio and in other parts of the country,” said Mytheli Sreenivas, WGSS department chair. “We’re excited to share with students and our wider community some of the core concepts in the interdisciplinary field of WGSS, and to talk about what we do and why it’s important.”

During the three-year grant period, WGSS will prioritize feminist leadership while supporting the critical study of race, gender and sexuality as central components to classrooms, research and public engagement. A series of programs centered around “What’s Controversial about Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies?” will bring WGSS expertise directly to the public across the state of Ohio. This series will occur over two semesters and aims to engage local and regional communities while enhancing learning opportunities for undergraduate students at Ohio State.

The department will also coordinate 4 to 5 program clusters on topics relevant to WGSS’s disciplines and its wider audiences. Topics will draw upon existing expertise and research strengths within the department and will likely include LGBTQ+ studies, reproductive justice, Black feminist studies and critical prison studies. 

Through an application process, undergraduate WGSS majors and minors will be invited to join a cohort of research fellows who will participate in the program clusters and develop related research projects. A WGSS faculty member and funding support included in the Mellon grant will support these undergraduate students’ research. Students will also share their research with relevant communities at conferences and department events.

With grant support for new course development, WGSS will create 2 to 3 new courses in areas of wide student need and interest, likely in the areas of feminist science studies, feminist sex education and disability studies. This grant will also enable faculty to collaborate on new curriculum across different fields and disciplines. The new courses will reach a wide audience of undergraduates and promote the humanistic study of gender, sexuality and race in service of more just and equitable futures. 

Formed in conjunction with the Department of African American and African Studies in the early 1970s, WGSS has developed into an outstanding academic unit and intellectual hub. This field of study was born from student and community activism and has continued to value community-engaged research and pedagogy that examines systems of inequality and aims to lay a solid foundation for the future throughout its 40-year history.

The grant will deepen the department’s existing engagements with community partners, foster civil dialogue about currently controversial topics and invite the public into discussions about core contributions in the field. 

“WGSS is an incredibly strong department with fantastic faculty, dedicated undergraduate and graduate student population, and amazing, dedicated staff,” said Dana Renga, dean of arts and humanities in Ohio State’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This grant, together with WGSS’s recently awarded Good to Great proposal to create The Center for Feminist Research, Education and Engagement (The FREE Center), will expand WGSS’s reach into the community to further sustain community-engaged partnerships and community-engaged scholarship. WGSS is poised to become the leading department of its kind.”

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.

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