Laurel Baldwin, Class of 2014

Laurel BaldwinI have lived in Bayfield, CO for 26 years and have spent a good part of my life as a single mother and home owner. I was employed by Fort Lewis College starting as Office Manager for Human Resources in August 2007; in January 2010 I became the Support Staff for Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. I went back to school at Fort Lewis College in 2010 and graduated in December 2014 with a degree in Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS). The GWS curriculum opened my eyes to the reality of many behaviors I had adopted, such as the fact that I was raised with a position of white privilege that I never questioned. I continue to be consciously enlightened to the injustices served upon minorities, the poor, and of course women. Yes, women have made big strides, but there are issues that are continuously under attack. I am a feminist, have always been a feminist, and truly want equality for women. I want to empower all women to become the best that they can be; there are many opportunities for all to make a difference. Perhaps in a small way, I m ake a difference by advocating when I see the injustices happening, and help women to empower themselves.

During my college years, I did an internship with the Bee Club, which led me to be very curious about the properties produced by this busy yet important little creature. I became involved with the local bee clubs, and became a backyard beekeeper. I started making my own molds using beeswax to create beautiful candles. I am the founder and CEO of a candle business, Bee-Luminous and my candles are made from 100% organic beeswax. This business focus on sustainability also reflects my GWS training in eco-feminism and other environmental issues.

Kelly Avant, Class of 2014

Kelly AvantI graduated from Fort Lewis College in May 2014 with a degree in Gender and Women's Studies and a minor in Rhetoric of Inquiry (FLC Honors Program). My senior thesis, "Gender and Sexuality in College Hook-Up Culture: How Confession Websites Challenge (and Uphold) Oppressive Ideologies," was selected to be published in an undergraduate research journal, thanks in large part to the professors at FLC who guided me in the process of writing and editing.

Kelly AvantFollowing graduation, I joined the Peace Corps and am now serving as a health volunteer in rural Cambodia. Rural Cambodian culture is about as far as you can get from college hook-up culture, but the skills I learned to identify power structures and work toward dismantling inequality are the same. It's really exciting to be a part of an international development project at the grassroots level. Thanks to my education at FLC, I feel like I can live responsibly in this community and have a sustainable impact.

Drew Tomasi, Class of 2013

Drew TomasiAfter graduating from Fort Lewis in the spring of 2013, I took a wild leap in moving to the great, unknown city of Atlanta, GA. I didn’t know anyone here and I wasn’t planning on going to school, nor did I have a job lined up. I simply had a thirst for the unknown.

A common feminist saying is that “the personal is political”. I know that my experience in the Gender and Women’s Studies program at Fort Lewis College was very personal. Because of certain feelings I had – namely misunderstandings about my own (gender) identity – it was important for me to study gender and sexuality across time and space in order to realize that I was not, that I am not, alone. Specifically through studying Trans* identities, such as the Hijras of India or the Two-Spirit people of several Native cultures, I began to realize and accept who I am. In so doing, I gained not only self-awareness and acceptance, but an incredible strength and resilience. I found the strength to take on the world; to take a crazy leap, knowing that I would be okay, ready for any hardships I was bound to encounter.

Apryll ShowersAfter about a year and a half, I am a fairly well-known Drag Queen in the area by the name of Apryll Showers (we make it rain), Queering up the urban South to the best of my ability. I plan to continue performing as often as possible, and I hope to go to grad school next fall, possibly here in Georgia. I want to earn a Masters in Counseling, in order to create the space for (Queer and Trans*) people to really connect, with themselves, each other, and their surroundings. I can honestly and proudly say that, in large part because of my GWS degree, I am the change I wish to see in the world.

Teal Stetson-Lee, Class of 2010

Teal Stetson-LeeI graduated from FLC in the Spring of 2010 with a degree in Spanish and Gender and Women's Studies. I selected both of these majors because they were fascinating and I believed following my passions would naturally lead to opportunities. Of course, I'm also speaking from a platform of privilege in making that statement. Along with my studies at FLC, I was also a member of the cycling team. As a female in a completely male dominated sport, there were a lot of noticeable issues. I became interested in the dynamics of gender inequalities in sports while in college and did several focused studies. This interest translated directly into more intensified, firsthand experience as I jumped into a professional mountain bike career following college.

I started out with a team called Cal-Giant racing professional cyclocross, a hybrid sport of mountain biking mixed with road cycling, and then in 2012 I joined the Luna Pro Team for both mountain biking and cyclocross. The Luna Pro Team is an all-women's professional off-road cycling team ranked number one in the world out of all male and/or female cycling teams. Luna was an amazing platform of support and gave me an incredible inside perspective on the areas of struggle for women in the sport with equal salaries, equal prize money, equal caliber of equipment, equal coverage/exposure, presentation of image as athletes and general public credibility. My opportunity with Luna catapulted me into my latest career undertaking. I now live in Reno, NV and I signed with SCOTT- Sports for 2015 and will be racing with SCOTT 3Rox for mountain biking and cyclocross. Beyond the racing, I am also tying in with the SCOTT brand in a larger capacity for marketing and to provide brand input as a female athlete.

Teal Stetson-LeeMy education in Gender Studies has enabled me to see the world through a unique lens. I recognize my position of privilege, the unspoken rules of the world that often and inappropriately go unquestioned and, most importantly, my personal power to inspire others and facilitate change in a big way. Women have come a long way in sports but there is so much more that can be done. My greatest, latest passion is changing the cultural mainstream image of how women are supposed to behave and appear. My focus is to teach the message of confidence and the power of doing instead of just being as a woman. I never would have foreseen the path I have taken but I owe a great deal to studying GWS at FLC.

Photo credits: L: Elizabeth Brass; R: Robert Lowe

Andrea Rossi, Class of 2009

Andrea RossiFrom the time I was 12 years old, I positioned myself to have a career advocating on behalf of survivors of international sexual trafficking. In middle school I mentored young girls suffering from body image issues, in high school met with Colorado legislators to find avenues to expose local sex trafficking, and in college became an active member of Feminist Voice, an advocate at a local crisis line, and decided to study Gender & Women’s Studies.

In December 2009, I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a minor in sociocultural anthropology, and gained employment directing advocacy services for survivors of sexual violence at Durango’s local non-profit. It was my dream job, something I had worked for over 10 years to achieve. Four months into the job, however, I became seriously ill. Just one year into my heart & life’s work, my chronic condition forced an abrupt conclusion and brought-forth full-time concentration on healing for the next two years.

This unexpected shift directed me into the field of integrative health. I developed and directed an integrative oncology practice in Durango, and began working with women with cancer from around the world. My advocacy skills became daily invaluable tools as I spoke with women with cancer from around the country, and even internationally, about their options, about fear, death, dying, and how to find hope throughout. Now I am in school for my master's degree in Nutrition Therapy, consult on business development and website management for healthcare practices, write articles for a collaborative blog on women mycologists, Female & Fungi, teach classes on fermentation, and spent six months of this past Andrea Rossiyear collaborating on food systems initiatives in Mumbai, India.

Though my path has been circuitous, I find that my decision to study Gender & Women’s Studies has been the thread throughout, providing me with insight and theoretical tools that shape the way that I approach each of these endeavors. My GWS degree is what has pushed me internally in each career—to ask for raises, bring up inequalities in business conference rooms, push myself to negotiate, demand transparency, and now start my own business as a consultant and nutrition therapist. In my experience, the true gift of GWS is not just what you learn academically, but how you learn to live—fully and courageously—and for that I am forever grateful.

Katherine (Kate) Freeman, Class of 1999

Kate Freeman1999, BA in Cultural Anthropology, Minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, Fort Lewis College; 2003, MA in Applied Sociocultural Anthropology, Minor in Medical Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies; currently a PhD Candidate in Gender and Women’s Studies with a minor in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Arizona.

My time with the Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) program at Fort Lewis College was so important, as it gave me the foundational, theoretical tools for understanding and historically-contextualizing modern forms of social oppression, such as settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy, racism, classism, and sexism. The GWS program at Fort Lewis also provided me with the necessary academic preparation to pursue a PhD in GWS at the University of Arizona. The theory classes that I took with Dr. Kathy Fine remain some of the most intense, rigorous, and well-loved classes of my academic career!

Of course, I travelled a very rich and diverse path of employ before returning to school for my PhD. For example, upon graduating from Fort Lewis, I moved to Seattle, and worked as a community organizer with trailer park residents in Kent, Washington. I also worked as a migrant justice organizer along the US-Mexico border. For me, social justice is inexorably tied to all of the work that I do: a desire and drive sparked and nurtured during my time with the GWS program at Fort Lewis. I am currently in the process of writing my dissertation, which draws from queer, transnational feminist, political economic, indigenous, and anthropological scholarship—as well as qualitative and archival data gleaned from ethnographic fieldwork—to understand global capitalism, settler colonialism, war and militarization, and the complicated power differentials left in the wake of gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and nation; vis-à-vis a critical examination and study of the tourism sector in Antigua, Guatemala.