by Robin Roenker
Undergraduate senior John Crowell stumbled into pursuing a minor though UK’s Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) Program as a junior, when he read a few books from his fiancée’s GWS coursework and was intrigued.
He decided to sign up for a GWS class of his own, a course on violence in culture led by Janice Oaks. And he was hooked.
“The classes, to me, give me a lot of insight into people’s points of view that I had never even thought of, or never had been able even to conceptualize before reading some of the texts,” said Crowell, a native of Knoxville, Tenn.
Crowell has consciously chosen a broad array of GWS coursework, from classes on Latina women to queer theorizing to an inspection of femme fatales in detective films.
While some friends and relatives sometimes ask Crowell why, as a male, he opted for a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, he has a ready answer: “I just explain that I think it’s interesting, precisely because it’s not my own personal experience. These ideas are important to me,” he said.
Crowell, who will graduate in May 2008 with a B.A. in print journalism, also felt his GWS coursework was key in informing and enhancing his developing journalistic sensibilities.
“Coming from a journalistic standpoint, I feel like if you’re going to be an interesting person and an interesting writer, you should have some point of view,” he said. “And you should get to know some things especially from other people’s points of view. So GWS gave me a chance to get into other people’s heads, I guess. People’s lives who were totally different from mine. That was one of the things I liked a lot.”
Crowell felt professors in the program valued his presence and the presence of the other males in class, always giving them ample space to share their viewpoints. “They appreciated having a counterpoint at times,” he said, “someone to offer the perspective of how an American male might see things.”
Crowell enjoyed that the GWS courses were small in size, allowing for a focus on discussion and conversation, and that oftentimes, as in his class on Latina women, the professors and other students in class could share first-hand experiences “of being the people we were talking about,” he said.
While at UK, Crowell also enjoyed A&S courses in UK’s English Department, particularly its film offerings. An avid musician, with skills on the guitar, ukulele, and harmonica, he wrote a music column for the UK student newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel, last year and was a deejay for the campus radio station, WRFL, where his Monday night music show was defined by its eclectic, sometimes surprising, mix of genres.
Next fall, Crowell will begin studies at Northern Kentucky’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law, having decided not to pursue a career in journalism for now. Once an attorney, he hopes to draw on sensitivity to women’s issues his coursework in GWS fostered, perhaps serving as legal representation for women in domestic violence situations.
“I’m a feminist,” Crowell said, “which to me means just believing that all people should have equal opportunities regardless of their gender or their race or their class or their sexuality.”