Alumni Profiles

Whitney Bair

Class of 2003

Like many other liberal arts students, Whitney Bair was encouraged by her advisor to take a variety of classes. In the fall semester of her junior year, Bair took Women in Religion with Professor Dianne Oliver. This class turned out to be one of the most important classes of her college career, jump-starting research that she would expand upon through the rest of her time as an Evansville student. Bair's research paper for this class examined Mary Magdalene and the subjugation of female leaders in the early Christian Church. Professor Oliver encouraged her to research this topic and to consider a minor in gender and women's studies. Until then Bair had not thought of getting a minor because she already had declared two majors, archaeology and art history.

"Dr. Oliver became more than my teacher. She became my mentor encouraging me to continue my research on Mary Magdalene and to get my minor in gender and women's studies. I went on to take a history class from Dr. Parks about women in the Middle Ages for which I wrote a paper about the concept of Mary Magdalene in the Middle Ages. I presented that paper at a regional Phi Alpha Theta [history honor society] conference."

Although Bair has left Evansville, she is amazed at how the professors she learned from have kept in touch and remained interested in her academic development. "Dr. Oliver encouraged me to apply for an undergraduate research grant from UExplore. In the summer of 2003, I was awarded a grant and researched the development of the popular conception of Mary Magdalene. In the Fall of 2003 my paper, 'Distorted Persona: The Struggle between the Gnostic Mary Magdalene and Early Church Theologians,' was accepted to the National Conference for Undergraduate Research."

Bair is now pursuing a master's degree. She credits her minor in gender and women's studies with exposing her to many new academic ideas, "I would recommend this program to anyone wishing to learn more about this intriguing discipline."

Jay Carroll

Class of 2008

Jay Carroll graduated from the University of Evansville in May 2008 with a degree in History. Today, he is an instructor and Ph.D Student in the History Department at Northwestern University. Carroll teaches classes on the history of masculinities, Modern Europe Sexual subcultures, and how intersectionality effects the historical record as the Andrew Mellon Fellows for Gender and Sexuality Studies. Many of the classes he teaches are based around race, class, and gender, meaning that students are exposed to the analytical side of GWS, even when classes do not focus only on gender. His decision to minor in Gender and Women’s Studies to help give him the theoretical skills and historical knowledge to help base his civil liberties activism in facts. The program also offered courses in which more information was given that was often ignored by other classes, introducing him to a wide variety of subjects. Carroll’s favorite class was a course offered by Dr. Parks about female political leaders of the Early Medieval Period. He was fascinated by the way that the women discussed in the class exhibited masculine qualities to lead their armies and manage their kingdoms. This class pushed him to explore the histories of masculinities and masculinity as a form of expression experienced by all sexes. When asked what advice he would give for current minors he said: “Don’t be afraid of abstract thought and theory. My critical thinking skills and awareness is so much greater because of taking GWS courses!” The skills he learned could be applied to a number of situations in life.

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