The skills developed in WGST courses are applicable to many careers.
Gonzaga WGST graduates work in business, education, journalism, government, international development, law, public relations, social services, and research. WGST graduates have also entered graduate programs in art history, counseling, critical race and ethnic studies, literature, media studies, political science, social work, sociology, theology and women’s and gender studies.
Recent graduates are pursuing a multitude of interesting experiences:
- studying overseas as a Fulbright Scholar
- serving in the Peace Corps
- pursuing a law degree at Georgetown University
- working in community outreach for women’s health education
- serving on the staff of a U.S. Senator
- volunteering with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps
- coordinating volunteers in programs for troubled teens in the Pacific Northwest
- working as a licensed marriage and family counselor
- pursuing a doctoral degree at UC Berkeley
- teaching English as a Second Language
Overall, the shared educational journey found in the WGST curriculum has inspired its graduates to fight for gender justice in a global society.
Three Career Paths: One Critical Foundation
BY ALYSSA CINK (’20)
Full story available in Gonzaga Magazine
The Educator: Christina (latridis) Pirzada (’13)
Women role models always inspired Christina (latridis) Pirzada: her mother and sisters, authors, athletes, politicians and especially pilots. During her first two years at Gonzaga, Pirzada had a double major in English and psychology, and gravitated toward classes that engaged with the topics of gender and power dynamics. She “stumbled into” the WGST minor as a result. The more formalized studies trained her to recognize gender dynamics and to respond more purposefully, she says.
“It’s a constant lens that once you try on, you never want to take off,” Pirzada says.
That lens became especially meaningful after she earned her master’s in education. As a teacher, school administrator and now a project manager at an education technology company, her women’s and gender studies helped her mentor students, challenge their assumptions about feminism and guide their consideration of identities reflected in the literature they read.
“It was immediately helpful in deciding what kind of teacher I wanted to be, and what kind of students I hoped would leave my classroom,” she says. In her current role in tech, there’s great pride in selecting content that K-12 students all over the country read on a daily basis. The WGST lens, Pirzada says, provides perspective that “has helped me navigate workplace dynamics and inspire conversations.” It has impacted her hiring practices, too. “We’re not homogeneously picking candidates for certain positions that might historically be pretty gendered.”
The Computer Scientist: Luke Johnson (’17)
It’s true: When Luke Johnson registered for a literature course called “Sex and Power,” taught by Ann Ciasullo, professor and former department chair, he worried that feminist courses may not be welcoming to male students. Those fears were dispelled as he participated in a feminist critique of masculinity in “The Sun Also Rises” and class conversations about race and gender that he describes as vulnerable and authentic.
“My computer classes were predominantly male, almost entirely white, and didn’t really talk about people. It was refreshing to take a step back from the technical discipline and think about the world I was living in,” he says.
Historically male-dominated, the computer science field has been criticized for the “toxic elements of their masculine space,” says Johnson. And that’s why he’s quick to recommend that everyone in tech take classes in women’s and gender studies.
“Just being able to fight any amount of prejudice on the inside is really important,” he notes. It’s a mindset that has earned him a reputation for advancing equity in higher education, and even earned him a fellowship during graduate studies. As a Ph.D. student in cryptography (specifically biometric authentication), Johnson’s peers were mostly male in a culture largely focused on the individual. He helped to create community by organizing gatherings for people, and also started mentoring high school students.
“Having a critical analysis of both gender and race – which come together a lot in women’s and gender studies – meant that I could be a better mentor to the kids I serve,” Johnson says. “I can be a better Ph.D. candidate to my adviser, I can be a better cohort mate in my education class. There are a lot of things that benefit from recognizing the institutions of gender and the linked oppression with other marginalized identities.”
“The women’s and gender studies minor is useful for many reasons, but one of them is its capacity to build empathy. You ask, ‘Who’s not at the table? How are we excluding people?’ I think that empathy can come from the study of oppression.”
The Career Recruiter: Austin Caswell (’17)
Austin Caswell pursued the WGST minor while double majoring in criminal justice and philosophy. In his first course with Associate Professor Sara Díaz, he sought a better understanding of his place in the world. What stayed with him the most, he says, was the language he gained for describing his own experiences, and for understanding the complexities of identity. He learned to ask more perceptive questions when approaching challenges without easy solutions.
“My first job out of college was as an admissions counselor for a small university, and women’s and gender studies was the best prep for that job. It gave me the toolkit to be able to work with diverse populations and to see other people’s perspectives with more ease,” says Caswell.
Now he is a recruiter with older, mid-career individuals, and feels able to connect with them despite the age difference, and to recognize where ageism is present with potential client partners. “Without question, my gender studies minor is what stuck with me the most and has been the most impactful, postgraduation.”
» Madison Schultz (’20) created a framework for an online alumnae/i network to keep WGST graduates connected to one another and the department, for career mentoring, continued literacy in the field, and personal connection. Her project was so impressive that funding was secured to take it from concept to reality.
» Seniors conducted a focus group – dubbed a “Soup-osium” – to gather with current minors for a meal and solicit suggestions for the department. One interesting finding was how many students knew before they arrived at GU that they wanted to pursue women’s and gender studies. As a result, the seniors engaged with the Office of Admission to learn how to connect with prospective students and play a role in helping students choose a Gonzaga education.