If someone were to ask me to identify the central lesson of my Gender and Sexuality Studies (GNSS) concentration, I’d have to cite the balance between (1) how to compellingly critique a theory or piece, and (2) how to empathize, if not agree, with another’s perspective. Critique and empathy: these dual skills, and the self-directed questions they inspire –– What can I improve? How can I learn from others? –– have been the most critically important take-aways from my entire time as a GNSS concentrator.
This is not at all to say that these were the only valuable skills and experiences I gained in college: through my GNSS classes, I learned to question the status quo, communicate my thoughts effectively, and collaborate with my peers. I improved dramatically as a writer and a public speaker. The process of researching and writing a senior honors thesis taught me countless lessons on patience, persistence, and having faith in my own voice –– lessons that helped sustain me through my long job search. I produced work that demonstrated my knowledge and highlighted my academic strengths; my thesis presentation even helped me land my current position as the Operations and Communications coordinator at a small nonprofit. But through many rounds of cover letters, phone screenings, and in-person interviews, the characteristics that seemed to most impress my interviewers almost always boiled down to a critical eye and an empathetic stance, both skills I attribute to my Gender & Sexuality Studies education. And in today’s wild and wooly job market, asking “What can I improve?” and “How can I learn from others?” isn’t just an effective way of standing out –– it’s essential for keeping focused and staying sane.
Which brings me to my last point: if critical sophistication and empathy have been key skills in my life after Brown, GNSS professors, who without exception exemplify these strengths, have been more than key players. The GNSS faculty comprises a small group, but a group that is hugely supportive of its students. Over the past year, I have been very fortunate to continue to receive that generous time, energy, and support. Not only have my former GNSS professors acted as job references, taking emails and phone calls from a revolving cast of characters, but they have also shared their insight with me, talking to me about their own career experiences and job search advice. In all of the ways my Gender and Sexuality Studies concentration has helped me since graduation, my GNSS professors, through their wisdom and support, have been at the heart of them.