When Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio decided to include a final collaborative class project in her syllabus for last spring’s Transnational Feminism (WGS 242) class, she had no clue what medium the project would be in, much less that the class’ website would lead to an invitation to Paris with one of her students, Sofia Alpizar Roman ’21. The duo will attend the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA) Institute on Transnational Feminism on March 22-24 to lead a workshop at the American University of Paris on how other instructors can implement similar websites into their classes.
The project’s original description in the syllabus called for a “digital-based/text-based research project… [that] should come together in any digital program your group chooses to be shared broadly,” but no requirement for any specific digital-based medium. “The goal of the project from my standpoint,” Román-Odio said, “was to let the students experience teamwork as the transnational feminists practice it … where each person expresses [their] individual perspectives but also those voices become a choral voice.”
As the project started to take shape, then-sophomore Alpizar Roman volunteered to coordinate the whole operation. “When Professor Román-Odio talked about the final project and that she needed a student to take a leadership role in it, I stepped in because it was something similar [to] what I do with the Spanish newspaper [El Medio Camino],” she said. The required tasks included keeping a timetable, delegating responsibilities and wrangling 22 of her classmates to make sure that the project was completed on time.
The students were initially sent a Google form where they expressed their preferences for what regions they wanted to cover, and whether or not they were proficient in another language besides English. They were then placed into five smaller teams covering different regions and following the timeline Alpizar Roman had set. Each group had to work together to choose a country in their region to focus on, find a women’s organization in their country and do the necessary research and writing to create a two to three page report for the class.
“At a point in the semester we had to make [a] transition,” Román-Odio said. Despite the initial project only calling for a digitally presented report to share with the class, Román-Odio had a vision for the project to evolve “What do you do with a report [as a professor]? You can put it in the folder or you can mark it, give a grade and burn it [or] you could recycle it, but that’s the end of the story,” she said. “So we did a jump [to create a website] … to make, of this content, an opportunity of learning—not only for the students but also for the community. Not only for the local community but also for the global community.”
It wasn’t until the semester was over that the GLAA sent out an announcement searching for participation in their Transnational Feminism Institute this Spring. Román-Odio, who had helped organize the first Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) Transnational Feminism Conference in 2008, decided that they would enter their project as a workshop to teach others how to implement a similar project in their classroom.
Alpizar Roman and Román-Odio will not be the only Kenyon representation at the conference. Associate Professor of History Nurten Kilic-Schubel and her student Shawn Ruiz ’22 will also be guests on a panel titled “Transnational Feminist Pedagogy for Justice in the Liberal Arts.” The opportunity for Ruiz to accompany Kilic-Schubel to the conference arose from his participation in her Women and Gender in the Modern Middle East (HIST 370) seminar. While Alpizar Roman and Román-Odio’s work is more project-based, Ruiz will be representing a more personal, applied side of transnational feminism.
“For a couple of my final papers [in Kilic-Schubel’s class] I was talking a lot about transnational feminism and also trying to get away from theory and making it accessible by putting theory into practice,” Ruiz said. “One of the big ways I felt like I did that [was] I did an internship with a health clinic … and it was mostly for trans youth of color … so I talked to Professor Schubel about how a lot of what I learned in her class about transnational feminism was really applicable with my internship there.”
Despite the variety in their presentation methods and assignments, the common theme of Kenyon’s participation in the conference is how transnational feminism can be carried outside of the classroom and into the real world through education and activism. “[The application of the material] was what [Professor Kilic-Schubel] was most excited about,” Ruiz said. “Talking about how you can use what you learn and not just have it be in your brain or write about it, but to be able to practice it.”