Academic conference hosted at VWC

Thomas Mills | Marlin Chronicle
Thomas Mills | Marlin Chronicle

By Jamie Crawley

‘Works in Progress: A Regional Interdiscplinary Conference of Feminist Scholarship’, the first-ever academic conference hosted at VWC, was held last month

Virginia Wesleyan College hosted its first regional academic conference on March 28, featuring scholars from Christopher Newport University, the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University and Hampton University, among others. Appropriately named “Works in Progress,” the goal of the conference was to further strengthen knowledge in fields related to women’s and gender studies, addressing topics such as feminism, gender issues and rape culture.

Usually sponsored by ODU, the event was hosted by Virginia Wesleyan College this year Sharon Payne, professor of social work and director of the Women’s Resource Center, was one of the driving forces behind this event. Of course any inaugural event has its pressures.

“A lot of pressure comes with this because ODU has done a good job,” Payne said. “Their women’s studies program really helped us get started in our women’s and gender studies program and our women’s center. They’re sort of like our mothers, if you will.”

Dr. Taryn Myers, assistant professor of psychology, was also a key contributor in organizing the event. “What we did was organize the papers we got into panels based on theme,” Myers said.
The conference included many panels that covered a variety of themes ranging from bisexuality in comics to army nurses and popular culture  The goal of the conference was to provide a place where people could further educate themselves on women’s and gender issues, to converse with fellow interested scholars and provide an outlet for people to share this research with a wider audience.

I really enjoyed Dr. Westfall’s, assistant professor of political science, talk on gender quotas and women’s help because she was comparing different locations around the world and how they have different quotas for having genders in their legislation” said junior Collette Vauthier. These quotas help to achieve equality through laws more representative of the population, Vauthier said.
Sophomore Vilma Sanchez-Vega offered insight on the event. “I thought this event was a really great idea and I think we need more things celebrating women at this school,”  Sanchez-Vega said.
Fellow sophomore Taylor Nichols echoed Sanchez-Vega’s sentiments by saying, “it’s important for girls to know their rights and I also think it’s important for students to go to this.”
The inaugural Works in Progress event on the campus of Virginia Wesleyan has impacted both students and professors alike.

“It is also my last semester at Virginia Wesleyan as I’m retiring in May.  The thought of hosting this event is very special to me personally because I’ve been very involved in these issues throughout my tenure here at the college, so it is very special,” said Payne.

The exposure that this conference brought to the campus was also noteworthy. “Our biggest thing was to get an academic conference on our campus to be perfectly honest, because this is one of the first times this has happened,” said Myers. “So A, the conference in itself gives people a chance to present work that’s not ready for other conferences yet and B, it allows people to realize we are here and show where we are and showcase that we are an active part of the academic community in the area.”

Virginia Wesleyan showed enthusiasm with active participants and rich academic dialogue. Senior Angela Tolliver summed the event up in one sentence saying, “It was great to have feminist fellowship.”