Tag Archives: Events

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” ~Gloria Steinem

International Women’s Day commemorates the movement for women’s rights, and was originally called International Working Women’s Day. The earliest observance of a Women’s Day was in New York in 1909, organized by the Socialist Party of America. Over the years, various countries observed a similar day at different times, many in conjunction with strikes, rallies, and other protests in support of increased rights and better conditions for women.

The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in 1975, International Women’s Year. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Many countries currently treat it as an official national holiday with many others (including the U.S.) celebrating it unofficially.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee visited CSU on Monday. She was the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her part in ending the Liberian Civil War. “Trained as a trauma counsellor for former child soldiers, as well as the leader of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, Gbowee spoke on her experiences with her part in ending the Liberian Civil War as well as the importance of acceptance and embracing humanity.” At one point during her speech, Gbowee said, “When people say America is divided I say ‘yes indeed,’ and when people ask me if we will find our way back I say ‘yes.’ To be whole again, your country must break down issues on the humanity of those issues.”

The 2017 UN Secretary-General’s Message for International Women’s Day begins, “Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.” It goes on to say, “Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.” It ends with, “On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Video: a International Women’s Day message from UN Women’s Executive Director

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Image credit: bell hooks Institute

Image credit: bell hooks Institute

bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952. The town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where she and her five siblings grew up and went to school, was segregated, and her experiences in this community helped shape the commitment to feminism and resistance to racism central to her life’s work.

hooks wrote her first book, Ain’t I a Woman, while she was an undergraduate student at Stanford University. Her pen name, bell hooks, was borrowed from her great-grandmother, but she used the lower-case letters as a means to foreground the content of her writings rather than her identity as author. After it was published in 1981, Publisher’s Weekly ranked it in the “twenty most influential women’s books of the previous twenty years.”

Throughout her career, hooks has held academic positions at The University of California in Santa Cruz, Yale University, Oberlin College, and City College of New York. She is known as a “crossover” academic, meaning that her works span many academic disciplines. The focus of her over thirty published works has been race and gender theory, but these works are remarkably diverse in how they apply race and gender theory to various disciplines, from pedagogy and teaching to film and media studies. In academic communities today, her works are read, taught, and considered foundational in many fields.

Alongside her various theoretical and critical publications, she has also published five children’s books, a memoir, works of poetry, as well as appearing in numerous films. Today she lives in Kentucky.

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Toni Morrison is among the most acclaimed African American authors in U.S. history. In 1993, she became the first African American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She also received a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. Even at an early age, she showed a love of literature and reading, going on to major in English and classics and Howard University and to get her master’s degree from Cornell in 1955. Her thesis focused on the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, both of whose literary influences can be seen in her work.

Morrison’s novels feature African-American protagonists and span the length of U.S. history, from the colonial period (A Mercy) to the Civil War (Beloved) to the Korean war (Home). In addition to her novels, she has also published a work of literary criticism—Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination—a collection of essays and speeches, several children’s books, as well as the libretto for the opera Margaret Gardner in 2005.

Morrison taught throughout her career and was a professor at Princeton University from 1989 until 2006. A prolific writer, Morrison continues to produce work, publishing a novella as recently as 2015.

Video: Mini bio from Biography.

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~from intern Joyce Bohling


Recently I shared a story here on the blog—“What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”—exploring career options for English majors. For that post, I interviewed Career Education Manager for the College of Liberal Arts, Katie Russo, who explained all that English majors bring to the professional world.

To continue my exploration into this subject, I attended the CSU Career Fair to talk to recruiters themselves and see what kinds of skills employers are looking for.

I prepared for the Career Fair in all the ways you’re supposed to—took my resume to the Career Center to polish it up, did a little research about the companies and organizations that were going to be there, and dressed in my most professional attire. Still, I felt nervous, like there was more I should be doing.

“Maybe I’ll just wake up tomorrow and be an entirely different person,” I thought Tuesday night. “That seems like it will increase my chances of being hired significantly.”

Of course, that didn’t happen. The name and major printed on the name tag I was given before I entered the Fair declared me to be, still, Joyce the English major.

Joyce, the English major

Joyce, the English major

I was struck, as I entered the Grand Ballroom and took a turn around the room, by the wide variety of employers and jobs. If you wanted to work for a bank, there were banks. If you wanted to work in social services, there were organizations that assist underserved populations. If you wanted to work for a national or state park, there were national and state parks. Restaurants, manufacturers, hotels, public schools, insurance agencies… There were even religious organizations recruiting students interested in a career in ministry. It’s encouraging to think that, whatever your passions and interests, there are employers out there looking to hire you.

Admittedly, one of my greatest fears attending events like the Career Fair is that it will be viciously competitive. I had visions of recruiters glancing over my resume, looking me up and down, and sneering, “What do you think you’re doing here?”

But my anxiety turned out to be unwarranted. Many were very excited to see I had a background in writing and teaching. Some were recruiting for specific jobs and internships that I wasn’t qualified for, but when I said I was looking to get experience in communications, they said, “Oh, cool—our company hires communications people too! Here’s the person to contact.”

Some recruiters were honest that their company’s positions were very competitive, but no one was rude or told me I need not apply.

In fact, only one recruiter told me outright that I wasn’t qualified at all—for the simple reason that her company was only hiring licensed psychologists. She was very nice about it.


In the end, I was glad I overcame my fears and went to the Career Fair. No one scoffed at the idea of an English looking for work or suggested that I transform into an entirely different person; in fact, a number of recruiters seemed very pleased to talk to me and encouraged me to follow up.

What’s more, I found out about some job opportunities in the area I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, which was, after all, the point: to make a good impression, yes, but also to help think about what career options are right for me.

In other words, I was reminded that career exploration is not about becoming someone else, someone that you imagine companies will want to hire. It’s about figuring out what’s a good fit for you.

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Author, civil rights activist, and women’s rights activist Alice Walker was born in Putnam County, Georgia in 1944. Born into a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of eight children. She grew up surrounded by oral tradition, hearing stories from her grandfather.

Her grandfather’s stories inspired her, at the young age of 8, to being writing the novel that would become The Color Purple. As she explained it, “with my family, I had to hide things. And I had to keep a lot in my mind.” Writing became a way for her to get some of these thoughts out. At the same age, she was shot with a BB pellet in her right eye while playing with her older brothers. This left her with a visible scar in her eye, making her self-conscious and turning her into a shy and timid girl.

Under the Jim Crow Laws in Georgia, Walker attended a segregated school. In her own words, “I grew up in the South under segregation. So, I know what terrorism feels like — when your father could be taken out in the middle of the night and lynched just because he didn’t look like he was in an obeying frame of mind when a white person said something he must do.”

Walker wrote her first book of poetry during her senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, where she graduated in 1965. By 1982, The Color Purple was published as her third novel and turned into a 1985 movie directed by Steven Speilberg, featuring influential women like Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. Walker won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Color Purple.

Walker’s influence extends beyond her writing. She worked as a social worker, teacher, lecturer, and took part in Mississippi’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement. She also participated in the 1963 March on Washington. In 2003, Walker was arrested outside the White House with 26 others during the March 8th International Women’s Day. In an interview with Democracy Now, she said “I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family.”

Walker was the focus of a 2014 documentary Alice Walter: Beauty in Truthpart of the American Masters series. According to PBS, the films “showcase extraordinary women and girls who are changing the world.” Beauty in Truth “explores Walker’s relationship with her mother, poverty, and participation in the Civil Rights Movement, which were the formative influences on her consciousness and became the inherent themes in her writing.” (Watch the movie online: https://vimeo.com/136860538).

[Video: In 2013, The WOW Festival included the world exclusive premiere of Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth, a feature documentary film directed by Pratibha Parmar about the life and art of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. After the screening, Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar took part in a Q & A.]

At the age of 73, Alice Walker continues to be an outspoken activist, using her history as a touchpoint for pushing back against current national issues.

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Audre Lorde was a black writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, teacher, and civil rights activist, who described herself as a “lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity. Jerome Brooks says in Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, “Lorde’s poetry of anger is perhaps her best-known work.”

Lorde was born in New York City on February 18, 1934. Her parents were Caribbean immigrants who settled in Harlem. Lorde learned to read and write at a young age, and wrote her first poem when she was in the 8th grade. She went on to attend a high school for gifted students. It was during college that she came to identify herself as a lesbian and a poet.

She went on to earn a master’s degree in Library Science at Columbia University. She served as a librarian in New York public schools from 1961 through 1968, when her first volume of poetry, First Cities, was published. In 1962, Lorde married Edward Rollins, with whom she had two children and later divorced. She spent time as writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Her second volume of poetry, Cables to Rage, came out of her time and experiences there.

Lorde went on to become a visiting professor in Berlin, Germany at the Free University of Berlin. While in Germany, she was influential in the start of the Afro-German movement. “Instead of fighting systemic issues through violence, Lorde thought that language was a powerful form of resistance and encouraged the women of Germany to speak up instead of fight back.” (Piesche, Peggy (2015). “Inscribing the Past, Anticipating the Future”). A documentary was made about her time in Berlin, “Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992.”

Audre Lorde battled cancer for the final fourteen years of her life. She wrote The Cancer Journals, which won the American Library Association Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award in 1981. Lorde once said, “I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”

In 1980, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. She was also a founding member of Sisters in Support of Sisters in South Africa, an organization that worked to raise concerns about women under apartheid. From 1991 until her death in 1992, she was the New York State Poet Laureate. In 1992, she received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle. In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gamba Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.”

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~from intern Joyce Bohling

Often, when I tell people I’m an English major, I’m met with everything from genuine curiosity to outright dismay about my job prospects.

In these conversations, I’m often reminded of the opening line from one of my favorite musicals, Avenue Q: “What do you do with a B.A. in English?”

Sometimes, people just assume that I plan to become a teacher–even if I haven’t given any indication that I’m a teaching assistant and actually really enjoy teaching.

Of course, teaching is a very important, skilled profession, and a great option for English majors. But it’s not by any means the only option.

So I decided to do some investigating. What do you say when someone asks, “What on Earth can you do with an English degree?”

To find an answer to my question, I sat down with Katie Russo, the CSU Career Center’s Career Education Manager for the College of Liberal Arts. Ms. Russo serves as the liaison between the College of Liberal Arts and the Career Center. She also counsels liberal arts students on job searches, grad school, resumes, and career development, among other career-related topics, putting her in a unique position to comment on the career opportunities available for English majors.

Katie Russo

Katie Russo

According to Russo, students in the liberal arts often “aren’t fully aware of all of the transferable skills they have and possess” as they enter the job market. These skills include critical thinking; interpersonal skills; teamwork; and research, problem-solving, and analytical skills.

“I see a lot of students who love their major, love their classes, but don’t see their value in the professional world.” In response to these concerns, Russo thinks of herself as a kind of “cheerleader.”

In fact, she said, not only are there plenty of jobs available for English majors, but some of those jobs pay well, too. Although students with liberal arts degrees often have lower initial starting salaries, many eventually out-earn their STEM counterparts. “There’s data to prove it.”

Russo said that, because liberal arts degrees don’t always lead directly to an obvious choice of career, the way a pharmacy degree leads to a job as a pharmacist or a social work degree leads to a job in social work, much of what she does with liberal arts students is career exploration.

Some of the top fields in which CSU English alumni now work, according to LinkedIn, include:

  • Marketing and public relations
  • Copywriting and editing
  • Non-profit and social services work
  • Business development

“It really comes down to what you’re passionate about and what you’re interested in,” said Russo. When students come to her, she asks them, “What do you like doing?”

Here are some of the top skills Russo encourages English majors to put on their resumes and to emphasize in job interviews:

  • Writing and/or communications skills, written and verbal: Russo sees these skills as more important than ever, what with new technologies and social media. Even in technical fields, she said, an employee with an English degree can often “be that person who can break it down” for an audience without technical knowledge. English majors know how to connect with an audience, and that’s valuable, she said.
  • Interpersonal skills: A liberal arts degree often emphasizes collaboration and working with others. “I think that’s hugely important in the workplace today,” said Russo.
  • Critical thinking and reading: English majors are asked to think carefully and critically about texts. “What’s the message that you’re communicating through the language that you’re choosing?” asked Russo. The ability to communicate that message is valuable in all kinds of fields and professions.

Although Russo counsels students to explore their passions and interests to find the career that’s right for them, she also believes that finding a dream job is a process that continues after graduation.

In other words, you don’t need to land your dream job as soon as you get your diploma. Rather, Russo encourages students to start looking for the kind of job that sets them on a path that could eventually lead to a dream job. “You want to find something—if not a foot in the door, then a nudge at the door.”

“A career is constant self-reflection and exploration,” and each job, said Russo, “gives you greater insight” into the kind of work you most want to be doing.

The CSU Career Center is a free service for all CSU students. The Center has drop-in advising sessions from 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday, as well as appointments for help with everything from specific job searches to more general career exploration. “I’m really front lines for students,” said Russo.

Russo encourages students to come see her and her colleagues early in their college careers. “It’s better to come here early rather than later. We’re here every step of the way.”

When the Career Center is closed, students can access resources, such as career tools, handouts, and the Handshake job board through the Career Center website.

Finally, students can attend the Center’s many events, including the Career Fair. The Career Fair for students in Communications, Business, Social Services, Liberal Arts, Hospitality/Tourism and Health/Wellness is this Wednesday, February 15, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm in the LSC Grand Ballroom.


“I just want to re-iterate how valuable liberal arts students are in the workplace,” said Russo as we wrapped up our interview. “There’s very much a place for them in the professional world.”

And in fact, she finds her own profession working with liberal arts students to be inspiring. “Almost all the students I see want to make a difference…They really want to be someone who’s made an impact in some way. How can I walk away from that meeting not feeling inspired?”


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Today’s featured author is a bit of a departure. Up to now, we’ve been featuring historical figures. Today, we are featuring a modern day historian. Ibram X. Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning historian at the University of Florida. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, (read the rest of his bio on his website: http://www.ibram.org/bio).

Lucky for you, he’s on campus — TODAY! Get yourself to the Lory Student Center Grey Rock Room at 6 pm tonight to hear him speak. While you are at it, get a copy of his award winning book. It is compelling, provocative, and timely. The Root, who says the book should be required reading, describes it this way, “Kendi has done something that’s damn near impossible: write a book about racism that breaks new ground, while being written in a way that’s accessible to the nonacademic. If you’ve ever been interested in how racist ideas spread throughout the United States, this is the book to read.” Kendi is currently working on three more books: Black Apple: A History of Black Power and Malcolm X, 1954-1974, (under contact with NYU Press), as well two follow up trade books to Stamped: (1) How to be An Antiracist and (2) Bones of Inequality: A Narrative History of Racist Policies in America.



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Taken from Africa when she was only about seven years old, Phillis Wheatley was a slave. She was also the first published African-American female and one of the best-known poets of her time.

The family who owned her taught her to read and write, allowed her an education that at the time was unusual for a woman let alone one who was a slave, and encouraged her poetry when they noticed her talent. Wheatley wrote her first published poem at around age 13. However, some years later many white colonists found it difficult to believe that an African slave was capable of writing such poetry, and Wheatley had to defend her authorship of her poetry in court in 1772. When her first book was published in 1773 — Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral — it included a preface in which a group of Boston luminaries asserted that she had indeed written the poems included in the book.

Eventually freed from slavery, in 1778 Wheatley married John Peters, who kept a grocery store but whose business was not successful, and the couple struggled financially. They had three children together, all of whom died young. Because of the war and the poor economy, Wheatley was unable to find a publisher for her second volume of poems, a manuscript that has since disappeared. Phillis Wheatley, who had once been internationally celebrated and considered “the most famous African on the face of the earth,” died alone in a boarding house at the age of 31.

Recent scholarship shows that Wheatley wrote perhaps 145 poems, although many of them have been lost over time. Wheatley’s poems were mostly written in the elegiac poetry style, focusing on moral and religious subjects. In a biography from the Poetry Foundation, Sondra A. O’Neale says,

In the past ten years, Wheatley scholars have uncovered poems, letters, and more facts about her life and her association with eighteenth-century black abolitionists. They have also charted her notable use of classicism and have explicated the sociological intent of her biblical allusions. All this research and interpretation has proven Wheatley’s disdain for the institution of slavery and her use of art to undermine its practice. (Read the full biography here).

Critics consider Phillis Wheatley’s work fundamental to African-American literature. She is honored as the first African-American woman to publish a book, (only the third American woman of any color to do so), and the first to make a living from her writing.

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Our current president didn’t make the traditional official proclamation designating February as Black History Month yesterday, but he did make a statement. Addressing a small group of African American aides and supporters to kick off Black History Month, he mentioned Frederick Douglass, but seemed to be confused about who he was. Later in the day, his Press Secretary struggled with a similar issue. Considering Douglass’s importance to the abolitionist movement, American literature, and Black history — called by some “the most important black American leader of the nineteenth century” — it was clear who our next featured author should be: Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection)

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection)

Frederick Douglass was was a prominent American abolitionist — an African-American social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman. He was also active outspoken supporter of women’s rights, (the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention). He was born a slave, escaped at 20 years old after two previous failed attempts, and went on to be an anti-slavery activist.

Douglass’s three autobiographiesNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881) — are considered important works of the slave narrative tradition. “Written as antislavery propaganda and personal revelation, they are regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography,” (http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/frederick-douglass).

Video: Frederick Douglass — Mini Biography, from Bio.

Two Black History Month events of interest on campus today:

  • Being Black &… Series, 4PM, LSC 300 Topic:  Being Black and Religious “We will discuss the stereotypes vs the history of African American religion, spirituality and the church as an organization and community center. Several of the questions we will engage in are: What is it to be Black and believe? What is the role of discrimination and racism in being a spiritual African American?  Discussion Led by Dr. Ray Black”

  • Movie: Birth of a Nation6 PM, LSC Theater 2016 American period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. Discussion to follow.

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