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Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Conference returns

The Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies department hosted a two-day research conference in the MUC ballroom last week, welcoming students, faculty and the Vermillion public. The biennial event took place March 24-25, and included an art show and discussions on this year’s theme, care, across various disciplines. 

Sara Lampert, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies conference chair and coordinator organized this year’s program schedule and keynote speakers, CV Harquail, Lenny Hayes and Jennifer Holland. 

“One of the things we were really conscious of is how much the COVID-19 pandemic exposed our culture’s reliance on the care work of very marginalized people. The pandemic exposed that, but we also didn’t want the conference to be exclusively about COVID-19,” Lampert said. “I think what the conference theme allowed us to do is focus on something that we were very aware of, that’s deeply gendered, that points to gender disparities, but that also connects with many other things outside of COVID-19.”

Participants heard from feminist management scholar and consultant CV Harquail about how feminine leadership can be practiced inside a business and its correlation to the caregiving theme. 

“I want people to understand that feminism is so much more than just about abortion rights, reproductive justice or the wage gap. Feminism is intersectional and focused on multiple oppresions, not just gender,” Harquail said. 

Audience members were able to ask questions at the conclusion of the lectures. Presentations from USD and other college students also took place throughout the conference. Several sessions were hybrid in order to accommodate viewers unable to attend the conference in-person.  

Students and regional artists were able to display their artwork at the conference’s art show held on the second floor gallery of the MUC. Art historian Lauren Freese, led an exhibit tour and provided additional interpretation of each piece. Two concerts also took place: a cabaret lecture led by USD musical theater professor, Joe Stollenwerk on Thursday evening and a performance by the band YPony on Friday. 

“For this conference and its focus on care, we want people to think about their assumptions about who provides care, how it’s valued or taken for granted in our society. We also want people to think about care that focuses on gender equity in how we organize our workplaces,” Lampert said. 

Dating back to as early as the 1980s, the conference has offered insight on various topics and themes for many individuals. Janet Davison, a steering committee member of the conference said she helps decide what kind of theme is appropriate to examine at each conference. 

“We chose care because as faculty members and students amongst themselves, we’ve had to change interactions with one another in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we’re all happy to be able to come back together and do this in-person this year,” Davison said. 

Davison said this conference is a great opportunity to hear from scholars across the upper Midwest and get involved in conversations being addressed in each session. 

Lampert encouraged USD students to attend a session of their interest. She emphasized the conference’s mission to offer a relaxed, inclusive atmosphere for every attendee. 

“This is what makes college great. It’s a place where there is a lot of opportunity to explore new ideas and research, and I hope people take advantage of those opportunities,” Lampert said. 

Guests could come and go at their convenience with meals provided for those who registered for the event. Lampert looks forward to the future growth and advancement of the conference, and said she enjoys being able to see the different proposals and ideas of others.