Interview with Christa Craven

Dublin Core


Interview with Christa Craven


Anthropology; Women's studies; Feminist studies; Gender; Interdisciplinarity in education; Reproductive health; Curriculum change


This is an interview with professor Christa Craven and her experience being the first hired faculty member dedicated to the WGSS program at Wooster. Christa talks about her experience working half-time in WGSS and half-time in Anthropology and how this has inspired her teaching style. Christa talks about what it was like during the program shift of WGSS at Wooster from Women's Studies to Women's, Gender & Sexuality studies. Christa talks about her favorite classes and favorite projects students have done, including a Wikipedia editing project and the importance of public scholarship.


Harris-Ridker, Matthew
Craven, Christa






OHLA Undergraduate Fieldwork Fellow/Faculty Mentor Microgrant, College of Wooster Libraries


Presented with Permission from Christa Craven

In Copyright








Craven_Christa InterviewEdited.mp3


Hawai'i; Taiwan; Germany; Austria; Singapore; Virginia; Florida; Wooster; Washington, D.C.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Harris-Ridker, Matthew


Craven, Christa


College of Wooster Digital Studio


Craven Christa Interview

Edited by Matthew Harris-Ridker and Christa Craven for clarity

[00:00:00] MHR: OK. So I am here with Christa Craven. It is May 17th [2018]. Hello Christa.

[00:00:08] CC: Hello Matthew.

[00:00:13] MHR: Thank you for being a part of this! So to start off the interview I'm just going to ask you where are you from and how did you end up as a professor at College of Wooster?

[00:00:20] CC: So I am one of those true global nomads. I was born in Virginia but lived till I was ten in Hawai‘i. My dad was in a foreign service so I lived in Taiwan, Germany, Singapore, Austria, went to college in Florida went to grad school in Washington D.C., and then never ever thought I was going to end up in the Midwest, but came for an interview at the College of Wooster and was really pleasantly surprised and really excited about some of the work that was being done here. And you know my position is half Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies and half Anthropology, and that was… that was really compelling and I was really excited to be able to be a part of the development of this Program that's been going on at that point for 30 years, and now 40 years, but being part of that process was really an exciting aspect.

[00:01:11] MHR: Awesome. So what got you interested in the Discipline of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies?

[00:01:19] CC: I'm one of those people I've always had an unspoken minor in feminist ideas. So all of my degrees are in anthropology. But even as an undergraduate I went to a small liberal arts college called New College in Sarasota Florida and one of the things we were really encouraged to do was design tutorials. So it was very much self-designed kind of courses and so we did it either for ourselves or in collaboration with other students.

[00:01:44] And so I had a lot of individual tutorials that I did. But also, like, a feminist theory course and a queer studies course that were co-designed with like five to ten other students. And so that was a really exciting collaborative learning moment for me and that's something that I'm always trying to bring in to my experience here at Wooster as well, even though it's kind of a different, a different culture. But I was really excited by the kinds of questions that were being asked in Feminist Studies and in Queer Studies. And so I was interested in the anthropological focus both that the cross-cultural aspect of it but also the focus on ethnography and, you know, working closely with groups, and getting to know them over a long period of time, and doing in-depth interviewing. You know, all those things were really exciting to me and I could really see them meshing with feminist and, you know, queer approaches to research as well.

[00:02:37] MHR: Was there a particular, like, course you took, or anything that really you like was that moment where you're like I really like the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies classes or Discipline?

[00:02:48] CC: That is a great question, and actually the first course that popped into my mind was a reproductive health course that I did with a feminist biologist. And even though that, you know, the natural sciences didn't end up being my trajectory, I have still incorporated that interest in reproductive health. You know, looking both at the medical, you know, health care aspects of it but also looking at the, you know, the social aspects, the political aspects, of health.

[00:03:15] And so I think that really… that really inspired me to, you know, to think about… you know, take a topic that I cared a lot about. I worked at a Planned Parenthood when I was an undergraduate as well. And to take a topic that I really cared a lot [00:03:29] about, reproductive health, pro-choice activism, and you know I did counseling for HIV testing, and to take all of those things and then look at them from, you know, through a feminist lens was just a really exciting opportunity that that really got me interested in research. As well as bringing that together with activism because that's… you know I wanted my research to be meaningful to move beyond the academy in terms of, you know, in terms of moving out into the world.

[00:04:00] MHR: A similar question is how do you, you touched on this briefly, how do you combine both your anthropological background and your Women's, Gender and Sexuality studies background to really shape how you teach courses at Wooster?

[00:04:16] CC: I have always really drawn on a lot of cross cultural examples. I feel like it's really important, you know, both for myself but also for students to, kind of, move between analyzing a context in which we are well versed. You know, something that is familiar to things that are far less familiar, to be able to understand the experiences of people who grow up with very different cultural values and norms. And when we think about gender and sexuality, we have to be thinking about that throughout the world and the ways in which those, you know, norms around gender and sexuality also intersect, with you, know norms around, around race, class, you know, nationality, age.

[00:04:57] I mean all the all the axes of difference that are going to impact the ways that people experience gender and sexuality. So for me that, you know, taking that cross cultural focus and then also, I mean just going back to ethnography, taking a really in-depth look at people's lives. And so sometimes that's through ethnographic accounts, but then other times that through literature, or through a memoir where you really get a deep appreciation for a person's experience and being able to understand the larger concepts, you know, feminist concepts but through the lens of an individual experience.

[00:05:33] MHR: Yeah, I agree. I think for the courses I've taken with you I can definitely see that. So what year did you become a professor at the College of Wooster?

[00:05:45] CC: In 2006.

[00:05:46] MHR: 2006.

[00:05:46] CC: So I'm going into my 12th year.

[00:05:48] MHR: Wow! So my next question is a little bit about the change you've seen in the program since you first started at Wooster.

[00:05:54] CC: Absolutely.

[00:05:55] MHR: So how did you see, or how was the program set up? Was it even called Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies when you were here? And also how have you seen it change to now, just specifically with the Department as a whole?

[00:06:10] CC: Absolutely. So when I came in 2006 I was the first person to be hired in what was then Women's Studies. So even though it was only a half position, because I was also half in Anthropology, I was the first kind of dedicated faculty and that was something that, you know, professors had worked toward here for quite some time. And so it was a real honor to, you know, to come into that position. That was also a time where there was a lot of talk in the program about, you know, what kinds of things were going on in the Discipline. Was Women's Studies, you know, an accurate description of the kind of work we were doing in the classroom? Because many of us were teaching on, on gender, on masculinity and many of us were teaching about sexuality, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer studies. You know, all of these things were already in some ways being incorporated into the courses, and so just thinking about, you know, the, the naming of the program, but even more than that we did a real curricular revision at that time. We looked at what courses were being offered. How can we reframe, or not really reframe but, but how can we take what the program does well—some of the things like Senior Seminar that's been done since 1978 when the program began, and that's the only non-graded course at the college and really offers the students an opportunity to really engage deeply with feminist theory. You know, take things that were kind of hallmarks of the program and, and then to kind of tweak that with some of the interests, you know my interest in looking at transnational feminisms. Again as an anthropologist, and thinking cross culturally, I really wanted to think about, you know, incorporating more on what kinds of feminist work was going on throughout the world. And that was also the point at which we added a Queer Lives course that there were no courses on the books that were offered in LGBTQ studies at the college. Actually, that's still the only course that's, that's on the books, there were lots of courses that are offered [00:08:13] you know one time, or by a visitor, or, you know, just that are, you know, that are part of the student experience but that aren't, that aren't something that are offered regularly but Queer Lives is offered once every three years. And I wish we could offer more because every time we offer it I think the waitlist is about as long as, you know, as the class itself. So, it's a really exciting course to teach. And so at that point, I mean to go back to your original question, so I think I arrived in 2006 and I think in two thousand, you know, six and seven we were really talking through the curriculum. And then in 2008 we changed the name to Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies but also made some really significant revisions in terms of the, the courses that were offered and making it, you know, looking nationally and internationally at what kind of trends were going on in the field and making sure those were a big part of our program.

[00:09:05] MHR: I think you definitely touched on this but was there any struggle with trying to figure out how you could… how you changed it from being Women's Studies to Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies? Was there, like, any I guess arguments between the people in charge about, like, what needed to be part of the curriculum? Like, going from Women's Studies to Women's, Gender and Studies, do you know what I mean?

[00:09:32] CC: Yeah, I mean I think there's always been some fluidity in the curriculum in terms of, you know, just giving each instructor that teaches Intro to WGSS, does it in a different way, you know uses different, different textbooks, covers different topics, but generally are covering some of the same ground in terms of, you know, giving a history of the Discipline, you know, talking about, you know, social justice and intersectionality and, and those kinds of things.

[00:09:59] But when we revamped the curriculum, we were a little bit more intentional about kind of saying, you know, saying that these, these are the things that we want to see in these particular courses and, like you know, moving through the curriculum we want to make sure that students are exposed to all of these different perspectives. And there's also this wealth of cross-listed courses that we have. I mean even though I'm, you know, I'm the, half of me is, you know, is teaching the WGSS courses, we have so many opportunities at the college to connect with you know feminist faculty in other Disciplines that are teaching, sometimes interdisciplinary but sometimes, you know, feminist political science, or feminist psychology, or feminist sociology, and so being able to figure out, like, what are our core objectives in the WGSS courses but then what can we also know that our students are going to be getting, you know, in some of these cross-listed courses. So there's really a lot of conversation about that. The other thing that your question made me think of though is that, you know, teaching, teaching an Introduction to Women's Studies course I think many people already felt like oh my gosh there's no way I can possibly fit in everything I want to fit in. Right? And so I think the big question was well if we're also going to talk about gender and sexuality in substantive ways, well how on earth are we going to do this? And I think this is true, really, of, of any introductory course. There's no way to cover it all.

[00:11:23] And so we, we designed that course to really leave it flexible for the instructor to, kind of, play to some of their own strengths. But we really wanted to make sure that that course was, you know, substantively addressing, you know, intersections of experience. We, you know, we wanted to make sure that that course was thinking critically, you know, bringing in critical race theory, you know, bringing in transnational feminist perspectives, bringing in queer studies perspectives. And so being intentional about saying, OK well we want this course to do, you know, these are the broad things we want this course to do with the particular topics that, that get taken up are really at the discretion of the of the professor.

[00:12:09] MHR: Yeah, when you were talking about the cross-listed courses… I remember when I talked to you about becoming a WGSS Major you were like, you are going to be taking so many different cross-listed courses, you are going to have some extra ones, and I was like will I really? And I really do now. So that, that just made me laugh.

[00:12:26] CC: That's great because I talk, I talk to a lot of students about that because, honestly, I mean because we have such a rich array of cross-listed courses at the College the vast majority of our majors and minors take way more than they need for the major and minor. I mean in terms of, like, having to take a certain amount because they tend to be the kind of courses that you want to take anyway. [00:12:44] You know, they're the kind of courses that often excite, you know, a student that is interested in feminist or queer studies, is going to be drawn to courses on, you know, on topics about reproduction, about sexuality and, and the kinds of things that, you know, that are being taught across the college.

[00:13:01] MHR: Cool, So we talked about the, sort of, changes in the program itself, but my next question is, have you seen a change in the students at Wooster who are in the WGSS Department or just changes in students in general with their perception of people in the WGSS Department or faculty in the WGSS Department?

[00:13:19] CC: So when I first came to college, you may remember this from your very first year the college. So, during orientation they have the, oh, gosh now I'm going to forget what they're called, but, like, the kind of mini classes, like, where you go around the different departmental meetings?

[00:13:34] MHR: Yeah.

[00:13:35] CC: And you learn about different majors? I know there's an official name for that but I'm forgetting. But when I first came here we used to get, you know, maybe three or four students that were interested in, in Women's Studies and then Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. And that was always exciting and we talked to them about our courses and we, you know, very often those were of the students that would get into Intro and be a part of that. Now when we do it, we have three sessions of, of that, I mean easily we get 50 or 60 students over the, over the course of it. There is a tremendous difference even over the last decade of students that come into college saying, I want to learn about these perspectives. You know, I want to learn about Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. There's also a difference in terms of students coming in who are out and confident and comfortable in themselves.

[00:14:25] You know I would say in the last five years so many more students in those early orientation meetings would say, “Oh yeah I am a part of my Gay Straight Alliance at my high school and I want to continue that work now that I'm at college.” And so having students that are already thinking about these issues, not coming into a class for, you know, the very first time going, you know, what does all this mean, you know, but coming in with some of their own ideas. And, and I think we in this particular political moment, too, I think we see, whereas ten years ago I felt like I was often, especially in the intro classes, trying to explain to students why we're not in a post-feminist, post-racial moment. Why we're, you know, why this stuff is still necessary.

[00:15:11] MHR: Yeah.

[00:15:11] CC: Right? And now, I feel like students are coming to us saying, OK we realize shit is bad out there in the world and we see, you know, in the news, you know, on the television and you know we know that feminists have been working with this for many years and we want to learn more about how to make change in the world and how to think about equity in, you know, in important ways and start to do this work. And so I feel like students are kind [00:15:39] of, instead of us trying to convince students that this is important, you know, we want to work and figure this out together.

[00:15:55] MHR: Yeah, that's really interesting because one of the reasons what drove me to WGSS a lot was, at first I was, when I came to Wooster, I was like I'll take the intro class for fun. I don't think it will really be like all that, like interesting, it feels like everyone, like, knows this already. [00:16:10] But like through, what, I, I realize that it's not just the study of sexuality it's very interesting that you're saying that because I definitely that was a reason why I chose to be in the WGSS Department, yeah.

[00:16:27] CC: Well, one of the things we talked about even with the name change. You know one of the proposals on the table was to call the program Feminist Studies because really, I think, most of us that teach in, in WGSS, you know, what became called Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies feel like feminism is a perspective with which we view subjects in the world. So, it's not just about, you know, studying women, or studying masculinity, or studying queer experience. It's about looking really at anything in the world and taking a perspective that really values equity and values, you know values social justice. And, you know, it's not so much about the topic it's more about the perspective and the questions that you ask. And so that's, I mean, I think the way that, you know, we like to approach most of the classes.

[00:17:16] MHR: My next question is about the strengths and weaknesses you see in the Department. So sort of, like, what frustrations have you experienced being in the Department whether that be with the faculty as a whole on campus, with students, like, logistical issues and then after that one, what do you really see as a big strength of the Department?

[00:17:42] CC: I think the biggest difficulty that we experience is just being such a small Department and having, you know, we've had visitors for at least five or six years which means that on some level, you know, we're getting new and exciting ideas every year with all of the different people that are coming through the program, [00:18:01] but there's a lack of stability. And there's, there's a sense, you know, I think students particularly, you know, you take this amazing course with somebody in your, you know, second year and then you want to do your I.S. on that topic but that person’s not here anymore. I would also love to see more of the, the Queer Lives, you know, work like Queer Lives, and like I said this is such a popular [course on] campus. There's tremendous amount of student demand, and we don't have the faculty to offer, you know, more courses. I mean we could easily offer like an Intro to LGBTQ Studies and a Queer Theory course, and you know courses, a variety of courses that, you know, there's been great student demand for a Queer Studies minor for many years. And, I mean, I think that would be so amazing. I mean if we had the faculty to do it but one course every three years that's on the books does not a minor make. And so we really have to… we need the institutional support to have regular faculty who are, you know, here in the long term offering these courses over and over again so that we can, that we can make them available to students.

[00:19:06] MHR: Do you think it's the institutional support because it's a, a lack of support, like, in general for the curriculum of Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies, or where do you think that comes from?

[00:19:20] CC: I think it comes from being a small institution, and having a lot of different needs across campus. And, and wanting to, you know, think about where student desires lie. You know, we've also seen, you know, our majors have quadrupled over the last decade and so we've really seen a great deal of interest in, in WGSS and, and that's one reason that we're hiring a tenure track position. [00:19:44] And that's, you know, it is really exciting to have that support from the institution to do that.

[00:19:49] MHR: You talk about the weaknesses, a little bit, of the Department. What do you think a big strength of the Department is?

[00:19:55] CC: Oh, yes! Getting back to the other half of the question. As we have gotten more majors, we've gotten much more diverse interests in the Department. And so we end up with I.S. projects that are all over the map, quite literally, and figuratively in the sense that students are drawing from a lot of different Disciplines. They are interested in a lot of different topics and I think that the weakness there is that we don't have faculty that necessarily specialize in all of those things. You know, we, we had a great project a couple of years ago on disability rights, we've had a project, a V.R. project, so a virtual reality project, that a student, a student designed a virtual reality videogame to, you know, to teach people about the experience of sexual assault survivors. And we've just, we've had such an array, and I give those two examples because neither of those are in my specialty areas. I actually experienced V.R for the very first time looking at her I.S., which was awesome, [00:20:56] but again, you know, it's, I think the, the weakness is that we don't necessarily have the specialty areas, you know, in terms of faculty being able to support students but we have faculty that are excited about trying out new and different things. And so, we end up with students that say, “OK, I'm willing to look into VR on my own, I'm willing to get, you know get that training, and then I'm going to run with this.” And to then have faculty to be able to say, “OK I'm going to run with you.” You know, and, and that's, to me that's the strength of the program is that we get, even though we're very small and, you know, I mean when we look at like a large university settings where they've got, you know 10-15 faculty in the Department, and you have a really different kind of, you know, situation here we have far fewer faculty, but I think we have very, you know, dedicated and interested and curious faculty who want to try out new things and a lot of that comes from our cross-listing faculty. You know, people who are, you know, their home Discipline is, is not necessarily WGSS but they are willing to work with us around these very innovative, creative, interdisciplinary projects. And, and that, you know, some really cool stuff I think comes out of, out of the program and that way.

[00:22:12] MHR: I think this leads perfectly to my next question about what, how do you envision the future of the WGSS program at Wooster? As it's getting bigger, do you envision, like, the program changing in any way? [00:22:26] CC: I think there's always change and there really should be. I think it's you know any program that doesn't change is just going to remain stagnant. And, and remain, you know, in, in a particular historical moment where, you know, it's not going to be as relevant as you, as you move forward. I think WGSS has grown so much since, you know, so many programs were established across the country in the 1970s and 80s. We were one of the earliest. And, we have organizations like the National Women's Studies Association and, you know, various, you know, various conferences devoted to sexuality studies and queer studies [00:23:04] that are really pushing the boundaries of the field and, and I think that's what, that's part of why, you know, hiring new faculty both in WGSS and in other disciplines that do feminist and queer research really helps us remain vital because we get to continue to be a part of those conversations and you know go to those national and international conferences and bring that back to the program and say, OK so, you know, in 2006 when I came these were some of the important things that we wanted to make sure were covered in our courses, well, well what now? You know, how do we want to see those courses evolve and so I feel like that is an ongoing conversation. Even though, you know, right after I got here in 2008 we did this curricular revamp, you know, it's time to revamp again. And I think part of the excitement for me of hiring a tenure track colleague is bringing someone in with new ideas of how to think about, you know, how to think about improving the program. You know, what are, what are ways that we can see the program, you know, moving and contributing to campus and beyond in the future.

[00:24:09] MHR: So my next question is, what are some of the favorite classes you've taught in the WGSS Department and also what is, if you could teach a course, any course, like what's your dream course to teach in a WGSS Department?

[00:24:25] CC: I get, one of the reasons that I was really drawn to Wooster was that I got a chance to teach so many of the courses that I wanted to teach. [00:24:34] Two of the courses that I really wanted to design and teach were ones that we added in 2008, so Transnational Feminisms and Queer Lives. Both of those were, you know, areas of interest and specialty for me. And I absolutely, you know, love introducing students to those topics because they're topics that, that I care a great deal about. But I've also been able to offer courses that have cross-listed with WGSS through my anthropology side, like the Global Politics of Reproduction. Which is also, you know, just in, in my specialty area, you know along, along the lines of, of my own research and being able to offer those kinds of courses has, has been really, you know, really exciting to me. There's nothing more exciting than introducing students to things that you love and that you care about. I've also, in the last couple of years, become very interested in public scholarship and thinking about ways to move the kinds of work that we do in the classroom, and the kind of theoretical work that we do, into practice and thinking about ways of making not only research public, but also, the class that you were in with me, Global Politics of Reproduction. Our semester long project was a Wikipedia project and that all of the students contributed either a substantial revision and or a new article to Wikipedia. And, I think I mentioned this to you in the car the other day, what's really exciting about that is those have been viewed thousands, I mean the articles that students in that class produced, have been viewed like hundreds, you know, tens of thousands of times. And many times, like the one that you wrote on sobada, on massage during pregnancy in Mexico, is if you type in sobada on Google Scholar, or not Google Scholar, I'm sorry, just regular Google search, is like the first thing that comes up. I mean that's… that is true public scholarship. And, so, that's something that, you know, it's not a research paper that you turned in to me at the end of the class and never really looked at again and never really picked up, but that's something that you have left a mark on a public space that has put more information out there on a practice that wasn't included before. And that’s… that's pretty exciting.

[00:26:46] MHR: Yeah, that was, that was one of my personally favorite classes I've taken at Wooster, and that project was really cool.

[00:26:55] CC: And the other thing that I loved about that project was so many of the students in the class really wanted to raise the volume of women of color in the field, and so either chose to, since it was an Anthropology class, look at the work of women of color anthropologists, or chose to look at, you know, theorists or activists who were making a difference in terms of reproductive justice and reproductive health care particularly in communities of people of color. And so that was a really, again, in terms of making, you know, putting information out there that wasn't previously there. Being able to do that with a real political intention, you know, being able to say, OK not only am I going to put, you know, I mean we can all put whatever we want out on the Internet, but being able to make those choices with a political understanding of, you know, this is important because other people are not highlighting this work. Other people are not raising the volume of these voices. So let's do it! You know, let's, let's contribute to this as… as a political, you know, contribution.

[00:28:02] MHR: Yeah, and I think that project itself really, like, highlighted what I see the WGSS Department wanting to get out of the students which is, like, educating people on issues that are intersectional.

[00:28:16] CC: Absolutely, and acknowledging with that project that a lot of the time it was, it was students in our class that started those articles but they've now been edited by other people. So, they've, they've opened the door for other people to contribute. And so that really gives a sense, too, of collaborative scholarship. I mean all research is collaborative in the sense that you're always drawing on what came before. You're always drawing on the ideas that, you know, maybe it was, you know, over lunch or after class that you talked to someone, but there, but, you know, you're always generating that kind of collaborative, collaborative work. But to be able to engage in a project, like the Wikipedia project, where you may write something down but someone else may come in and change or they may add to it, or they may say well actually this isn't right and they make an argument for why that is, that kind of collaborative scholarship I think it's really important to feminist thought. You know when we go back to looking at, you know, feminist pedagogy and thinking about how, you know, how feminist research and scholarship is conducted, collaboration is a huge part of that.

[00:29:15] MHR: Yeah, speaking about Wikipedia, can you talk a little bit about the WGSS edit-a-thon that happens at Wooster?

[00:29:24] CC: Absolutely!

[00:29:24] MHR: Yeah.

[00:29:25] CC: So for the last, I think four years now, might be three, you can look it up, we have done a WGSS Wikipedia Edit-a-thon every spring and, and we've linked it to WGSS week. So that's our, kind of, week in the spring where we usually bring in you know one headliner speaker. [00:29:43] You know we've had Jack Halberstam, we had Bree Newsome, we've had some really amazing people come. There's always other things scheduled that week too. So, like, conversations on campus around reproductive rights, you know, around all kinds of topics that students have found important, and so there's often roundtables and things like that. So one of the things that we've had for the last few years is the Edit-a-thon. And I think each year we've had about five classes, and most of those are classes that are cross-listed with WGSS or that have a significant component of feminist or queer studies, you know, kind of work in the class, and those courses have all contributed to Wikipedia articles. And, so, the courses are all run independently and the students are doing that work in each of those courses, but ultimately during WGSS week we come together to, kind of, a lot of us upload the material at that time or, you know, and or, and engage in conversation just about the process of doing it. Some of the students, when we got together last year, many of them had already uploaded their material to Wikipedia and so they were actually able to talk with the group about their experience then with moderators who either, you know, continue to contribute to their work or who blocked their work for particular reasons and so we were able to get into some really interesting conversations about what it looks like to put feminist material out there. And, you know, have it accepted or not and, you know, what, what kinds of strategies, you know, we could, we could have together to make sure that material gets out there. [00:31:15] I think there's been some really great conversations kind of between and among the students in the classes because they're all working on different topics but they're also working towards this larger goal of, you know, kind of upping the voices of women on Wikipedia. And we know, I mean the National Women's Studies Association has partnered with Wikiedu for at least five or six years because we know about the contributions on Wikipedia are primarily, you know, are primarily done by white male writers. And so what does it mean to think about drawing in, you know, students of color, non-binary students, female students to say you know we can be Wikipedians too! We can, you know, contribute to these articles as well and we can contribute on topics that might not otherwise be represented on Wikipedia. I think if, I remember correctly, it's like less than 20 percent of the biographies on Wikipedia are about women. And that tells you something really substantial about who's contributing and who's work is seen as important. Right? And then if women, again I don't know the statistics, but if we think about well how does that intersect with, you know, LGBTQ organizers or theorists? How does that intersect with you know with women of color, or people of color? Again, these are, you know, these are important things to be thinking about as we think about our scholarship is raising the volume of historically marginalized voices.

[00:32:43] MHR: Yeah, I think one of the most surprising things when we were doing our Wikipedia project was that, like, none of the feminists or authors we were reading were put on Wikipedia yet, or… or like if they had it was like, this is so-and-so born here. And that was...

[00:32:58] CC: Right, and then it's done.

[00:32:58] MHR: All that was on there. Yeah.

[00:32:59] CC: Yeah.

[00:33:00] MHR: So

[00:33:01] CC: Absolutely! I mean I think that was really eye opening for students. And then the one, oh my gosh I've forgotten her name, but the, the one woman in our class who looked at postpartum depression and it was, there was a huge section on men's experience with postpartum depression but nothing on the symptoms that a woman might experience with postpartum depression.

[00:33:23] MHR: Yeah that was...

[00:33:25] CC: I mean that's profound. That tells you something about who's writing and who's contributing to these articles. Right?

[00:33:30] MHR: Yes. Yeah, no, I remember, I think I edited that one and I was just shocked about it. And I think she was saying, too, how she kept uploading new things and the original author kept taking them down.

[00:33:45] CC: Yeah.

[00:33:46] MHR: Yeah. Yeah. So… so interesting.

[00:33:48] CC: Lots of, I mean there's lots of politics to thinking about, you know, contributing to public feminist scholarship.

[00:33:53] MHR: Yeah. So we talked a little bit about how you envision the Department moving forward, but I want to ask a little bit about, we talked about the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, but what are some other important things you see the Department doing throughout the year? Not, not in the classroom but outside of the classroom. Like it's impact on the campus.

[00:34:21] CC: One of the things that I love about Department is the Senior Seminar: Feminist Pedagogy in Practice, which I talked a little bit about before. It's the only non-graded course at the college, so all the students, you know, it's pass/fail. It's the, the idea is to, you know, kind of mirror and think through feminist pedagogy even in the sense that people aren't being graded on their performance that it is a much more collaborative, you know, kind of endeavor that students are working together but also designing their own assignments and their own ideas about the way that they want to see the course proceed. In a class like that, students are asked to think about feminist pedagogy, to think about feminist teaching and learning. You know, thinking about themselves as learners, but then also how they might draw in others and teach them, not necessarily in the classroom environment, but how they might be involved in, you know, helping people better understand feminist issues. And, so, in that class, you know, when I teach and I always ask students to think for their final project about what kind of mark that they want to leave on campus. And, so, the all-gender bathrooms project emerged from that class, and it wasn't completed during that class, but what I love about it was that it began there. The students there had an idea, they wanted to see something happen on campus, and they got together the tools to work with that and then move forward with it. And it's something that now all the single stall bathrooms on campus are all-gender bathrooms. You know, students have also, students worked towards a meatless Monday on campus and really linking the, you know, vegetarianism and feminist, you know, feminist ethics and really kind of coming up with a sophisticated feminist theoretical argument for why they wanted to do what they did.

[00:36:08] What I really love is that in that class something different always comes out of it. And that's, those are the kinds of contributions that I want to see WGSS making on campus, is through you know student-driven projects things that the students find important and, you know, that I can support and get behind and work with them on how to best organize it but that it's something that's really driven by their ideas and their passions.

[00:36:36] MHR: So, as a professor for that kind of student driven class, how does that differ from teaching, like, a different course, like...?

[00:36:46] CC: Well it's so different in the sense that I come into that class kind of with the bones of a syllabus. Like I have some of the first readings that we're going to do, you know, just to kind of get started. I want to introduce the students to you know feminist pedagogy, so we begin by reading bell hooks' Teaching the Transgress, which has been a real classic in thinking about feminist teaching and learning. And we read other, you know, more, more recent work, like Sara Ahmed, and, and we read a variety of different things that get us thinking about what, what can feminist pedagogy bring to, not only our personal sense of learning but how we want to move through the world. How we want to live our, our lives, especially since the students in that class are seniors, you know how do we get on that lives beyond the, beyond academia. Beyond college. And so on the first day of that class I also bring a list of questions for students about what kinds of assignments they want to see in the class, how do they learn about the material, you know, how do we want to in an ungraded class, or not, or a pass fail class, [00:37:48] how do we want to hold ourselves accountable for doing the research or doing the, doing the reading and coming to class, you know, to engage? I mean obviously we know if everybody just blows off the class then we don't actually have that kind of collaborative engagement, so how do we you know as a group decide, you know, what, what that's going to look like. And the students ultimately do that. They really design the syllabus, and that's a really exciting part of it. And that's different. You know most classes I teach I'm the one that designs the syllabus. You know, I come up with the assignments. Now there's some, I actually try a version of that in, when I teach Intro to WGSS, I also have the students design an assignment. I don't have them design the whole… the whole course, but I do you have them design one assignment. And so it's kind of the mini version of, like, you know, if you take Intro and then when you get to be a senior you kind of get the, you know, broader more experienced version because I assume that seniors are going to be a little bit more experienced with, you know, how they learn and what kind of… you know, what kind of possibilities exist for, for thinking about, you know, learning in different kinds of ways.

[00:38:51] MHR: Yeah! Yeah, I'm excited to take that class next semester.

[00:38:55] CC: I'm glad you’re in it.

[00:38:55] MHR: Yes! So, I guess another question I have is, as a teacher you see yourself teaching your students to go out into the world and have specific things you want them to learn through the classes that we talked about earlier. But is there ever anything you hope to learn from the students?

[00:39:18] CC: That's a great question. And I think it's some of what I love about, you know, about teaching Senior Seminar because the students are always… they’re always coming up with topics that are not in my specialty area. Like, you know, studying feminist ethical arguments for vegetarianism, totally outside my wheelhouse! But really important and fascinating, and something that I learned a lot from that experience. Another, another course, this was years ago, but the Seminar got really interested in embodied learning, about thinking about how we learn not only through reading and talking about things, but how we learn through moving our bodies. And so that class, we went and took a yoga class together and engaged in some really amazing conversation about, you know, physical and mental health and how that relates to thinking about feminist learning. Again, not at all in my area of expertise but something that I feel like still impacts the ways that I think about, kind of, bringing more kinesthetic or, or embodied practice into, into classrooms. And so hopefully the students are always in some ways planting seeds for me to then think about, OK so how can I incorporate something like this into, you know, maybe back into the Intro class? Maybe really coming full circle in a sense. Or, or how are these things that I can incorporate into other aspects of my teaching, or the ways that I advise I.S. and, you know, encouraging students. I think I learn from the creativity of students to then, kind of, coming full circle again, to then encourage creativity on the part of future students. To be able to say, these are some of the things that have been done in the past but that's not that's not all we can do. So what ideas do you have? You know what virtual reality, [00:41:10] you know, again something that I'm well versed in. What kind of creative ways can you come to this material and, you know, make something new that impacts the world in really different ways?

[00:41:24] MHR: Has there ever been like a moment where you've been teaching a class where like a student says something, or like asked a certain question, or like write something on a paper where you go like, yes! Like, they got it! Like they got what I want to teach them!

[00:41:41] CC: Absolutely. I mean there are definitely those moments where particularly when I see students engaging outside of their comfort zone and trying to understand situations and experiences that are different than their own. I think those are the most powerful moments for me. You know, as someone who grew up all over the world, you know, experiencing, you know, different people and different cultures. Also, as an anthropologist, you know, thinking about that training of trying to understand how other people make sense of their world in different ways. And so I always feel that sense when I see a student able to kind of come out of their own personal experience. I mean there's a lot that we can learn, you know, I mean a lot of feminist learning and teaching is very personal. I mean you know you've got the second wave [slogan], you know, “the personal is political.” And absolutely! I mean I, I really agree that the personal really is political and the political is personal, but I also think that what, what that, you know, that reduction takes us out of the idea of understanding how other people's personal is political, if that makes sense. [00:42:51] Like the idea that it's not only our own personal that's political, but it's also thinking about the experiences of people who, you know, who may have very different backgrounds from our own may understand things in very different ways than we do and trying to understand the ways that they make sense of their experience in the world. And so that's a, that's particularly powerful for me when I see students grappling with that in doing that work.

[00:43:18] MHR: So those are all the questions I have. But I'm gunna, I guess ask you is there anything else you want to talk about in regards to WGSS at Wooster?

[00:43:29] CC: I would love to know what you want to see in the future of the program, particularly since you're engaging in, you know, this project of interviewing a lot of alums and me as a professor, I'd be interested in your ideas of...

[00:43:43] MHR: Yeah, I mean one thing that I've always thought would be interesting is, thinking about the core course requirements for Wooster in general, like we need a quantitative requirement we need math in natural science we need some humanities courses, like... feminist course requirements or something like that.

[00:44:08] CC: An FQ, a feminist and Queer Studies requirement.

[00:44:10] MHR: Yeah! Yeah, yeah! So I've always thought that that could be really interesting, maybe something to bring up in feminist pedagogy for instance.

[00:44:20] CC: You know it's interesting to think about, when you have a Discipline that, you know, is very interdisciplinary and, and impacts thinking in a variety of, of, you know, across a range of Disciplines. How do you, how do you make that more effective? How do you, you know, how do you infuse that into more students' experience?

[00:44:41] MHR: Yeah! Anything else you want to bring up?

[00:44:47] CC: No, but thank you so much! This was a really nice opportunity to talk about this!

[00:44:50] MHR: Thank You for being a part of the project!

[00:44:53] CC: Excellent, thank you so much Matt.

[00:44:53] MHR: Thank you!

Original Format






Harris-Ridker, Matthew and Craven, Christa, “Interview with Christa Craven,” WGSS at Wooster: Past, Present, and Future , accessed June 3, 2023,