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Keith Plummer '17, a self-designed major in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, presents his capstone experience titled "Avowal and Queer Liberation: Discourse, Identity, and Social Change" during the 2017 Academic Conference.
Keith Plummer '17, a self-designed major in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, presents his capstone experience titled "Avowal and Queer Liberation: Discourse, Identity, and Social Change" during the 2017 Academic Conference. 

Advanced research opportunities are available to students with their capstone experience, where they work closely with a faculty member and present their research at the end of the year at the Holy Cross Academic Conference. The capstone experience may be a culminating research paper, artistic project, or performance. View examples of recent papers on CrossWorks.

Capstone Abstracts, 2016-17

Natalie Correa, "How to Appreciate the Ballerina?: An Analysis of Ballet Images and Their Portrayals of the Feminine Body"

Our mental image of the ballerina is of a majestic, poetic creature gifted with the technical and expressive abilities to tell a story. However, this romantic understanding fails to acknowledge the complex social and cultural history of the ballerina, who was once sexualized and taken advantage of physically by male spectators – some even lived double lives as prostitutes. In this capstone, I give a biographical and visual analysis of dance images from the nineteenth century to present, exploring the dialogue between ballet and the visual arts to consider the story of ballet that these images tell, as the well as the ones they exclude. Since the Romantic Movement, ballerinas have progressed from being viewed as sexual objects to skilled, artistic individuals who are admired for their strength, technicality, and grace. I argue that even in the present day, while images of the ballet celebrate the ballerina, they continue to objectify her feminine body in different ways.

Sarah Gullong, "Pathways for Increasing Intellectual Access: Curating a Guide to the Digital Transgender Archive"

The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is an archive that seeks to provide an online hub for trans related historical materials. The goal is to increase the accessibility of materials related to variant gender identities and practices. The website has thousands of materials of many different types of media and this can be difficult to navigate for new users. For my capstone, I worked in the DTA and created a Starters Guide to the website. I created this page for anyone new to the website so they had a place to start in their exploration of trans history and the DTA.

Raha Maalin, "Extending Title IX to Transgender Students"

Raha Maalin’s Extending Title IX to Transgender Students offers a legalistic approach to the application of Title IX on the transgender community and its historical significance. Maalin analyzes the differing legal interpretations of “sex” and “gender” in the Gavin Grimm’s case, and in North Carolina’s House Bill II Law. Lastly, this article argues for the extension of Title IX based on the historical development and medical differentiation of “sex” and "gender."

Elizabeth W. Pearce, "It’s an 'Ad World': the Advertising Industry and Its Interaction with Culture and Gender"

Over the course of history, the development of advertising and the advertising industry has had a profound impact on society and culture both nationally and internationally. In order to examine some of the processes involved in advertising, as well as its function in context, I have posed several research questions revolving around the relationship that advertising has with culture, the consumer, and gender. In conjunction with this, I examined the experiences of two female characters in the popular television series, "Mad Men," in order to locate the relationships between female’s embodied experiences and the advertising industry. Through this process, I have found that the advertising industry has an incredible amount of power to change and control culture and society through the manipulation of commodified images and therefore the gendered consumer. The embodied experiences of women throughout history in the context of the advertising industry will help to further explore this element of cultural control.

Keith Plummer, "Avowal and Queer Liberation: Discourse, Identity, and Social Change"

My study examined the relationship between discourse, identity, and social change in the movement for queer liberation in the United States over the long twentieth century. Through employing a phenomenological discourse analysis of queer identity (i.e. analyzing the prevailing ideas surrounding different historical iterations of queerness such as homosexual, homophile, gay, lesbian, LGBT+, etc.) as represented in print books during this era I was able to explore the relationship between discourse, institutionalization, and actorhood. I drew two main conclusions from this study of queer liberation. First, that there is a dynamic and iterative relationship between structure and discourse. Just as new discourses of identity provide unique opportunities for contestation, organization, and mobilization that changes structure, changes in structure must also provide new socio-political landscapes to construct and morph identity anew. Second, each iterative term of queerness comes with its own unique opportunities and restrictions at given historical moments.

The Digital Transgender Archive

K.J. Rawson, assistant professor of English, works with students in the Digital Transgender Lab located in Fenwick Hall.
K.J. Rawson, assistant professor of English, works with students in the Digital Transgender Lab located in Fenwick Hall.

The Digital Transgender Archive is designed to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world.

Launched by K.J. Rawson, assistant professor of English who also teaches in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, students have the opportunity to work as volunteers, research assistants, or interns with the DTA, collaborating on the process of digitizing, recording, and entering historical materials into the database. Processing materials requires students to read and analyze individual artifacts to develop subject terms, compose abstracts, and provide any additional relevant information.

Academic Internship and Community-Based Learning Programs

Students frequently take part in academic internships and community-based learning related to gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. Sites have included Abby’s House, the Nativity School of Worcester, Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, YWCA/Daybreak, Community Harvest Project, and Worcester Common Ground. For more information, visit the Academic Internship Program and Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning sites.

Washington and New York Semester Programs

Students also have the opportunity to further their learning by participating in the Washington and New York Semester Programs. Over the past few years, concentrators have had internship placements at a number of interesting sites, including the Human Rights CampaignGirls Inc.National Organization for Women, and Senator Obama's office. For more information, visit the Washington Semester Program and New York Semester Program sites.

Study Abroad

Students have the opportunity to extend their learning about issues in gender, sexuality and women's studies by attending any one of a number of excellent study abroad programs. Below is a list of place where concentrators have recently studied:

  • Loyola University of Chicago (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • Mansfield College, Oxford University (Oxford, England) 
  • National University of Ireland (Cork, Ireland)
  • National University of Ireland (Galway, Ireland)
  • Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland)
  • Universidad del Salvador (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 
  • University of A CorĂșna (CorĂșna, Spain) 
  • University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
  • University of Leicester (Leicester, England)
  • University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia)
  • University of Saint Andrews (Fife, Scotland) 
  • University of Sussex (Brighton, England)

 For additional information, visit the study abroad site.

Student Organizations

Students interested in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies are frequently involved in community and campus activism.

Concentrators are well represented in Feminist Forum, which sponsors events, lectures, and discussions designed to make women and men more aware of women’s issues, and to foster a free expression of ideas and a greater understanding between the sexes; and Pride, which raises awareness of issues related to LGBTQ students, furthering acceptance and providing support for Holy Cross students of all sexual orientations.

Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Award

The annual award is given to a senior concentrator on a competitive basis for:

  • academic excellence in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program
  • development and articulation of a feminist critical consciousness
  • engagement demonstrating the link of theory and practice.