Mel Lewis, a Goucher alum, is an Assistant Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). Lewis, who is in her third
year of teaching, came to Goucher around the time the Women’s Studies department became the WGSS department. This change broadened the types of courses Lewis and her collegues could teach in the department.
Lewis likes the “small community” at Goucher because she is able to form relationships with the students and her colleagues. Her area of specialty is the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality, and most of her publications are focused on black queer identity and feminism. Currently, she is working on a book, “Bodies of Knowledge: Black Queer Feminist Pedagogical Bodies and Performative Texts.”
A goal that Lewis has for the WGSS department is “to grow the major,” which has been happening over the past few years. The switch from Women’s Studies to WGSS has enabled new classes to be added, including ones that focus on gender, identity, and queer studies. Lewis’ favorite class to teach is her seminars on Black Queer Studies Identity and Performance and her 200-level class on Gender Identity, Expression, and the Body. These classes, Lewis said, allow for a “cultural, social, and political approach to sexuality … as an experience.”
Because gender identity and sexuality can be applied to many situations and disciplines, the WGSS department cross-lists courses and hosts events with other departments, including Peace Studies, Sociology, Religion, and Africana Studies. Lewis said this enables students to take an “analytical approach” to their thinking and make connections between what they are learning in multiple classes.
Carlie Glassman ’15, is a WGSS major who has taken four classes with Lewis. Glassman says that Lewis “creates such a great environment in her classroom” because she is “excited to see you” and “encouraging.” She explained that Lewis is great at helping students find their potential and make progress, especially in a major where students are frequently asked: “What are you going to do with that?” Glassman loves that Lewis is personable and “shares a mutual respect with her students.”
Tori Rain ’14, decided to be a WGSS major during her junior year, after taking a class with Lewis. Rain said “one can tell how passionate she is about the issues and topics we discuss.” Rain also loves how Lewis “facilitates discussion but doesn’t control it,” which makes the classroom environment very comfortable.
Sarah Rubinstein ’14, a WGSS minor, took Lewis’ intro class her freshman year, which was “where I found out I was a feminist.” Rubinstein commented that Lewis is able to help students with their curiosities and find “multidisciplinary” resources, especially in the arts. In her African American Women’s History class with Lewis, Rubinstein read an anthology, “Afrekete,” which consisted of various forms of writing by black lesbian women who were not well known, and opened her mind to something new.
WGSS is a growing discipline and Lewis is always excited to engage her students and make connections with them.