GSWS/FQT/PWC 50th Anniversary Symposium

Thursday, February 29, 2024 (All day) to Saturday, March 2, 2024 (All day)

Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Van Pelt Library, 6th Floor


This location is ADA accessible

Please join us for this three-day symposium celebrating the past and present achievements of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program (GSWS) and the Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies (FQT), along with fifty years of partnership and collaboration with the Penn Women’s Center (PWC). This symposium is free and open to the public. Register at the link below.

In 1973, students, faculty, and staff conducted a multi-day sit-in in College Hall to protest a campus culture of sexual violence and gender discrimination. Protesters’ demands for institutional spaces focused on gender were met with the formation of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program (originally named “Women’s Studies”), a new academic program offering gender and sexuality studies courses, majors, minors, and graduate certificates, and the Penn Women’s Center, a campus center dedicated to increasing safety and inclusion for women and sexual minorities. Ten years later, faculty and students demanded a campus research center devoted to scholarship on gender and sexuality studies, leading to the foundation of the Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies (formerly named the “Alice Paul Center”), dedicated to supporting research and scholarship.

During the 2023-2024 academic year, GSWS and FQT, together with the Penn Women's Center (PWC) and partners from around the university, will celebrate 50 years of transformative teaching, scholarship, and advocacy on Penn’s campus.

In the last few years, the changes at GSWS and FQT have been significant - and worthy of celebration! We have changed the name of our Center to better reflect our scholarly focus on queer and transgender studies. We have completed a multi-year cluster hire in sexuality studies. Our core and affiliated faculty membership continues to expand, and we now have core and affiliated faculty from ten of Penn’s twelve Schools. Each year, our faculty, staff, and students continue to win prestigious awards for their teaching and scholarship. At the same time, recent years have seen the overturning of the constitutional right to abortion; the affirmation of the rights of private businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ persons; restrictions on gender-affirmative healthcare; and the banning of courses in LGBTQ and critical race studies in higher education. Even as we commemorate GSWS and FQT’s successes, and all who have made them possible, this milestone provides us with the opportunity to look to the future and contemplate the significant work yet to be done to fulfill the mission that began half a century ago.


Thursday, February 29
2:00pm - 2:45 pm

Welcome remarks from Melissa E. Sanchez (Director, GSWS and FQT); Deans of the School of Arts and Sciences; Provost’s Office; President’s Office

3:00pm - 4:30 pm
New Directions in Gender and Sexuality Studies

Moderator: Melissa E. Sanchez
Current and previous GSWS students and early career GSWS faculty discuss their work in gender and sexuality studies.

·       Mae Eskenazi (Weitzman School of Design and GSWS, UPenn)

·       Isaac Essex (American Studies, Brown University)

·       Archana Kaku (Government, William and Mary)

·       Davy Knittle (English, University of Delaware)

·       Alicia Meyer (Kislak Center for Special Collections, UPenn)

·       Beans Velocci (History and Sociology of Science, UPenn)

·       Seçil Yilmaz (History, UPenn)

4:45pm – 6:00 pm
Gender and Sexuality in Medicine and Science

Moderator: Jessica Halem (Director, Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative, UPenn)
GSWS and FQT affiliated scholars discuss the place of gender and sexuality studies in the sciences and health-related fields.

·       Dennis Flores (Nursing, UPenn)

·       Ari Gzesh (MSW PhD Student, UPenn)

·       Amy Hillier (Social Work, SP2, UPenn)

·       Dani (Cam) Smith (Engineering & Neuroscience, UPenn)

·       Lance Wahlert (Medical Ethics & Health Policy, UPenn)

Friday, March 1

10:00am - 11:30am
Plenary Session: The Futures of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Moderator: David L. Eng (English, Asian American Studies, UPenn)
Alumni of Penn’s GSWS Graduate Certificate program discuss the current state and future directions of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

·       Benjy Kahan (Robert Penn Warren Professor of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Louisiana State University)

·       Ava Kim (Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, University of California, Davis)

·       Mary Zaborskis (Assistant Professor of American Studies and Gender Studies, Penn State Harrisburg)

11:45am - 1:00pm
Trans Oral History Project

Moderator: Cat Dawson (Art History, Sarah Lawrence College)
Scholars and advocates working to create the Trans Oral History Project, a collaborative initiative among the FQT Center, the Kislak Center, and Philadelphia’s William Way Community Center.

·       Nat DiFrank (Program Manager, TOHP, UPenn)

·       Che Gossett (Associate Director, FQT, UPenn)

·       Darius McClean (William Way Community Center)

·       Maria Murphy (FQT Associate Director, UPenn, 2021-2023)

·       Eva Pensis (Postdoctoral Fellow, TOHP, UPenn)

·       Nat Rivkin (Graduate Associate, TOHP, UPenn)

·       Liz Rose, (Graduate Associate, TOHP, UPenn)


1:00pm - 2:30pm
Lunch (generously sponsored by the Penn Women’s Center)

2:30 - 3:45 pm
Alumni Reflections on GSWS

Introductory remarks by Sarah Banet-Weiser (Dean, Annenberg School of Communications, UPenn)
Moderated by Lex Gilbert (GSWS, UPenn) and Hannah Kohn (GSWS, UPenn)
In conversation with current GSWS students, alumni now working in a range of fields will discuss their experiences at Penn and the influence of GSWS on their current work.

·       Anna Aagenes, Class of 2010

·       George Hardy, Class of 2012

·       Serena Martinez, Class of 2023

·       Claire Taback Sliney Class of 2021

·       Nadine Vassallo-Frohne, Class of 2008

·       Dawn Yuster, Class of 1998


4:00pm - 5:15pm
Remembering Lynda S. Hart

Moderated by Dagmawi Woubshet (English, UPenn)
Penn alumni reflect on the legacy of Lynda S. Hart, former English faculty member who taught the first queer theory courses at Penn.

·       Carlos Decena (Professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies and of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Rutgers University)

·       Jim Downs (Gilder Lehrman-National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Civil War Era Studies and History, Gettysburg College)

·       Jen Manion (Winkley Professor of History and Political Economy, Amherst College).

5:30pm - 6:30pm

Breathless/Living: Histories/Crises/Poetry

Organizer and Host: Ricardo Bracho (Abrams Artist-in-Residence, FQT Center, UPenn)
This session will feature creative work by current and former GSWS/FQT affiliated students, scholars, and artists.

·       Arielle Julia Brown (Senior Research Officer at The Lewis Prize for Music)

·       Julia Bloch (Director, Creative Writing Program, UPenn)

·       Roz Lee (Senior Director, Amplify Fund)

·       Sof Sears (Freelance Writer and Editor, Penn Class of 2023)

·       Syd Zolf (Artist in Residence, CPCW, UPenn)


6:30pm – 8:00pm

Reception generously sponsored by Penn Alumni Relations and SAS Office of Advancement


MARCH 2, 2023


10:30am - 10:45am
Welcome remarks by Melissa E. Sanchez (Director, GSWS and FQT)


10:45am - 12:00pm
50 Years of Gender Studies & Social Justice Advocacy at Penn

Moderated by Elisa Foster (Director, Penn Women’s Center)
Founders of the GSWS Program and the PWC, along with previous GSWS and PWC directors, reflect on the success and challenges of the past five decades.

·       Rita Barnard (Former GSWS and FQT Director, UPenn)

·       Demie Kurz (GSWS Co-Director, 1988-2017)

·       Phyllis Rackin (Professor of English Emerita, UPenn)

·       Diane Sjolander (Writer and Independent Consultant)

·       Carroll Smith Rosenberg (Mary Frances Berry Collegiate Professor Emerita, University of Michigan)

·       Carol Tracy (Former Executive Director, Penn Women's Center; Lecturer, GSWS))


12:15pm - 1:30pm
GSWS in a Nation without Reproductive Autonomy, Affirmative Action, or LGBTQ Rights

Current and recent directors of GSWS and FQT will reflect on the challenges for GSWS amidst the dismantling of rights and protections in recent years.

·       Gwendolyn Beetham (GSWS Associate Director, 2017-present),

·       Kathleen Brown (GSWS Director, 2017-2020)

·       Nancy Hirschmann (GSWS Director, 2014-2017)

·       Jonathan Katz (GSWS Director, 2020-2021)

·       Jessa Lingel (GSWS Director, 2024-2027)

·       Melissa Sanchez (GSWS Director, 2021-2024)


The GSWS Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration has been made possible with generous support from the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Annenberg School for Communication, the Trustees Council of Penn Women, the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and the Penn Women’s Center.

Accommodations: If you need any accommodation for this event, please email



Sponsored by
The Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the School of Arts & Sciences, SAS Office of Advancement, the Annenberg School for Communication, the Trustees Council of Penn Women, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Alumni Relations
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