Shannyn Snyder

Shannyn Snyder

Shannyn Snyder

Shannyn Snyder, our Alumni certificate student of Women and Gender Studies finished her final capstone this past May 2018. Here is her story. 

How did you decide on the Women and Gender Studies Certificate? What courses did you enjoy? What were some of your research projects/topics? 

Believe it or not, when I began an MAIS back in the early 2000s, I was originally in Women and Gender Studies (WGST), but a twist of fate led me to my “aha moment”, and I decided to “specialize” in water from an anthropological and health perspective.  I graduated in 2010 with a MAIS in the concentrations of anthropology and global health, publishing a thesis focusing on the socioeconomic factors that affect access to health, water, and sanitation in Maceio, Brazil.  After my MA, I was fortunate to be offered a position to teach Health and Environment here at Mason, in the Global and Community Health Department, where I could share my new expertise in the fields of social determinants and resources, which has then blossomed into other courses, such as Health, Ethics, Leadership, and Advocacy, and Health and Literature.

I have always loved higher learning, and I knew that I wanted to continue in post-graduate work.  I struggled to find a doctoral program that would work with my schedule as a parent and a teacher and speaks to me as a researcher.  I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Dr. Angela Hattery, sharing my aspirations to find an academic home for a couple of years, where I could continue to explore social and cultural determinants of health in special populations.  I was welcomed into WGST with open arms, and I have been focusing on a range of topics, including environmental justice on tribal lands, water and women, health and women, and social determinants of health among Hispanic populations.  I have enjoyed all of my WGST courses, but I specifically appreciated the foundation I received in feminist theory by Dr. Rachel Lewis, and my course in gender and health with Dr. Leah Adams has inspired plans to continue research even after the WGST certificate is finished. 


What have you learned that has really surprised you/changed your perspective? 

I learned that many people outside of WGST may be a bit “wrong” about feminism, what it really means, and what those of us in the work of gender equality are trying to achieve.  What is most misunderstood is that the lot of us are still trying to flesh out how feminism can work best while respecting intersectionality, culture, religion, identification, and so forth.  Our best critical thinking happens when we add people from various backgrounds and experiences to the conversation, to share perspective and fine-tune goals.  There is no universal “face” of feminism, and therefore it is not possible to achieve equality through binary or singular approach.

I have also really enjoyed the sense of familyhood and positivity that WGST inadvertently gives through their Women’s Center space and their openness to new approaches and alternative ways of thinking.  My interpersonal experiences with both classmates and staff have helped me become a more understanding person and more inclusive teacher. 

I have also hit obstacles in my research ideas in the past, so it was surprising to find that inclusivity and interdiscipline is truly a practiced value in the department.  It wasn’t how can I change my goals to fit into this department’s philosophy, but how can the department’s philosophy help me achieve my academic goals.  


Tell us about your dream job. How has courses in Women and Gender Studies helped further your plans?

I am truly fortunate to be working in my “dream job” now, as a part of the MASON adjunct faculty. As an adjunct, I am fortunate to belong to a department whose leadership believes me in.  I think that continuing my education and experience-building can only enhance what they already know about my goals for teaching excellence.  I believe that is achieved through, among other things, keeping current in the fields in which I teach, connecting with students through thoughtful and relevant motivation and experiential learning opportunities, and demonstrating through interactive engagement and new learning materials, how interested I am in their education by constantly evolving teaching methods to ensure understanding and ensuring students are connected to a wide range of interdisciplinary materials, readings, and guest lecturers.  Neither global and community health nor women and gender studies exist in a vacuum, so I love that I have been able to continue to apply every new topic, theory, and idea learned in WGST to my courses in GCH.  One of my “dream” courses to teach is GCH’s social determinants of health, and I am excited to be teaching that next semester! I look forward to sharing related material from my WGST background to broaden the existing coursework in that course. 

I am also continuing to work with Dr. Leah Adams on a future empirical article on social determinants, building upon work during the WGST certificate. Publishing an academic journal article is a big goal for me, and again, I was offered help through one of our professors. 


Please share any internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences that you have taken part in during your time at Mason?

I’ve been at MASON for a while (since 1988, cough, cough), but my internships included work with The Water Project, which was a jumping block to start my own water advocacy forum, Water Health Educator, through which I am an approved MASON site prefector for undergraduate students engaging in their upper-level internships. 

I also teach arts and sciences (STEAM) classes in local libraries to preschoolers through high schoolers, particularly during the summer months, and I teach at MASON during both the Fall and Spring semesters.  I am an active Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Girl Scout, and 4-H volunteer, and I do my part trying to help MASON students network professionally and academically.


Please share any accomplishments or opportunities that you are proud of.

Last year, I received one of the 2017 GMU University Career Services’ Career Connection Faculty Award Nomination, and I received the GMU College of Health and Human Services’ 2016 Master Teacher Adjunct Faculty Award, College of Health and Human Services, which was awarded at the Spring Commencement.  I can’t tell you how humbled and grateful I have been to be recognized for doing something that I love and getting to make a difference here on campus. 


Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I have four horses, including a very handsome Gypsy Vanner named Fabio, who was indeed named after the long-ago Harlequin Romance model.  I’m dating myself for even mentioning that bit of trivia.  I am an animal lover in general, and at last count, we have 23 animals, most of whom use better hair products and have more clothing items than me.

I am also a mixed media artist, and I customize dolls, with my favorite genres being gothic, steampunk, and horror, as well as anthropomorphic hybrids.  I also enjoy painting, working with resin, creating miniatures, and I love working with my scroll saw to create puzzles and home décor. 

I am not athletic, but I enjoy the outdoors and life in the country, and I build campfires and hike for kindling with my miniature horse on temperate weekends.  I am an expert in s’mores.

Finally, I homeschool my two daughters, one of whom is now 21, and I have to say that the Women and Gender Studies Center is my youngest daughter’s favorite place to study on the days she comes with me to campus.  Through my work, she has also developed an interest in gender advocacy, and I love that she has met so many of the people that have positively influenced me over the past couple of years.


Any additional information you would like to share about your time with Women and Gender Studies?

My experiences in global health, anthropology, and WGST has ignited a desire to explore health, disability, and gender in art, as well as medical history.  So, I am very excited to be heading over to the Art History MA in the Spring.  I plan to stay connected with Dr. Rachel Lewis and her expertise in the area of disability theory, and I hope to continue to “hang out” in the Center. 

I think that everyone should take a course through WGST as a way to broaden the scope of their studies, even if you are in a different major or concentration.  I have met students in my courses whom decided to take a class because they were “curious” or just wanted to better understand a LGBTQ loved one or enhance their professional experience through diversity education.  One of the neat aspects of this department is that it has varied real-life application, even if it’s just to learn how to navigate the wide range of intersectionality and difference in our lives from a meaningful and competent perspective.  Tolerance is not the same as acceptance, and we need more understanding and acceptance in our world, whether it is in politics, communities, workplaces, and social networks.  It has become way too easy to exist in the virtual comfort of what we are “used to”, but we need to encompass and include that which is challenging and unfamiliar. 

You can follow Shannyn Snyder on Facebook or email her at


Congratulations Shannyn! Women and Gender Studies wish you a great journey ahead.