Heather Aleknavage

Heather Aleknavage

Heather Aleknavage

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

I decided on an interdisciplinary master’s in order to have the flexibility to create a program that fit my goals and interests. I chose a concentration in higher education and combined it with the graduate certificate in women and gender studies. Realizing the unique nature of working in higher education, the interdisciplinary approach to learning is the only thing that made sense to me and allowed me to combine feminist theories with higher education principles and strategies in my research and coursework. I enjoyed all of my WMST courses, but especially WMST 600, Contemporary Women’s Movements with Nancy Hanrahan and WMST 508, Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights with Rachel Lewis. Some of my research topics included, sex trafficking, Title IX issues around pregnant and parenting students, and the second wave women’s movement, specifically on women and work.

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

Everything I learned in my WMST courses opened my eyes to current issues and trends, but especially some of the global issues such as immigration and the objectification of women around the world. I loved reading Adrienne Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Judith Butler, Gender Trouble.

Please share any internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences that you have taken part in during your time at Mason, and that were meaningful to you.

For my MAIS practicum experience, I was the student parent intern for Contemporary Student Services, and we hosted an adult learner welcome reception in Fall 2021 in partnership with WGST and the Bachelor of Individualized Studies program. We had a good turnout and was great to be able to showcase the WGST center through this event. I also facilitated the Fall for the Book event with Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder of the organization Generation Hope and author of Pregnant Girl, that was hosted by WGST.

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

This spring, I received the Master Student of the Year award from the Higher Education program, and I also received the CHSS 2019 CHSS Dean’s Challenge Scholarship!

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

I went to elementary school in Taipei, Taiwan when my father was assigned to the Naval Medical Research Unit there. My father was a radiation biologist and Navy Captain!

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

In addition to fabulous WMST classes, WGST has many great events and activities that contributed to my overall education. I attended a book talk by Wendy Hesford and she signed my copy of Spectacular Rhetorics. I also attended the Sojourner Truth lecture, a session on intersectionality and the Women’s Scholars Lecture this spring. My overall favorite WGST event was the film screening of the award winning documentary, Out in the Night and presentation by producer, Giovanna Chesler. There are so many opportunities to get involved in WGST in order to enhance your graduate certificate experience. For my colleagues who are Mason employees, consider using your tuition benefit to take a WMST course.