Waleska Solorzano

Waleska Solorzano

Waleska Solorzano

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

My decision to enroll in the Women and Gender Studies program was fortuitous. Professors in the Philosophy Department encouraged me to take Women and Gender Studies courses to learn more about feminist discourses that were in line with my research, so I enrolled in my first Women and Gender Studies course, “Gender, Sexuality, and Migration”, in Spring 2020. It was game over after that course. I continued to enroll in Women and Gender Studies courses for the subsequent semesters. I relished the diverse classroom and syllabi as well as the nurturing environment the professor and students cultivated. The courses I most enjoyed were Queer Theory and Feminist Theories with Professor Rachel Lewis. The readings and assignments in Queer Theory and Feminist Theories were in resonance with the direction of my research. The courses provided me with the lexicon to carefully articulate my questions and ideas about queer diasporas, transnational artistic practices, and Latin American cinema. After I graduated with my Master’s in Philosophy, I decided to enroll in the program to continue my education in feminist studies to help further my research on the Venezuelan queer diaspora and its aesthetic manifestations.

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

I have learned so much! I must say that learning about the Black queer diaspora vis-à-vis works by Jafari S. Allen, Xavier Livermon, and Vanessa Agard-Jones, helped me formulate my own framework to discuss and research the Venezuela queer diaspora. Black queer diaspora theory and performativity profoundly changed my perspective along with French lesbian feminist discourses grounded in Monique Wittig’s work as well as Luce Irigaray’s work. French lesbian feminism was so radical, and I think it still makes people uncomfortable.

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

Honestly, I am not sure I have a dream job outside of being a multi-hyphenate professional. I think my worst fear is being one dimensional or defined by profession. My courses in Women and Gender Studies along with Professor Lewis’ mentorship helped me realize that I do not have to be one thing. I want to pursue a Ph.D., apply for

tenure-track positions, and work with cultural institutions, such as art collectives, museums, and galleries.

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.

During my time at Mason, I have been fortunate enough to participate in two fellowships, namely the Boren Fellowship and the Critical Language Scholarship, which allowed me to study Bahasa Indonesian in Indonesia in 2018 through 2019. I am now working at the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs to fulfill my service requirement for the Boren Fellowship and utilize my language skills. I have also been active in the D.C. arts community working with artists and curators to exhibit artwork from Latin America and nonbinary/queer artists.

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

I applied to interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs this past year, and Women and Gender Studies was a core component of my applications. I applied to five programs, and I was accepted to three of them. I decided to accept Cornell University’s offer. I will be a Ph.D. student in the Romance Studies Department, the Spanish section to study contemporary aesthetic manifestations of the Venezuelan queer diaspora, or what I call the Venespora, to propose a new perspective from which to analyze queerness in the Latin American context as well as the ongoing political and social situation in Venezuela. My interdisciplinary research considers transnational artistic productions found in contemporary cinema, digital graphics, music, paintings, performance works, and photography as transformative tools for understanding diasporic LGBTQIA+ identity and the broader effects of resettled populations in the United States and Europe. I will study with professors who have had a deep impact on my research, such as Dr. Irina Troconis (check her out). I am very excited! The pursuit of a Ph.D. has been a dream of mine since undergrad. I would be remiss if I did not credit this success partially to Professor Rose Cherubin, Professor Rachel Jones, Professor Rachel Lewis, and Women and Gender Studies.

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

I still write letters to friends, especially to those who live abroad, so basically, I am keeping the pen pal movement alive.

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

My time with Women and Gender Studies was life-changing, and I mean that wholeheartedly. The program helped me find my voice as well as the courage to speak up and pursue obscure research topics.