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Student project aims to dispel stereotypes


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Published 2010-11-29T19:39:00Z”/>

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Ally Dukker

The dominant, brave male and the passive, emotional female are the traditional connotations relating to masculinity and femininity, but are not specific to everyone.

Amy Lance, a communications professor and director of undergraduate programs, and her gender communications class are working toward creating a community where no one is categorized, given a label or judged, she said.

The gender communications class creates a safe environment where students can speak about serious issues, such as stereotyping by gender, Lance said. The class of 36 students has been working on a new semester-long project where they will share class content with the campus and community.

Change 2010 Gender Awareness Project is a student-run venture consisting of a workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in Selvester’s Cafe-by-the-Creek followed by a march through campus ending at Trinity Commons. Attendees will be able to see plastic cutout silhouettes telling individual stories about gender, and participants can then continue the conversation.

This is Lance’s first semester in five years to teach the gender communications course, she said. In previous years, the class consisted of group presentations related to various gender topics such as gender stereotypes in relationships.

In the beginning of the semester, Lance provided her students with the option of a learning opportunity different from the typical classroom environment, she said. The class voted and decided they wanted to do a campaign that would impact the campus.

“It is important that students know the difference they can make by using their voice,” Lance said. “I wanted to give them real life experience working on a team, speaking out to peers and making the world a better place.”

The class was broken up into four groups. The marketing group created a press release, fliers and Facebook and Twitter pages. The silhouette group was in charge of interviewing community members and creating the silhouettes to be placed on campus. The workshop groups will hold panels at Selvester’s Cafe-by-the-Creek to discuss what the project is about and talk about gender and sexual identities. The walk group is in charge of organizing the march with an alternate route if it rains and of tabling on campus, selling shirts and bracelets and gathering donations.

The purpose of the project is to promote diversity and awareness that gender is not just black and white – there is a spectrum, said Sam Kelly, a junior communications major.

“This project is important to me because at one point or another everyone has felt judged and felt like they didn’t fit in,” Kelly said. “This project is to promote that everyone does fit in.”

Fundraising was not originally a part of the assignment, Lance said. However, the students decided they wanted to make a financial contribution to organizations like Sunshine Connection and the Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California, who support a similar cause.

The class began tabling on campus Nov. 8 and will continue to raise money until Thursday.

The black plastic cutouts of silhouettes are replicas of different students and community members who were surveyed, each with the person’s own story painted on the silhouette in white paint.

A male silhouette standing with his arms at his side presents a story that begins, “I want people not to look at me for my sexual orientation, but my personality.”

The class is expecting a large turn out to the event, said Chris Melendrez, a junior communications major.

“We’re hoping to have at least 100 people,” he said.

Lance hopes to continue the event every semester, she said. As an instructor, she thinks it is her duty to give her students the communication skills they need to make a difference and take their learning beyond the classroom walls.

“I want to give them the opportunity to use their voices to make a positive impact on campus,” Lance said. “I am beyond proud of them – they can change the world.”

Ally Dukkers can be reached at

[email protected]

 

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