By Amber Kennedy

Starting with the fall 2022 semester, Old Dominion University students can minor in Queer Studies, a program exploring the social, historical and cultural construction of gender and sexuality and the diverse experiences of LGBTQIA+ people. Students will examine how these experiences are shaped by race, class, disability and other identity categories, with a focus on social equality.

The minor is new to the Department of Women's Studies and was initiated and developed by the Director of Gay Cultural Studies and Senior Lecturer Cathleen Rhodes. For several years, students taking a Queer Studies course (WMST 303) have asked for more courses focused on LGBTQ+ experiences.

"The minor will prepare students in any major to work with diverse populations and will help students develop skills highly prized by organizations eager to serve LGBTQIA+ consumers, patients, clients and constituents," Rhodes said. "I value the opportunity to work with students eager to learn about queer history and culture, and I am excited that we can now offer them the opportunity to expand their study with the Queer Studies minor."

Because Queer Studies is relevant across disciplines, it was important to offer a specialized and focused program accessible to students throughout the University. The minor can complement any major.

"LGBTQIA+ people are likely to be our colleagues, doctors, patients, neighbors, friends and clients," Rhodes said. "Students have expressed a strong desire to understand how to effectively build professional relationships with LGBTQIA+ people."

For example, journalists need to understand how to cover LGBTQIA+ issues, biology students would like to better understand how rethinking binaries can strengthen research and marketing majors want to know how to reach LGBTQIA+ consumers, Rhodes said.

Students taking courses toward the minor can expect to analyze contemporary debates within the field of queer studies and LGBTQIA+ activism, and to develop an in-depth understanding of the histories of LGBTQIA+ people through archival research and student-led walking tours. Key courses include Queer Studies, Dimensions of Diversity, and LGBTQIA+ People, Crime and Social Justice.

To further develop student research, Rhodes received a 2022 Course-based Undergraduate Research (CURE) grant of $2,000 for technology equipment from the Office of Academic Affairs and the Center for Faculty Development for her project, "Queering the Tidewater: An Immersive Virtual Tour of the Sights, Sounds and Experiences of Tidewater's LGBTQ Past." The project also received nearly $2,000 in matching funds from the Department of Women's Studies and the Dean's Office in the College of Arts and Letters.

The project expands on Rhodes' previous work with students to develop an in-person walking tour, now aiming to make the LGBTQIA+ tour and history accessible to a wider audience. Students will conduct primary-source research with archives and oral histories, and use recording equipment to create an immersive virtual walking tour. Students will also recapture spaces critical to regional LGBTQ+ history that have since been lost to time.

Through the Queer Studies minor, students will develop a specialization in gender and sexual diversity that they can take into careers in business, not-for-profit and advocacy work, and communications. Advising and registration for Fall '22 is underway. Contact for more information.

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