Aspen Ruhlin

Aspen Ruhlin earned their BA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a double minor in Sociology and Creative Writing in 2015. While earning their degree, Aspen focused particularly on the topics of gender theory, queer theory, sexual health, and domestic violence. Today, they work as the LGBTQ+ Community Organizer with Health Equity Alliance, a role where they wear many hats. They provide HIV testing, train professionals in LGBTQ+ Cultural Competency, help organize Bangor Pride, supervise an LGBTQ+ youth support group, and teach inclusive sex education.
 
How did the WGS program inform what you do? When I was getting my degree, I had many people tell me that it was a waste of time and money, as there was no job out there that I could get by having what is essentially a degree in queer intersectional feminism. Everything that I am doing professionally is possible because of my WGS degree. The intersectional feminist approach of the professors that I had in the program taught me to look critically not only at my own experiences, but to consider the experiences of others with radically different backgrounds than my own. Not only did I gain knowledge in this program, but the drive to constantly seek more knowledge, especially as language and terminology around the LGBTQ+ community shifts and grows.


Susan Iverson

Susan VanDeventer Iverson is Professor of, and coordinates the doctoral concentration in, Higher Education Leadership at Manhattanville College. Iverson earned her B.A. in English from Keene State College (NH), a M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Boston College, a M.Ed. in Counseling from Bridgewater State College (MA), and her doctorate in Higher Educational Leadership, with a concentration in women’s studies, from the University of Maine.

Prior to her current faculty position, Iverson was tenured faculty at Kent State University for 10 years where she was also an affiliated faculty member with both the Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies Programs. Before she entered the faculty ranks full-time in 2006, Iverson worked in student affairs administration for more than 10 years. At the University of Maine, following the birth of her daughter, Iverson transitioned from full-time position in Housing, to several part-time jobs, including as Associate Director of Safe Campus Project, a federally grant-funded initiative to address interpersonal violence on campus, and as adjunct faculty in both Higher Educational Leadership and Women’s Studies. Iverson’s scholarly interests include: equity and diversity, status of women in higher education, feminist pedagogy, and the role of policy (e.g., sexual violence) in shaping perceptions and culture. She has two co-edited volumes: Feminist community engagement: Achieving praxis (Palgrave, 2014) and Reconstructing policy analysis in higher education: Feminist poststructural perspectives (Routledge 2010).

How has WMST informed what I do?

Throughout my career I have been engaged in social justice and equity-minded work, but I didn’t have a language or a framework for what I was doing. For instance, as a Hall Director in 1989, I responded to an incident of sexual assault; the events that unfolded fueled my interest in sexual violence advocacy, prevention efforts, and policy writing. Such efforts continued through my work with Safe Campus Project at University of Maine (2003-2006), and are a line of inquiry in my research agenda today. However, it wasn’t until my graduate coursework in Women’s Studies, and taking classes with Drs. Renate Klein and Mazie Hough, that I acquired the cultural, historical, and theoretical underpinnings for my efforts. Further, opportunities to teach Women’s Studies at UMaine, and mentoring from Drs. Hough and Ann Schonberger, connected me to feminist organizations like NWSA, where I networked with others doing feminist work and had opportunities to present. Most impactful was my feminist pedagogy course with Dr. Hough. I was teaching Intro to WST concurrent with initiating a service-learning project in a HigherEd class. I began thinking about differences between activism and service-learning, and developing my commitment to teaching students how to engage in efforts that address root causes, not just symptoms, of social problems. This activist-oriented mindset has pervaded my teaching (and writing), and is typically framed by a feminist lens.  Finally, my commitment to activism, and the development of a feminist lens for my work, has also shaped my non-academic/professional life, namely my parenting. I wrestle daily with what it means be a feminist mother and seek outlets with other ‘academic mothers’ trying to blend personal and professional realms and disrupt the structures that divide our whole selves. All of this – from my work, to my scholarship, to my parenting – can be attributed to sparks fueled by the Women’s Studies Program!

Regina Rooney

photo of regina rooneyRegina earned her Master’s Degree in English with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies in 2008. Today she works as the Education & Communications Director for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, a statewide nonprofit organization that supports the efforts of our nine member domestic violence resource centers throughout Maine. Her job is a blend of training for both domestic violence advocates and community members, communications work, and public policy. It’s twice been her privilege to travel to Washington DC and meet with Maine’s federal delegation to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by survivors in Maine.

She says, “Unquestionably, UMaine’s WGS program guided me to where I am today. Connections from WGS led me to an internship at the local domestic violence resource center. That internship grew into volunteer work, then a part-time position, and eventually to the job I have today. Perhaps more importantly, WGS also gave me an understanding of feminist history and activism—including the ways in which mainstream feminism has too often failed to live up to its promises and has failed people who have historically been marginalized in our culture. I love my work, and I seek to integrate those lessons in what I do every day. I have WGS to thank for providing me a strong foundation on which I continue to build.”


Sally Curran

Sally earned her BA in Women’s Studies in 2002 with a dual degree in Spanish. She went on to complete her Juris Doctorate at the City University of New York School of Law in 2008 and is admitted to practice law in both Maine and New York. Today she works as the Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, a pro bono legal services program in Syracuse, New York, whose mission is to provide access to justice through engaging the legal community in volunteer service to those in need. Her organization has a staff of 9 that coordinates over 700 volunteers that provide free legal assistance to over 3,000 community members every year. She also is an Adjunct Professor of Law for the LGBT Law Clinic at Cornell Law School, where she and her law students assist with transgender name and gender marker changes, among other things.

She says, “UMaine’s WGS program was a fundamental building block in getting me to where I am today. The program teaches deep critical analysis of systems of power and teaches you how to call into question and fight against injustice and systemic inequality. There are things that I learned about during my WGS program that sparked interests that still play out in my work today. In a Women and Globalization course, I learned about FGM, then 8 years later I fought for and won an asylum application for a survivor of FGM and domestic violence, and now I have been able to set up an immigration law program at the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Poverty is a WGS issue – the majority of the clients that we serve are women, many of whom are single mothers. LGBT individuals face poverty at incredibly high rates too. Understanding the structural vulnerabilities that are caused by patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. has been critical to working to create change.”

On another note, Sally says that her Senior capstone project on Women in Latin American Revolutionary Movements led her to attend the “Encuentro de las Mujeres Zapatistas con las Mujeres del Mundo” in Chiapas, Mexico in 2007 to learn more about the role women have played in the Zapatista movement. At that convening, she happened to meet Fabiola Ortiz, an activist from Chihuahua, Mexico. Ten years later they are happily married and fighting la lucha together in Syracuse.