By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The University of Central Oklahoma will host its first inaugural International Gender & Sexuality Studies Conference on Monday, September 26 through Wednesday, September 28 in Edmond. The event will be held at the Nigh University Center, 100 N. University Drive, featuring speakers from around the world.
The conference is presented by The Center at UCO, which has two arms that work “independently and/or collaboratively” to advance women and the BGLTQ+ community.
The first arm, the UCO Women’s Research Center focuses on scholarly and activity programming and study that supports the intellectual growth and social development of women.
According to the website, the UCO BGLTQ+ Student Center supports bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning students by hosting educational and social programs on campus. The “+” represents letters not listed including intersexual, asexual and allies.
The event will feature more than 100 presenters from the U.S., Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Kingdom, India, Ghana, Philippines and South Africa.
According to organizers, the Center has received 100 proposals from countries including Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States making the three-day long conference the first of its kind.
Presenters will include poet Rachel McKibbens, creator of The Outlast Project; author Farina King; Oluwafemi Atanda Adeagbo, from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa; Chelsea Branham, head of the Economic and Social Justice division at YWCA, Oklahoma; and Manna Duah, Ph.D., Temple University, to name a few.
The conference, examining issues faced by women and the BGLTQ+ community around the world, will include paper presentations, poetry, art, displays and workshops.
Known collectively as “The Center,” these two programs, the UCO Women’s Research Center and the UCO BGLTQ+ Student Center, were formed last semester to supplement gender and sexuality studies on the UCO campus.
“The addition of these centers to the academic landscape at UCO provides new and important opportunities for our students to engage in interdisciplinary studies,” said John Barthell, Ph.D., UCO Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “They also promote high-impact practices through research and service learning activities on our campus and in the surrounding community.”
Last spring, founding UCO students began planning fundraisers and pursuing grants and fellowships for The Center to help initiate preparations for the university’s first International Gender and Sexuality Studies Conference, while also working to promote the gender and sexuality studies minor across campus.
UCO will offer 75 Gender and Sexuality Studies minors by spring 2017, as well as a online leadership program for Women in the Middle East by August 2017.
Lindsey Churchill, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at UCO and director of The Center said, “The programs represent the next steps in UCO’s efforts to provide institutional recognition and support for programs that promote transformative learning in the areas of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.”
Other key faculty to The Center’s founding, include Elizabeth Overman, Ph.D., UCO associate professor of political science, who aided in securing funding, and David Macey, Ph.D., professor of English and a faculty adviser for Student Alliance for Equality.
“This conference has become so large, so fast, that it has made our head spin and we need more sponsors immediately, just to cover costs,” said Jay Smith, the Center’s fundraising coordinator.
To become a sponsor for the upcoming conference or to learn more, call 405-820-3895 Registration is now available online.