College Appoints New WGC Director
Issue   |   Tue, 03/01/2016 - 23:47

The college welcomed Jesse Beal as the new director of the Women’s and Gender Center on Tuesday, March 1. Beal formerly worked as the acting director for the office of diversity services at Suffolk University. The center will hold a meet and greet with them (Beal uses the non-binary pronouns they/them/theirs) from 3 to 5 p.m. this Thursday.

The former interim director, Danielle Hussey, left the position during the summer of 2015. Angie Tissi-Gassoway, director of the Queer Resource Center, served as interim director of the Women’s and Gender Center last semester. Tissi and Dean of Students Alex Vasquez headed a search committee for the new director comprised of faculty, students and staff.

“I know that the directorship of this office has been open for a long time and so I think the staff are very excited to have a director,” Beal said. “And I’m really excited to work with them to see what we can create together for the center.”

Over the course of last semester, the center’s student staff took on greater organizational responsibilities.

Beal has an academic background in women’s and gender studies. They received their bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, Austin and master’s from Brandeis University.

“The idea of taking the theory that I spent so many years learning and putting it into praxis in a real way is exciting,” Beal said.

However, Beal said that their background in community organizing will also impact the work that they plan to do as director. Beal did community work since they were a young adult, but their time at the University of Texas, Austin cultivated their passion for activism. They worked in campaigns that organized against hate crimes, trans-exclusionary employment practices and anti-abortion groups.

According to Tissi, the search committee chose Beal primarily because they demonsstrated a grasp of gender-related issues that took complexities of identity into account.

“Often, when we think about a women’s and gender center, we think about cis women, straight women and white women,” Tissi said. “We think of womanhood in a very narrow way. And compared to the other candidates that we saw, Jesse really was able to articulate to us how womanhood and being a woman, and understanding gender and how gender operates through its intersections, require much more than a single lens.”

Beal expressed their admiration for the student activism that took place during Amherst Uprising and said that the students showed the ability to bring up complex issues of identity.

“I’ve been doing multicultural affairs work and LGBTQ work in higher education, and all of it has been very intersectional,” they said. “I’ve always had a focus on how race, gender, sexuality and class impact and complicate one another. I’ve been doing this work, but not in the context of a women’s and gender center.”

Some of Beal’s immediate goals are to begin strategic planning for the center’s future and write a mission and vision statement in collaboration with the center’s staff. They said that crafting a “brand” for the center is important in order to inform the community about the resources that the center can provide.

“It’s figuring out internally who we are and then making that statement campus-wide,” they said.

Beal also plans to increase center programming, as well as potentially set up large-scale programs, such as major speaker events, that would engage a larger portion of the student body.

”I’m hoping that Jesse is going to do things that we haven’t ever seen in the women’s and gender center, because it’s been a relatively quiet place,” Tissi said. “I think if we can make sure that we choose a person to make the place a vibrant hub on campus, we’re doing well, and I think Jesse’s going to be that person.”

Beal said she intends to collaborate with the other resource centers on campus as well as the black studies and sexuality, women’s and gender studies departments.

“I think feminism is incredibly important to us understanding who we are in the world and what equity really means,” they said. “Because if we’re not talking about the intersections of gender as well as sexual orientation and race, then we’re not doing all the work.”