Meet the Fellows: 2017 Women’s Studies Fellow Danica Savonick

The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies supports the final year of dissertation writing for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences whose work addresses women’s and gendered issues in interdisciplinary and original ways. The 2017 class of Fellows includes English doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center Danica Savonick. Her dissertation, The Promise of Aesthetic Education: On Pedagogy, Praxis, and Social Justice, analyzes the reciprocal relationships between intersectional feminist aesthetics and pedagogy. Here, she reflects on the impact her research has on her day-to-day experience:

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my research is how it informs my teaching and vice versa. I teach in the same public university system (CUNY) as the feminist and antiracist authors I analyze in my dissertation. I’ve spent many hours with the archival teaching materials of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and Toni Cade Bambara, and I find myself regularly confronted with the pedagogical and ethical questions these authors and educators also faced. In many ways, they have taught me how to teach and given me a sort of toolbox for feminist pedagogy. I draw not only on their actual lesson plans, assignments, and syllabi but on their theoretical reflections on what art and literature can do to materialize social justice. When I want to try something different—such as having students collaborate on a publication rather than writing a traditional final paper—these poet-teachers have shown me the way, providing inspiration and strategies for overcoming the obstacles we encounter when departing from established conventions. Through my research, I have learned more about the history of Open Admissions, SEEK (the nation’s first state-mandated educational opportunity program), and community and student activism, and it is such a joy to share these histories with my students and witness the unpredictable and exciting things they do with this knowledge. And as I read these archival teaching materials and feminist poetry, the hundreds of students I have taught at Queens College are always at the front of my mind—especially the lessons they have taught me about their agency, desires, and the better worlds they are eager to build together.


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