WGS and the World: Alumni Interview–Emme Veenbaas ’16

Meet Our Alumni: Emme Veenbaas, Class of 2016 

Emme Veenbass ’16  graduated with a double major in Women’s and Gender Studies and English. Currently, Emme works with the Chicago Bar Foundation, and she cites the WGS Program as the “most formative part of [her] college career.”

What are you doing now? What paths led you to this point?

I am currently the Development and Administrative Coordinator at The Chicago Bar Foundation which is the charitable arm of The Chicago Bar Association. Essentially, we raise money for grants to give out to legal aid organizations across Chicago. Before my current position, I was in graduate school at DePaul University for my Master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies which I completed in June 2018. Both Hope and DePaul’s programs motivated me to go into a position that was focused on social justice and issues surrounding inequalities.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I majored in WGS alongside English Literature. Being a part of the WGS program was the most formative part of my college career and shifted my plans for after graduation. It provided me with a new lens for how I view the world and to be a more critical consumer of the social structures and systems I participate in.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

Absolutely do it! The most common concern or criticism I hear for earning a degree in WGS is that “It’s not practical,” but that is the farthest thing from the truth. The skills and knowledge you learn in WGS support all aspects of your life from personal relationships to employment and beyond.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

I would teach “The Personal Is Political: An Exploration of the Impact of Feminism in U.S. Politics,” and I would have to include Angela Davis on the syllabus. If you haven’t read Davis’s Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016), what are you waiting for?

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

I referenced Dorothy E. Roberts’ Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty (1997) in almost all of my graduate school papers, and it’s a great critical examination reproductive injustices women have endured and continue to endure in the United States.

Are you a WGS alum who would like to be featured on our blog? Email us! wgs AT hope DOT edu

WGS and the World: Alumni Interview–Dr. Vanessa Ann Claus ’08

Meet Our Alumni: Dr. Vanessa Ann Claus

Dr. Vanessa Ann Claus ‘ 08 graduated with a dual major in Women’s Studies* and Communication. Dr. Claus is a Lead Faculty Member at Colorado State University-Global Campus teaching business and management courses and publishing in peer-reviewed journals. In 2013, she co-published “Culture and leadership: Women in nonprofit and for-profit leadership positions within the European Union” in Human Resource Development International.  Dr. Claus shares with us her formative experiences as a Hope student and the importance of Women’s Studies in developing critical thinking “outside the box.”  

What are you doing now? What paths led you to this point?

I firmly believe that I have the best career in the world.  I am a Lead Faculty member at Colorado State University-Global Campus. Additionally, I am also the owner of Advanced Academic Editing & Coaching, LLC.

I have a Master of Science in Human Resources and Education Development from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University (TAMU).  While at TAMU, I worked as a Graduate Assistant teaching online courses.  From there, I fell in love with teaching online.  A lot has brought me to where I am today, but I feel blessed to have a solid education.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I have a dual major from Hope College.  My majors are in Communication and Women’s Studies.  During my first semester at Hope College, I was enrolled in Dr. Julie Kipp’s First Year Seminar (FYS) course, “Activism and Advocates.”  Dr. Kipp is an instructor like no other. She is opinionated, humorous, brilliant, and unique.

Since Dr. Kipp was my FYS advisor and my instructor, she recommended I enroll in some Women’s Studies courses.  I was hesitant, but she pushed me to take one.  From there, I was hooked.  I took courses with Dr. Jane Dickie, Dr. Jane VanderVeld, and many other brilliant women who were passionate about different topics.

Side note: To the person who enrolled me in Dr. Kipp’s FYS, thank you! I could not ask for a better FYS experience, which opened so many paths and doors.

How did your WGS education shape you?

The ability to think critically and to analyze the world around you is essential.  While I learned so much from the faculty and my classmates in the WGS program, the most important skill that I acquired was thinking outside of the box.  In fact, without the WGS program, I likely would not be where I am today. Thinking critically has allowed me to successfully complete my graduate and doctoral programs.

In addition to the invaluable skill of critical thinking, I also found my voice.  I learned that my voice is important and that everyone is entitled to speaking their truth. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to interact with unique individuals, who I might not have met on campus otherwise, while in the WGS program.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

I received a lot of backlash and comments for being a Women’s Studies major.  When I started my first Women’s Studies course, it was not uncommon for people to voice their questions, concerns, and offensive comments about my degree program choice.   Some of the comments that I vividly remember include, “What would anyone do with a degree in Women’s Studies?” or ”Are you a feminist now?” or “Are you a lesbian?” Honestly, I cannot even remember all of the comments that I heard from individuals, but I am so glad that I didn’t listen to the feedback of others.  Take a WGS course.  Enter the course with an open mind.  The WGS graduates are some of my dearest friends, to date. You will likely find your home in the WGS community.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

Good question. I would title my course “Be Your Best Feminist”  because I believe feminism is personal. We each have our own worldviews, experiences,  and perspectives.  To make feminism a more acceptable term, it is important that we recognize who we are (as feminists) and how we can make a change given our passions, interests, and goals.

If I could include any speaker in the syllabus it would be Emma Watson.  I think she is poised, intelligent, and well spoken.  Her quote, “If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist.  Sorry to tell you,” is moving.  I wonder how many people would categorize themselves as feminists after recognizing what true feminism means?

* The Hope College Women’s and Gender Studies Program went under a formal name change from “Women’s Studies” to “Women’s and Gender Studies” in fall 2014.

Are you a WGS alum who would like to be featured on our blog? Email us! wgs AT hope DOT edu

“You were designed to intertwine with people who have stories different from your own”: An Interview with Dr. Davia J. Crutchfield

Dr. Davia J. Crutchfield will be visiting Hope’s campus this week. Check out our interview with Dr. Crutchfield. She discusses her Women’s Studies certificate, the value of WGS courses, her research inspirations, and more. 

What are you most excited to share with students, faculty, staff, and community members who will attend your lecture on Thursday, November 8?

Honestly, I am most excited for the conversation following the lecture. I am eager to engage with Hope’s academic and surrounding community about secular rap and spirituality. I think the dialogue will be compelling and motivational.

Did you major/minor in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I completed the Women’s Studies certificate as part of my Master’s program at Howard University because I wanted to critically examine social and spiritual issues faced by Black women.  Taking part in a Women’s Studies Program at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) provided me a space to explore Black women’s varied experiences, and I became aware of my own biases. I was more conscious of the varied ways oppression shows itself in various areas, especially in the areas of women’s contributions to various disciplines, spaces, art forms, and more.

What difficulties, if any, did you have reconciling your faith with your Women’s Studies certificate?

This is such an interesting question because I do not think I was conscious of how my learning impacted me until I recognized that the questions I was asking myself and others changed. For example, a couple of years ago I asked a few of my Christian friends: “As a Black Christian woman, how do you see yourself? Which descriptor comes first to you: Black, Christian, or woman?” The answers differed, but in some form, we all agreed that the three do not operate individually; they were collective. Our varied experiences as women, as Black women, and as Black Christian women have all contributed to our narratives, understandings, and interactions of our faith and the world.

I once heard a pastor state that as we enter the church our culture fades and falls away. The pastor commented that we adopt a Christian identity and our individual culture becomes obsolete. I was troubled by that—not because I don’t believe in a Christian identity—but because I think to typecast Christianity into a narrative that suits a particular group of people truly diminishes the lived experiences of those who have to “compromise more” than others to fit that identity. It creates a hazardous environment, and it offers another avenue to marginalize members of the congregation, especially when we live in a world that constantly tells a group of people “your voice is unimportant; your contributions are unimportant.”

If this does not give too much away before your lecture, what inspired you to research on Kendrick Lamar?

I began with puzzle pieces and the masterpiece followed. I knew I wanted to study the relationship between Christianity and secular rap music as I have sometimes met disdain from others because I enjoy secular rap music. Also, my younger brother, Malcolm Xavier, was a huge supporter of my interest in the complexities of Black masculinity, Christianity, and secular rap music. I knew I wanted to study these complexities in a way that did not look to demonize secular rap. As I unpacked my research on Black Liberation Theology, Black Radicalism, and secular rap music, I realized I wanted to examine how Black Christian men used secular rap music as part of their socialization and personal expression. Later, those ambitions turned into a textual analysis on secular lyrics. Enter Kendrick Lamar. His album, good kid, m. A. A. d city(2012), had just dropped, and his lyrics made headlines left and right. He also had an incredible body of music to study. The beauty began to unfold throughout my entire writing process. Looking back, it was incredible.

 Your talk will be on the intersections of faith and Black masculinity in the context of Kendrick Lamar’s music, and you have mentioned you have a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. What advice would you give to current students who are not considering WGS as a major or minor (or even a course in their undergraduate studies) about the value of a course in WGS?

I would ask “why deny yourself such a good thing?” Just start with one course and allow yourself to grow in it; it will truly strengthen your perspective–not only on other people’s experiences but also your own. My own Women’s Studies courses helped me formulate a language to tell my own story that was so empowering. Regardless of your gender or gender identification, I think a WGS course offers what many courses do not always allow—another voice, seat, perspective, lens. And that is essential because we are not designed to live life in a vacuum. You were designed to intertwine with people who have stories different from your own. It is dangerous to live in a monolithic world because you deny yourself the good fortune of growing in an awareness that will only strengthen you as you continue to live in this world.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it? Who is one person you would include on the syllabus? Why?

I would teach a course on Black women artists who use their platforms for social activism. I would include Jenifer Lewis, actress and author of The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir (2017), on the syllabus, and I would petition for her to lead a lecture. Lewis’ boldness is beautiful; she speaks on mental illness (a taboo topic for many within Black communities), on social engagement, social responsibility, personal growth, accountability, and more.

What is a WGS book you read—recently or not so recently—that you would call your favorite? Why?

I am currently reading Dr. Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and it is incredible. I love her voice, her perspective, and her account of her experiences.

Do you want to learn more? On Thursday, November 8, at 3:30 PM, Dr. Crutchfield will be speaking in Fried-Hemenway Auditorium at 3:30 PM on “Faith, Intersectionality, and Black Masculinity: Kendrick Lamar’s Urban Theology.” On Friday, November 9, she will be speaking on “Unfinished Business” in Dimnet Chapel at 10:30 AM and guest teaching Dr. Kendra R. Parker’s “The Secular and the Sacred: Black Biblical Appropriations” cultural heritage course at 12 PM. On Sunday, November 11, she will meet with the Black Student Union in the Bultman Student Center at 8 PM. All events are free and open to the public.

Dr. Crutchfield’s visit is co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the Emmaus Scholars Program, the Cultural Affairs Committee, and the Global Learning Director.

Meet the WGS Faculty: Dr. Sarah Kornfield

How long have you been teaching at Hope College?

This is my 4thyear teaching at Hope College.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

The college I attended did not have a WGS major/minor, and I didn’t really understand what WGS was about or why it might be useful to study. Then, during my research in Graduate School (at Penn State), I added a dual degree in Women’s Studies. I came to realize that just because I was a woman and had a gender, I didn’t understand the history of women and gender, what women’s experiences are (or how gender shapes experiences), how creatively and productively women are affecting change in the world, or how our current gendered social systems affect women and men. Essentially, just because I speak English doesn’t mean I understand English Literature the way an English Major does, or just because I can communicate with others doesn’t mean I understand how Communication works the way a Comm Major does; so too with Women’s Studies. More specifically, I came to realize that I didn’t really understand my own life experiences of harassment, assault, and oppression. I came to WGS to learn theories, tools, skills, and practices that would help me live.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

WGS is the most life-giving major I can imagine. My advice: try a class! WGS 160 Women in a Global Society; WGS 200 Intro to Women’s & Gender Studies; WGS 350 Feminist Visions of Justice. These courses are designed to help you live good and flourishing lives, with thriving careers, relationships, and community involvement.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

Feminist Activism. It would be a class that focuses explicitly on the successful strategies of feminist activism (coalitions, specific argument forms, protests, civil disobedience, speeches, persuasive techniques, activism in popular culture, activism in literature, etc.). Whose work would we read? Anita Hill (law professor famous for the 1990s’ version of #MeToo activism); Adrienne Davis (law professor); Adrienne Rich (poet, activist); Emma Goldman (anarchist political activist); Ursula Le Guin (sci-fi feminist author); Kimberlé Crenshaw (legal activist and scholar); and so much more!

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

Manliness & Civilization by Gail Bederman (who, fun fact, was History/WGS Professor Dr. Jeanne Petit’s doctoral advisor!). This book is a US history of sex/race in America from about 1880-1920. It’s well written, has outstanding case studies (Tarzan, Boxing!) and covers a whole range of institutions (medicine, education, politics, war, news, women’s activism, and sports).

WGS Honors Dr. Jonathan Hagood

 Today, the WGS Program remembers the life of Dr. Jonathan Hagood. We honor Jonathan today with personal reflections, believing these moments of remembrance are one more way to honor a man who gave much to many people.

“When I think of Jonathan I remember the numerous faith-exploration initiatives he led—Continuum scholars, the summer Faith and Scholarship Series, and the Brown Bag Pedagogy Series. I am thankful for the intentional spaces he created that allowed me to explore multifaceted ways to integrate faith and work. We might have not always agreed, but I knew that my opinion was not going to be dismissed or seen as inconsequential. I appreciated that. And oh, I will really miss him handing out Faculty Bingo at graduation! That always made me laugh!”

~Dr. Marissa J. Doshi, Communication and WGS


“I don’t have one specific story to share about Jonathan, but rather it was his continued demeanor and presence that allowed me to feel at home here at Hope College. Jonathan was perhaps one of the first colleagues I met on my arrival, and his casual and friendly way made my transition to Hope that much easier. He would continually remind me during the past years that simple things like flip-flops and a fedora (though generally not seen as “academic attire”) were both perfectly acceptable and justifiable as “workplace apparel.” He gave me permission to “be me,” which ultimately empowered me to be the professor I am today. He never threw a questioning eye towards the way I dressed or spoke, and that was perhaps one of the greatest gifts he gave (and continues to give) me. He will be missed deeply!”

~Prof. Matt Farmer, Dance and WGS


“When I joined Hope College in 2015, Dr. Jonathan Hagood was one of the first faculty members to contact me. He invited me to join a group of my new colleagues for dinner once a month as part of the Senior Seminar program, which he directed. He later invited me to coffee to talk about the monthly luncheons he hosted (with Dr. Andy McCoy) regarding faithful teaching at Hope College. He then invited me to join a summer discussion group focused on Christ-Centered Liberal Arts Education. He then invited me to present my research (focused on character formation and media) at a Senior Seminar dinner. He then invited me to participate in the Faith & Scholarship summer seminar that he directed (again, with Dr. Andy McCoy). He then invited me to participate in leading prayer as part of the Pre-College Conference. He then invited me to apply for the position of Director of Global Learning—a key component of Hope’s General Education Program. We met recently to discuss Global Learning, and he asked me how he could support my development—what I would like to learn more about as I direct this program.

My experience at Hope College has been profoundly shaped by Jonathan’s invitations. Invitations to join a community, to think deeply about our faith and teaching, to extend my vocation in new ways (with support!). I am deeply grateful for his invitations. His invitations not only drew me deeper into the life of Hope College and my own faith and teaching but also modeled a beautiful, invitational leadership style. Jonathan welcomed me into our work over and over again.”

~Dr. Sarah J. Kornfield, Communication and WGS


“Jonathan reminded me that I had something important to say. One moment in particular sticks out to me, and I have returned to it in the days since his passing. I was preparing my 3rd-year review notebook, and he and I were in my office chatting. He asked how I felt about it, and I told him ‘no one wants to read this. I think I’m doing way too much.’ He responded, ‘trust me, someone is going to want to read what you have to say. You have something important to say, something important offer. So write it. Say it.’ His words stuck with me. He wasn’t simply referring to my 3rd-year review narrative; he gestured toward whiteboard that tracked my publications under review and in progress. Honestly, his encouragement and attention to detail were shocking. I didn’t expect a tenured professor outside my home department to care about my work–especially when no one was around to witness his act of kindness. It was then that I knew Jonathan wasn’t doing what he did for an audience or for recognition. Instead, his words were a testament to his character, to his embodiment of what Hope aspires to be–a caring community. I always respected him for that. His presence, his words of encouragement, his caring are already missed.”

~Dr. Kendra R. Parker, English and WGS


Meet the WGS Faculty: Dr. Carrie Bredow

How long have you been teaching at Hope College?

This is my 7th year teaching at Hope, my 6th year teaching within the WGS program, and my 2nd year serving as director of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I did not major or minor in WGS, but I wish that I had! Unfortunately, although I took many relevant classes, I did not stumble across WGS as a stand-alone discipline until pretty late in my academic career, making it difficult to complete a formal program. Nevertheless, my interest in gender studies was sparked by several classes that I took as an undergraduate (Psychology and Family Studies double major) and grew during my graduate work in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS).  Through my interdisciplinary training in HDFS I was able to explore the intersections between gender studies/feminist theory and numerous aspects of psychology, sociology, and related fields. It was through this coursework that I discovered my passion for examining psychological issues (including my research on the development and maintenance of romantic relationships) through a gendered (and feminist) lens.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

Do it! Women’s and Gender Studies is an incredibly valuable program that is relevant to virtually any career trajectory. Interdisciplinary by nature, it is also very flexible and easy to pair with other majors and minors, providing an analytical framework and skills that can be applied to whatever job(s) and opportunities you end up pursuing. Are you passionate about listening to historically marginalized voices, exploring complex social structures, understanding/confronting injustice and oppression, and honing your ability to interact sensitively with diverse individuals and communities? If so, I encourage you to check out Women’s and Gender Studies here at Hope; send me an email (bredow@hope.edu) and I would love to talk to you more about the program!

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

This is a tricky question, as I really love teaching Psychology of Gender, which I see as a perfect blend of my passion and expertise. But I already teach this course every year so the answer is a bit of a cop-out! If I could teach an additional course I think it would be a class called Gender, Sexuality, & Science that examines the interplay of sex/gender/sexuality and the sciences/social sciences through a feminist lens. There are many individuals who have made important contributions to this topic that I would want to include on the syllabus, including Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sarah Richardson, and Rachel Maines.

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

I have never been good at selecting favorite books, movies, etc., but Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress, and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider are all books that have been particularly influential to my professional and personal development. Several of the essays in The Essential Feminist Reader (edited by Estelle Freedman) also rank among my favorite because they were pivotal to my own “consciousness raising” during undergrad and graduate school.