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-Rebekah Taylor ’12

Meet Our Alumni: Rebekah Taylor ‘12

Rebekah Taylor ’12 graduated with a composite major in Religion and a minor in Women’s Studies.* Rebekah is a Health, Wellness, and Life Coach with experience working on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation and Black Hills Works in  South Dakota. Rebekah 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 am a Health, Wellness, and Life Coach. I only recently decided to take on this path, and I am still building my own business with my current client load.  It is difficult to choose one thing that led me here. But a big one has been my own motivation for my health and wellbeing. I have navigated an illness for the past few years and embracing it has truly enlightened me.  I believe that our bodies are capable of amazing things if we nurture them and guide them.

I would also say that the years my husband and I spent out on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota and with Black Hills Works in Rapid City, SD played a part in my decision to become a Health Coach.

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 completed a minor in Women’s Studies. I decided to have Women’s Studies become a part of my composite major, Religion with a Social Justice concentration. What I appreciated the most about Women’s Studies was the varied curriculum that it introduced me to. Women’s Studies allowed me to explore more territory in academia and it helped prepare me for the impact I hoped to have in my communities.

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

Travel. Experience the stories. Meet the women. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not get to experience the places we read about.  I did not find the time to participate in community gatherings. Studying comes first, but experiences are what you carry with you throughout your life.

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

During my first year at Hope, the 2008 election was going on, and I took an English class based only on each presidential debate. We wrote papers every week about what was being discussed and debated.  The class allowed me to be truly present to today’s reality.

Something I would have enjoyed in my Women’s Studies coursework would have been a closer look at current women in politics and the steps that are being taken to break the barriers of current issues of inequality including, but not limited to, fair wages, the correctional system, and medical care.

If I could teach any class, it would be a class similar to this. I do not have a course title, but I would include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, Emma Gonzalez, Malala Yousafzai, and other young activists.

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

There are so many books to choose from during my studies at Hope, but two of my favorites were Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle (1973) and Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky (2009).  They both provided lessons worthy to carry on through my life, and they still reside in my home library.

*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

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