WGS and the World: Alumni Interview-Dr. Phillip Waalkes

Meet Our Alumni: Dr. Phillip Waalkes ’04

Dr. Phillip Waalkes ‘ 04 graduated with a dual major in English and Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies.* Dr. Waalkes is a faculty member at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He credits his Women’s Studies minor to helping him “become more fully [himself].”

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

I am currently an assistant professor in counselor education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I have taught classes including theories of counseling, helping relationship skills, individual inventories, and multicultural counseling to students seeking to become clinical mental health counselors or school counselors. I am also conducting research on the development of teaching for counselor educators and college access and persistence for first-generation college students, including lower SES students and students of color.

Before becoming a counselor educator, I worked as a school counselor at a rural k-12 school in western North Carolina. During this time, I got to help develop, implement a virtual early college program where our predominantly first-generation college student population could earn up to a two-year associates degree tuition-free and with the innovative structured supports offer by our program (including student lead conferences, career and college planning, a peer mediation program, and college visits).

How did your WGS education shape you?

 I double majored in English and Psychology at Hope with a minor in Women’s Studies. I had numerous excellent professors who taught my Women’s Studies courses, including Dr. Natalie Dykstra, Dr. Julie Kipp, and Dr. Jane Dickie. My minor in Women’s Studies at Hope helped plant seeds to shape me in numerous ways throughout my life. I would be a lesser counselor, teacher, researcher, husband, and friend if it wasn’t for my WGS minor at Hope. It helped me become more humble and more willing to listen to and empathize with the experiences of everyone. It helped me gain more awareness of my privilege that can hamper my openness to the experiences of others because it is difficult to accept the ways I contribute to a system that caused so much suffering. It also helped me see outside of my own perspective and feel more validated in being the kind of man that fit with who I am instead of who our culture says that men should be. Counseling requires skills our culture has stereotypically classified as more feminine like understanding and discussing emotions, listening, and being responsive to the needs of others. It is hard for me to imagine embracing this fulfilling career path without my Women’s Studies minor. In other words, not being as focused on living up to the limiting traditional parameters of masculinity helped me become more fully myself.

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

 Everyone’s path and life experiences are different, but I would say: Keep an open mind. Think critically about patriarchy and systems of oppression and ways you see them functioning systemically, institutionally, interpersonally, and interpersonally. Question elements of our culture that many privileged people push out of their minds. Examine yourself. Take action. Discover your voice to challenge prejudiced comments or discriminatory practices. Find connection and solidarity with other WGS students.

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 love to teach a course called “Unpacking Toxic Masculinity in the Media.” There are so many movies, tv shows, video games–and more–that portray masculinity in narrow and harmful ways. They often encourage men to put their needs ahead of others and disconnect from their emotions and the important relationships in their lives. For example, think of how many romantic comedies portray heterosexual men “getting the girl” after essentially stalking her despite her repeated assertions that she isn’t interested.

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

 This is a tough question, but if I have to choose just one, it would be Alan G. Johnson’s The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy (1997), which I first read at Hope. Johnson’s engaging and persuasive book was a revelation for me; it helped me understand the advantages white heterosexual men have in our culture and how patriarchy helps them keep those advantages at the expense of others.

* 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

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.