Caitlin Flynn graduated in 2016 with majors in Journalism and International Studies and a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies. Currently, Caitlin is a graduate student at the Fletcher School at Tufts University pursuing Law and Diplomacy with concentrations in Gender Analysis of International Relations and Human Security. Caitlin expects to graduate in May 2021.
I’m a second-year master’s candidate at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. I grew up in Hayward, WI, and graduated from UW-Madison in 2016 with double majors in Journalism and International Studies and a certificate in Gender and Women’s studies. I discovered GWS through my International Studies major. I was blown away by the GWS classes which offered a crucial way to think about power in international affairs – I would have majored in GWS if I had stumbled across it earlier. After graduation, I worked odd jobs for a year before joining the Peace Corps as an education volunteer in Benin, West Africa. Much of my time in Benin was focused on finding holistic approaches to strengthen girls’ education at my secondary school where very few girls attended high school. I’m a first-generation college student and was admittedly very anxious about applying to grad school but I wanted to develop skills to address some of the more structural barriers my female students faced. I chose the Fletcher School because it treats gender analysis as a serious discipline within International Relations.
How does GWS matter in the day-to-day of your professional life?
Gender analysis is an excellent tool for studying power dynamics within international affairs and that power analysis has helped me in all of my other coursework. I’ve studied gendered migration from North Korea, how Medicaid’s asset limits are a barrier to marriage equality for people with disabilities, the role of women in civil resistance movements, and the gendered effects of climate change. My capstone is focused on gender-synchronized family planning programs for first-time parents in Nigeria.
This year I’m co-chairing Fletcher’s Conference on Gender and International Affairs. So far this year we’ve had webinars on gendered notions of power and leadership, feminist foreign policy agendas, and the role of gender in civil resistance movements. It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with other gender studies-focused students, meet some of my favorite activists and scholars, and show my classmates how intersectional feminism can be instrumental in fields they are sure gender doesn’t apply to. For example, we’re developing panels for next semester about feminist economics and cyber violence.
This summer, I interned with Save the Children US’s Gender Equality team researching the gendered effects of COVID-19 and gender-based violence in Latin America. I also interned with the Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones team with Physicians for Human Rights, working on PHR’s mobile app that standardizes medical intake forms for forensic documentation of sexual violence.
Do you have advice for students who share their interests and may want to pursue a similar graduate degree and/or career?
I recommend taking a few years off before grad school; it’s a huge investment of your time and money, and having some work experience allows you to get more out of graduate coursework. If you are thinking about applying, connect with current students and ask about their experiences in the program. Finding a list of classes offered will also give you a good sense of the program’s focus.
What do you remember fondly from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies? Favorite class? Instructor?
I loved every single one of my GWS classes, but I find myself bringing up GWS 103 with Dr. Araceli Alonso on a monthly basis. It was so revolutionary for my friends and me to learn about how our bodies worked. I remember learning that only 16 (now 17) states mandate sex education to be “medically accurate” and that really stuck with me as such a clear example of the politicization of reproductive health – and I recently brought that fact up in the Tufts’ Sex and Gender in Society class I TA for.
I also loved Nina Valeo-Cooke’s class, GWS 660, which was a cohort style senior seminar where we all had feminist internships. It was a much-needed space to think about the next steps after graduation in a supportive environment.
What do wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
I remember family members questioning the validity of learning about gender and I think I internalized it for a while. Now, I would tell my undergraduate self to check out the GWS Department in my first semester instead of trying to convince myself to care about computer science (which I briefly majored in). I would also tell my undergrad self to go to office hours more often since it can be so hard to get to know professors in large classes and ask for extensions when you need them.