Ed Graves graduated from UW-Madison in 2006 with majors in Agricultural Science and Rural Sociology (now Community and Environmental Sociology) and an LGBTQ+ Studies certificate. In 2009, Ed completed a MLIS in Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies.
– How do GWS and/or LGBTQ+ Studies matter in the day-to-day of your professional life?
LGBTQ+ Studies were particularly helpful for me to learn that I was part of a legacy of resilient people asserting their humanity and fostering communities, and that approaching my professional life with a feminist analysis helped me to be successful working with other people and make better choices that are informed by an understanding that’s bigger than just my perspective. I have worked in public libraries for 17 years and I am now an administrator of a library system in Southern Appalachia. I am also in my third year of running an organic farm business that has grown from a side hustle to production scale, feeding dozens of families in my community. I don’t know that I thought there was space for me as a gay organic farmer and public librarian in the rural South if I didn’t have the education from my studies at the UW.
– Do you have advice for students who share your interests and want to pursue a similar career path?
My studies helped me put the pieces together of how to make a living that aligned with my values. I knew I wanted to farm, that likely meant living in the country, but I didn’t know what kind of career I would need in order to finance the startup costs of a viable farm business. I worked in public libraries through my twenties and pursued a master’s degree to earn a relatively stable paycheck in a rural place. I would just say let your passion and values ground your choices, getting through school feels like forever but you can make a lot of incremental progress towards your goals in a decade or so. You will be amazed, but you have to set goals.
– When you look back, what undergraduate experiences were most helpful?
I came to UW-Madison from community college and missed out on a lot of the social bonds that form when you live in a dorm or get involved in college life. At UW-Madison I ran a student garden, had a radio show, and volunteered where I could with student and community groups. I lived off campus in a queer housing cooperative which helped me feel connected to community beyond campus, but I only made connections by dedicating time to my commitments.
– What do you remember fondly from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies? Favorite class? Instructor?
Dr. Enke’s classes were my favorite. There was a professor, Leann Tigges, in the Department of Rural Sociology (now Community and Environmental Sociology) whose class “Gender and Work in Rural America” for me was formative in shaping the work I now do in rural communities, both farming and as a civil servant working with women, children, and vulnerable populations.
– What do wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
Do the reading, even if it means you learn how to scan a text for the main points or dialogue. I read a lot as a librarian and this is a skill you can learn.