Letter from GWS Alumni Engagement Coordinator – Spring 2024

Greetings dear GWS Alumni!

For those of you who do not know me, I am excited and delighted to introduce myself as the newly named alumni engagement coordinator for Gender and Women’s Studies here at UW-Madison! My name is Dr. Kate Phelps (she/they) and I have been teaching with the department since the Spring 2017 semester. Over these past seven years, I have taught courses on feminist theory, body politics, fat studies, food politics, global health, and our GWS 102 survey course. It is my sincere privilege and joy to be able to build relationships with students in our classrooms, and to stay in touch with students as they celebrate graduations and dive into their next chapters.

If you are someone who has taken a class with me, you know that one of the things I love most about teaching is in the moments that come after the class has ended. Since the spring of 2020, I have been sending “check in” emails to former students every few months; sharing the little things, the successes and struggles, favorite books, music, shows, and recipes, pictures, and glimpses of life. Hearing back from students about what is happening in their worlds is both grounding and moving. And it is deeply rewarding when a student from a past class reaches out to share how they used an idea, framework, reading, activity, or media piece from our classes in their personal and professional pursuits. These small moments are beautiful reminders that the work we do here, the innovative curriculum we curate, the classes we teach, and the research we conduct, meaningfully impacts our students, and therefore, impacts the world. We are the Wisconsin Idea in action!

Though not a surprise, it has been continually brought home to me in the years I have been teaching in GWS that our students absolutely rock, and as former GWS students, our alumni do too! I want to make sure that as alumni, you feel that you have opportunities to meaningfully connect with our department; our students, staff, and faculty alike, and with your fellow alumni.

This is my first time being involved with the alumni newsletter, and my goal as I dig into this role as alumni engagement coordinator is to gear programming towards what you hope to see and participate in! What excites you about potential programming and ideas for alumni? I want to hear from you! If you can spare a few moments, please fill out this survey so we can build programming that makes you pumped and proud to be a GWS alum!

That special spring feeling is already apparent on campus, and we have a couple of exciting happenings in April! GWS will be hosting a panel of alumni for a campfire event out at Picnic Point on the evening of Wednesday April 24th. We can’t wait to hear more about what our alumni are doing as they share post-graduation stories with our current GWS students, and we bask in the smell of woodsmoke! Additionally, the annual Day of the Badger giving campaign is taking place on April 16th and 17th this year. For two days each spring semester we embrace the anticipation of graduation and the feeling of celebration by inviting you to show your support for UW-Madison Gender and Women’s Studies! Your support means we can continue to offer cutting-edge curriculum, colloquiums, community engagement opportunities, and other initiatives that showcase the great work that we do in GWS!

As Audre Lorde wrote, “Our visions begin with our desires.” I look forward to hearing your desires, dear alumni, and bringing those visions to life as we create opportunities to come together in the joy and spirit of GWS!

Onward the journey!

With gratitude,

Katherine Phelps, Ph.D.
Teaching Faculty, Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

GWS Alumni Engagement Coordinator