Peter Zook graduated from UW-Madison in 2010 with majors in Sociology, Journalism & Mass Communications; and Certificates in LGBT Studies and African Studies. He is now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Philadelphia, PA.
How does LGBTQ+ Studies matter in the day-to-day of your professional life?
As a queer therapist who works mostly with queer and trans clients there is a not a day that goes by where I do not incorporate something I’ve learned from, or the ethos of, LGBT+ studies. From language and concepts to an entire framework for understanding people, my GWS courses influence me daily both personally and professionally. It introduced me to so many inspiring thought-leaders from the readings and course work, along with impactful classroom peers and academics. The program truly helped me figure out myself, giving me more confidence to unapologetically be who I am.
Do you have advice for students who share your interests and want to pursue a similar career path?
Get involved and try out different things. Learning what doesn’t work for you is as important as figuring out what does. Curiosity and life experiences go a long way. When you find the thing that clicks and motivates you, pursue it and invest more of your time there.
Connect with your professors & TAs and make sure they know who you are. Be genuine, but get on their radar and establish a relationship. You’re going to need letters of recommendation or general advice and support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What do you remember fondly from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies? Favorite class? Instructor?
Prof. Enke was definitely the professor who influenced me the most. I’ll never forget getting approval to take their Capstone course as a sophomore because Prof. Enke was about to go on sabbatical. A small group of friends and I who’d met in Prof. Enke’s LGBT History course appealed to take it early. We were like groupies matriculating through the program together. There were a lot of differences amongst us, but we were so passionate about discussing gender, sexuality, critical race theory and intersectional feminism. We insulated ourselves with budding social justice awareness. This class and the mix of friends from it helped me unlearn so much and grow into a more open and inclusive person.
What do wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
Slow down and don’t worry about having it all figured out. I tried to be so well-rounded (whatever that means) in my classes, and I spread myself too thin. I pushed myself really hard, which I think we trick ourselves into thinking is the only way to be accomplished. I wish I had been kinder to myself and checked in with myself more about what I needed and what felt right.