The new LGBT+ and queer studies minor will provide students with rigorous and broad training in the field. (Getty Images)

VCU to offer new minor in LGBT+ and queer studies

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Virginia Commonwealth University is launching a minor in LGBT+ and queer studies this fall, providing students with rigorous and broad training in an expanding and influential interdisciplinary field of study.

“Students will learn how to examine LGBT+ and queer topics across disciplines, cultures and historical periods,” said Liz Canfield, Ph.D., associate chair and assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “The curriculum will examine intersectional approaches to LGBT+ and queer studies — incorporating, but not limited to — race and ethnicity, class, disability and religion.”

Student can enroll now for courses in the minor, which will require 18 credits, at least nine of which must be upper level. Students must complete Introduction to LGBT+ and Queer Studies, and choose an additional five courses in the field of LGBT+ and queer studies.

The electives must include at least one course focused on race and/or ethnicity as it relates to LGBT+ and queer studies, and at least one focused on LGBT+ and queer studies outside the United States. The electives cannot all come from the same discipline, requiring students to choose from a variety of courses across disciplines.

“Our idea is that it is important for the minor to reach across the departments in order to highlight the field’s interdisciplinary nature and to be accessible to more students,” Canfield said.

Included among the courses that will be offered are: Black Queer Politics, offered by the Department of Political Science; Queer Literature, offered by the Department of English; Sociology of Masculinities, offered by the Department of Sociology; and Global LGBTQ History, offered by the Department of History; as well as a number of courses in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, including Trans Theory and Activism, Queer Cinema, Activism Practicum in Feminist and Queer Organizing, LGBTQ Health and Wellness, Narratives of Asian American Sexualities, and Gender, Sexuality and HIV in African Literature.

In September, LGBTQ scholars from across VCU presented their research at an event, “The Future of LGBTQ Studies at VCU: Spotlight on Faculty Research.” (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Relations)
In September, LGBTQ scholars from across VCU presented their research at an event, “The Future of LGBTQ Studies at VCU: Spotlight on Faculty Research.” (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Relations)

The minor will appeal to students from across VCU, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those who do not, said Elizabeth “Liz” Cramer, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Social Work.

“Regardless of disciplinary major, our students will eventually interact with people who are LGBT+ and queer — in the workplace, in their neighborhoods, in their social spaces — and they need to approach their interactions with cultural humility and responsiveness,” Cramer said. “I’m hoping that students who don’t identify as LGBTQ will be attracted to this minor, in part, because of this.

“Additionally, because the minor will incorporate some assignments that involve interactions with the LGBT+ and queer organizations and communities, the organizations are potentially the beneficiaries of collaboration with the students, both while they are in the process of getting the minor and beyond,” Cramer said.

The College of Humanities and Sciences recently hired three scholars of LGBTQ studies as part of its “Big Ideas” hiring initiative. In September, VCU highlighted 14 scholars, including the three new faculty members, at an event, “The Future of LGBTQ Studies at VCU: Spotlight on Faculty Research.” And, in the next year, VCU will be seeking LGBTQIA+ scholars, artists and teachers as part of an iCubed Core called “Intersections in the Lives of LGBTQIA+ People.” 

“We are seeing greater institutional buy-in to what we’ve known to be true for decades: LGBTQ studies is a rigorous interdisciplinary field that has the potential to challenge and change the study of gender and sexuality — and thus humanity — as a whole,” Canfield said.

Courtnie N. Wolfgang, Ph.D., assistant professor and graduate program director in the Department of Art Education in the School of the Arts, said the new minor is an important addition to the university.

“Too often folx whose identities don’t align with dominant narratives are relegated to the margins of study at academic institutions,” she said. “We learn the histories of the victors as ‘core curriculum’ and those still in the struggle are considered ‘special topics.’ A queer studies minor offers a more complete story of LGBTQ+ history, lives and futures, and situates that story as part of all of our learning, not just the learning of some.”