Here are some of the things you can do with a Women's Studies Degree:
Women's Studies Alumni tell the stories of how their WS majors and minors have influenced and supported their lives and careers.
On this page, you will find just a sampling of some of our graduates and the work they are doing in the world. To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ve compiled these stories. If you would like to add yours, please let us know! We are proud of all of our alumni!
The Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department is grateful to the Twin Ports community, our academic and non-academic colleagues, and all the students who have made the 30-year journey of UMD Women's Studies one of excellence, connection, justice and new knowledge.
Joyce Benson, 1980, First Women’s Studies Major
• Graduated from UMD, Women’s Studies degree in 1980 (Interdisciplinary Studies/Women’s Studies).
• Delegate to UN Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, 1985
• Ran for public office and served on Duluth City Council 1986-90.
• Organized women’s domestic violence and leadership trainings in Petrozavodsk, Russia and Kirovograd, Ukraine
• Member of League of Women Voters Duluth for 25 years. As International Relations Chair hosted women in Duluth from Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan.
Rebecca Lee, 1998, Women’s Studies Major (Social Justice focus), Psychology minor
Client Services Director, Advocacy Center, Ithaca, NY
When I graduated with my Women’s Studies degree I really had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. Knowing I wanted to use what I learned in my many classes focused on social justice I accepted a job as a youth counselor at a local shelter for kids who were, for a variety of reasons, placed out of their homes. Soon I was hired to pilot and develop a Street Outreach Program serving runaway and homeless youth on the streets. It was an extremely challenging venture, which turned out to be invaluable in the formation of my career and personal social work value system. In 2005 I had 2 small children of my own and made the decision, along with my partner, to become a stay-at-home-feminist who mothers. I remained in this challenging and rewarding position until 2010 when I returned to the out of home workforce as the Client Services Director at the Advocacy Center in our adopted hometown of Ithaca, NY. In my work on any given day I am likely to have spirited feminist discourse with co-workers, meet with a client who has recently disclosed abuse and is going through the criminal justice system, or provide support and guidance to one of the front line advocates whom I supervise. My work is deeply rewarding, profoundly frustrating, and at its core, hopeful. Bearing witness each day to human being’s capacity to endure, and sometimes even heal a little is an honor that I do not take lightly.
Dawn Mikkelson, 1998, Women’s Studies Major
President, Emergence Pictures/ Independent Documentary Filmmaker, 2010 McKnight Filmmaking Fellow
Award-winning films include: "SMOOCH", "The Red Tail", "Green Green Water", "THIS obedience", & "Treading Water: a documentary" www.emergencepictures
“Women's Studies embraced my desire to tell stories in unconventional ways, taught me that the work of undoing oppression doesn't end with gender, and solidified my belief that our stories and lived experiences are some of the most powerful tools we have to create change.”
Christie Reynolds Woodliff, 1998, Licensed Midwife, Women’s Studies Major
Licensed Midwife, In the Beginning Midwifery Services, Amherst, WI
“I lived in Bangladesh for three years. Initially, I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in health and education and later as a Language and Skills Trainer for the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee’s Nirapad Ma (Healthy Mother) Project Staff. It was there, in a tiny bookstore in the capital city, Dhaka, that I found my introduction to midwifery; a dusty copy of Therese Blanchet’s Meanings and Rituals of Birth in Rural Bangladesh.
In March of 2006, I traveled with a small group of midwives to Senegal, West Africa to work in a busy maternity clinic in Mboro, a small fishing village on the coast. During the month we were there, more than 70 babies were born at the clinic. It was an incredible opportunity for me to grow as a midwife.
I obtained my certification and license to practice midwifery in 2008, and in December 2009, I attended my 300th birth. It is a gift to know families as they await the arrival of their babies. I love that moment where a mom first hears her baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler or when, with true amazement, a new dad discovers he has a son—just seconds after he is born. I am a midwife to help protect, honor, and celebrate these moments.
It really was my time in Duluth with Women’s Studies faculty and classmates when I first felt inspired to live my beliefs. Thank you for that.”
Claire Benton, 1999, Women’s Studies Major
Assistant Director, Co-op & Career Services at Cornell University
After graduation, Claire attended Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota where she earned an M.A. in Counseling and Psychological Services. Claire began her career working in the nonprofit field as a Women’s Advocate and an Employment Counselor. Claire’s professional career in higher education student services began when she worked as a Graduate Assistant at Macalester College in St. Paul MN and as a Career Counselor at Vassar College July 2004-October 2006. Claire began working as the Assistant Director in the Co-op & Career Services office at Cornell University in October of 2006.
Claire works closely with all Engineering students. Her major role is to assist and counsel students who are interested in finding full-time, internship and Co-op positions; assist with resume and cover letter critiques, job offers, and interviewing skills; and assist students with learning about various Engineering majors. In addition, she is in charge of the career-related workshops, office publications, oversees the Career Peer Advisor program and co-teachers the ENGRG 235 Career Class.
When she is not working, Claire enjoys participating in a wide variety of outdoor activities, socializing and eating with her friends, partner Sam and dog Denali
Case Manager/ARHMS, Human Development Center, Duluth, MN
“I have been able to do many things with my major. Everything from working in criminal justice, sexual assault advocacy, special education, and now as a Case Manager/ARHMS for the Human Development Center and I am doing great! My job continues to amaze me, I love what I do, my clients are making steady progress on symptom management, finding housing, and it’s so great to see the positive steps that my clients are able to make-on a daily basis. Not one day is ever the same in this job. HDC is an amazing company to work for and I think and plan on staying at HDC for years to come! Graduate School will yet come for me. I cherish my years and memories at UMD forever.”
Ph.D., LP, Clinical Child Psychologist, Oakland, MN
“After graduating with a Women's Studies major, I went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I work as a Clinical Child Psychologist at a community mental health center in Oakdale, MN. My career involves assessing children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning and attention problems, autism, and fetal substance exposure. I also work as a consultant and speaker for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS). Having a background in women's studies has helped me to think critically about the sociopolitical factors that affect women, and by extension, their children. As a child psychologist, this allows me to better understand the forces impacting my clients, and how to help them. As a consultant and speaker for MOFAS, I use my experiences in women's studies to advocate for the rights and health of women. I do this by training medical professionals at hospitals and clinics across Minnesota on strategies to educate and support women throughout their pregnancies.”
MA RYT, Market Coordinator and Yoga Instructor, Yoga North, Duluth, MN
Erika Frykman teaches Hatha yoga using therapeutic techniques. Erika views yoga as a means and end in bringing happiness to our physical, mental, spiritual, and relational lives. With a background in Women's Studies, her former professional life was nonprofit advocacy and when Erika starting practicing yoga, the practice enraptured her. She declared, "It begins with the individual! Helping people foster self-awareness and calm is powerful advocacy." She enjoys encouraging students to practice the yamas and niyamas during class, because as we learn-- the way we show up to our yoga is the way we show up to life.
“Since graduation... I hopped right into MAPL (Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership) after graduating from Women's Studies. I worked with the Sierra Club as one of three State Political Campaign Organizer and as NE Minnesota Organizer; I lobbied for increased funding for schools at the state capitol with Parents United for Public Schools, and also worked in Western Massachusetts for a time with the Media Education Foundation (the organization which produced the films Tough Guise and Killing Us Softly as well as about 20 other films). I even came back to UMD and TAed with Beth Bartlett for a term (that was fun!). 'Make the world a better place' has been a driving force in my life since college-- and I learned how quickly burnout can set in, and sometimes, how slowly change happens.
I found a new platform: a sustaining regenerating place where I can affect people on an individual and group basis, bringing real peace and awareness into people's lives-- I am a yoga instructor! I am living in Duluth once again, and am the Marketing Coordinator at Yoga North (in the Lakeside neighborhood), where I also teach classes. It finally feels like I am home, although it was a long difficult (adventuresome and educational) search to get here. Here I have the community, introspection, and growth that I missed for years after leaving the WS department. ...and I get to share it with others for a living!! I am happy.”
“A women's studies degree can help with a career teaching yoga and helping shape the world from an inner landscape!”
Regional Director, YouthWorks, Minneapolis, MN
“What grew out of a desire to see teenage girls recognize their value and worth has turned into a life-long adventure of listening to stories and being able to exist in the tension of varying realities. It is with much gratitude I owe this calling to being a Women’s Studies major. Throughout my time spent in the classroom learning about justice and equity issues paired with personal narrative of experience from my classmates I learned how to listen and find value in others’ truths despite lack of shared experience and belief. Being a Women’s Studies Major created a safe space to explore my own contextualized reality and how that intersects with others.
Since graduating I have spent my time working for an organization that facilitates week-long mission trips for junior and senior high students. I have traveled throughout much of the country and been able to listen to incredibly rich stories. While I firmly believe I utilize lessons learned from my undergraduate degree every day, it has become vividly more apparent in my current role as the Western Regional Director. In conjunction with my team, I oversee 18 YouthWorks communities located predominately in the western half of the United States. 15 of my sites are on Native American Reservations. It has been an unbelievable experience to watch what I have learned about Ecofeminism come alive as I dialogue with my indigenous friends and learn more about their ways of life. I will forever be grateful for my, at the time, crazy decision to become a Women’s Studies major. It turns out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I cannot wait to see how it continues to unfold in the adventure that is my future. “
Epidemiologist, Minnesota Department of Health, St. Paul, MN
“I graduated with Women's Studies and Spanish double majors from UMD in 2005. After graduation, I moved to Minneapolis where I began working on a graduate certificate in public health. I knew I was really interested in women's health and population issues; other than that I had no clear career goals. Soon after I finished the certificate program I went on to finish my Master's in public health with my major focus in Environmental Health/Infectious Diseases. I then worked for one year as a field epidemiologist for the 7 county northeastern region of the state, interacting with local public health agencies, schools, businesses and tribal organizations on any and all things related to infectious diseases. Since then I've been working as an epidemiologist in the vaccine-preventable diseases unit at the Minnesota Department of Health and really love my job.
The world of WS has honestly changed my whole life. Though my job is not a classically applied WS position, so to speak, I really feel that women's studies is one of the main colors in the quilt that IS me. It's in everything I do; it's in how I communicate and treat others, how I view and handle situations, and most importantly, how I feel about the world. I'm so thankful I took Intro. to WS and subsequently let the fear, fascination and joy of the knowledge I gained in my WS classes take over my life and allowed me to grow tremendously throughout the rest of my undergraduate career--and life.”
Attorney, Philosophical Scholar, Minneapolis, MN
“As a lawyer and philosophical scholar, I am continually reminded of the relevancy of my Women's Studies minor and the critical role it plays in understanding the inequities of the U.S. legal system. It has provided the perspective to go beyond solely learning about the law by developing my skill set to critically evaluate its effectiveness as a means for social justice. At various points in my undergraduate career, I heard the question "What can you do with a Women's Studies degree?" From experience, I know the more appropriate question is, "What can you do well without one?"”
VP Recruiting & Business Development, Athletic Hub, and Women’s Hockey Athlete, 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“I am a hockey athlete training in the hope of representing Canada in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, in my 4th Olympic Games. I work as an athlete ambassador for the Royal Bank of Canada. I am privilege to share past experiences and Olympic accomplishments with students, communities, clients and employees. I hope to raise awareness about the importance of sport in daily life, inspiring the next generation to be physically active, make healthy decisions and participate in sports. I also coach hockey practices with girls hockey teams in Montreal. I believe in the benefits of having women coach female athletes when possible. I am co-owner of the website athletichub.com to help young student-athletes get recruited because I believe in the importance of combining education and athletics and I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to attend and play hockey at UMD.
I was lucky this summer to go on the field in Bénin, Africa to witness first hand the impacts of Right to Play in children's lives. It was an incredible experience. We met young women soccer athletes and exchanged on the challenges we are facing. Interestingly enough, they go through a lot of the same stereotypes and barriers I faced when I started in the game of hockey. It was inspiring for me to see their courage.
WS has influenced my life in ways that I now see the importance and benefits for young girls to see women in leadership roles. I am aware of the constant struggles to attain gender equality and I am willing to battle for what is right.”
Night Manager, Mississippi Market Co-op and Freelance Artist, St. Paul, MN
“Since graduating from UMD with a BA in Women’s Studies in December 2006, I moved to Montana and was an apprentice to an artist in residence in Great Falls for six months. Upon my return to Minneapolis, I served in AmeriCorps Reading Corps for two years, at Cityview Performing Arts Magnet in N Minneapolis, as a reading tutor to 1st Graders. Where I also taught sewing during summer school to 4th – 8th Graders. During these two years with AmeriCorps, I stared volunteering at an art gallery in NE Minneapolis, Altered Esthetics, as a Curator Intern and then as Exhibitions Director. I will be ending my three year board term with Altered Esthetics, December 2011. After AmeriCorps, I was unemployed until landing a job at Mississippi Market Co-op in St. Paul, where I now live, started as a part-time cashier and recently moved to night manager and front end closing lead making me full-time. Just last week I became aware of and will be participating in, “Beyond the Mirror: a Project to End Dating Violence Through Art, Education and Community Building” where I will teach art, to high school students at, Spring Lake Park and Columbia Heights. The project will run, after school, from December 2011 – March 2012. During these years since graduation, I have also shown and sold my own artwork at Altered Esthetics and the Smitten Kitten, created and performed a puppet show based on the book "Corduroy" at Cityview Elementary and Children's Hospitals of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Also, happy to say, I became an Aunt to my sister’s first child, Elliott Lewis in June 2010 and got to witness one of my best friends marry her best friend in August 2011. With this, I just wanted to mention, I have since found myself, on countless occasions, very appreciative to the Women’s Studies Department for all of the knowledge and positive memories and friends for life; I feel truly blessed.”
Executive Assistant for the City of Duluth Administration and Freelance Travel Writer, Duluth, MN
“My Women's Studies minor has served me well in both roles by providing a feminist lens through which to see local government issues as well as how women live their lives around the world. I feel young women today need to be reminded that despite past successes, equality for women remains a pressing issue.”
Domestic Violent Advocate, Graphic Designer, Founder/Director North Centeral Windows Program Duluth/Superior, “Healing Our Community with Art
“I was 43 when I decided to get my second bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies. I really had no idea what I was in for; all I knew was that I wanted to empower women in my community using art. I learned so much about MYSELF, MY WORLD, social justice, politics, the environment, women’s spirituality, feminist perspectives, and human rights. In my work at UMD I truly enjoy the supportive and diverse community in which I am surrounded. However, occasionally an event arises that forces me to be fully aware of equal rights issues. I went on to complete my master’s of liberal studies degree focusing on art and women. I then went on to start a non-profit that uses art as a healing tool for women and children. Every session of my work in the non-profit demonstrates to me how women survivors of violence need to rebuild not only their lives, but their self-worth as well. Our community art workshops give these survivors an opportunity to focus just on themselves and heal one day at a time“
Nurse Practitioner Student, Metro State and Patient Support Advocate, Planned Parenthood, Minneapolis, MN
"I graduated from UMD with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Women's Studies and Sociology intending to work at a social services agency. After graduation, I completed two years of AmeriCorps
service at Project for Pride in Living (PPL), a non-profit serving people with low incomes, community organizing in north and south Minneapolis. Currently, I provide support services for the same PPL residents living in north Minneapolis. In working with these individuals and families, I realized my heart and commitment is to
provide holistic and meaningful health care to individuals and families who have limited, holistic service options. I recently returned to school on a path to become a nurse practitioner. Additionally, I volunteer at Planned Parenthood as a Patient Support Advocate.
Women's Studies has given me the capacity to examine, address and problem solve complexities of poverty and gender and race disparities in my career. This priceless skill has provided a solid foundation for me to become an effective organizer and coach for disenfranchised populations and continues to guide me every single day, in all aspects of my life. I cannot imagine a more holistic and empathetic discipline to shape how I work with and support others. My gratitude for the Women's Studies program and instructors is tremendous!”
Community Specialist, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, Mankato, MN
“After I graduated I worked full time as a Child Advocate at 360 Communities, a women's shelter in Eagan, MN. I led the children's domestic violence support group and provided support to the children both living in the shelter and those living in the community. I worked there for 2 years and then decided to go to graduate school for Social Work. I just graduated in August and have been working for the Girl Scouts as a Community Specialist. I do groups in schools with diverse and low income girls on self-esteem, college readiness, and leadership development. I love my job and feel like I am making a real difference in the lives of girls and women! I feel that my Women's Studies classes helped me not only in my career but also helped me in graduate school. It gave me a unique feminist perspective that others did not have.”
Katy Brandes, 2007, Women’s Studies Major
Immigrants' Rights Advocate/Humanist/Environmentalist/Cyclist, El Paso, TX
“Women's Studies woke me up to the realities of inequality and inspired me to analyze and most importantly, to act. Since graduation, I have been a full time volunteer at a Latina domestic violence organization in St. Paul and more recently at a house of hospitality for immigrants in El Paso, Texas. To me, being a volunteer and living in community with only a small stipend is following the lifestyle of simplicity that Women's Studies showed me is necessary to change the world. In the fall of 2011, my partner and I began riding our bicycles along the US-Mexico border to see the realities of migrants and to educate others of these truths. I know that I will continue joyously to live my life working for social justice, feeding a hunger within myself that studying feminism pushed me to acknowledge and pursue.”
Reproductive Health Assistant, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, San Diego, CA
“I currently work for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest and I am a Reproductive Health Assistant. I counsel, educate and advocate for patients’ rights for reproductive healthcare. I believe that my background in Women's Studies has helped me acquire this position. As well as giving me the appropriate knowledge in advocating for the improvement of women's rights in my field of work. I love my job in that I am able to help women out in any capacity that I can. I have come into close contact with women from various backgrounds at different stages in their lives. I do not know who they would have turned to in their time of need if these services were not available to them. I am very grateful to have found an organization that meets the needs of these women and I hope we continue to be there for them no matter what the future holds.”
Teacher/ Human resources/ Interpreting Coordinator at University Language Center, Minneapolis, MN
“I've been doing quite a bit with my Women's Studies major. After graduating in 2007, I accepted an offer from a professor at UMD to accompany her to Venezuela for a few months as her translator and child care provider. There, I met up with another fantastic Women's Studies major, Chere who was studying feminism in the country. It couldn't have been a better experience to be exploring the feminist movement in Venezuela while Chavez was in power. After I returned, I worked for the John Marty for Governor Campaign as his Outreach Coordinator, focusing campaigning efforts specifically on the GLBTA, Latino and Feminist communities in Minnesota. I traveled all over the state, talking about single-payer health care, women's rights, marriage equality, and immigration issues. I worked with an amazing team on that campaign and felt very energized from the work we did. Currently, I'm in grad school working on my master's in International Education where I hope to develop programs that focus on cultural exchange and understanding. Women's Studies has really put me ahead of the game in my program because of the critical thinking component to the major. I feel like I was already taught to be aware of my lenses and to think about life in others' shoes. In my experience, many of the other majors don't have this same element to their programs and it's somewhat harder later on for them to think about their paradigms critically or address issues of gender. I feel so fortunate from all that I learned from my professors and about myself being a Women's Studies major. While I complete my master's program through the School for International Training, I also am working as a Spanish teacher through University Language Center in Minneapolis.”
Family Group Decision Making Meeting Coordinator, Lifetrack Resources, Saint Paul, MN
“Since graduating, I have worked in restorative practices- organizing communities around justice, facilitating restorative justice conferences and peacemaking circles, and creating space for families involved in child protective services to have a voice in decision-making. Women’s Studies helped me see that people are the experts in their own lives and that given enough information and support, people are equipped to make the best decisions for themselves. I rely heavily on my Women’s Studies education to understand systems of power and to empower individuals and communities to pursue personal and social change for a healthier, more just world.”
Domestic Violence Advocate, Native American Youth and Family Center, Portland, OR
“My work is very engaging and rewarding. I facilitate survivor healing and safety while helping participants navigate the justice system and social services. I also work with young parents to promote breast feeding and healthy birth.”
Crisis Service Coordinator for the Anti-Violence Program, OutFront MN, Minneapolis, MN
“Since graduating in 2009, I have enjoyed many opportunities to apply the knowledge, skills and experiences I earned with my Women's Studies degree. I have worked as an Abortion Counselor and a Family Planning Health Educator at the Women's Health Center. I have also worked as a Family Advocate with Casa de Esperanza, a Latin@ intimate partner violence prevention and intervention organization. Currently, I am beginning my journey as a doula. Through my doula work, I hope to support people of all genders who are experiencing pregnancy, whether they are chosing to birth or chosing an abortion. I also volunteer as a Patient Educator at Family Tree Clinic where I provide HIV testing and information to patients on sexual health. My day job is with OutFront MN, serving as the Crisis Service Coordinator for the Anti-Violence Program.
I am so grateful for everything I learned as a part of the Women's Studies community at UMD. Every day I find ways to apply feminist praxis to my life as I explore the intersectional nature of identities and ways to lovingly struggle for collective liberation.”
Feminist Advocate and Organic Farmer, Ecuador
“I spent a year working on issues of Women´s Reproductive justice with NARAL, Pro-Choice Washington. It was a tough year for abortion rights as the threats of closing Planned Parenthood, eliminating WIC program funding, and all the other on-going struggles we face for Women´s Reproductive rights. I spent my days reading bills, protesting at the capitol, at doing a lot of community outreach. …I spent the summer working at the YWCA of Minneapolis on the customer service side of the organization. I´m now living in Ecuador where I have been volunteering on different organic farms and heading to the capitol when I can. I was lucky enough to meet some women from a feminist organization that works primarily for the rights of lesbians here in South America. …I use my Women´s Studies degree literally every day! My undergrad experience gave me a new lens in which I see the world and for that I´m forever grateful to the wonderful professors and fellow students I had the chance to learn and grow with.
Newman House Director, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND
“I use my Women's Studies degree every day. Since my graduation from UMD in 2009, I have served as a FOCUS, Fellowship of Catholic University Students, missionary at the University of North Dakota for the past two years. Many think Catholicism and feminism to be polar opposites, but I have found them to complement one another rather beautifully (I am starting to write an independent paper on it). They both search and uphold the dignity of the person and is the reason my Women's Studies background made me a better missionary. The education through readings, writings, and discussions I received have forever changed me as a person (and I am not being overdramatic). I have continued to reach out to women, to actually hear their voice, and for them to value themselves as women. I recently transitioned into the position of House Mother at the Catholic sorority house on campus at UND and lead formation for 30 women. It has been beautiful to empower women to be women by helping create an atmosphere of respect and vulnerability. In addition, we are about to learn about the woman's cycle and start charting through natural family planning. This way, the women will know what is going on in their own bodies and understand the changes in their hormones. I am not off leading movements, but am going the little way of making myself available to fight for each woman that comes through my door.”
True North Americorps, Office of Civic Engagement, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN
“Since graduating in the spring of 2010 I've been serving with the True North Americorps program based out of Duluth. My service site has been the University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Civic Engagement where I spend my time motivating students to volunteer in the community as well as learn more about various issues that our happening in our region and world.
Outside of this position I have been helping with a number of anti-war activities, union activities, outside research into regional history and working with a congressional campaign. Throughout all of this, my grounding in feminist thought has helped me bring inclusive ideas to the table that challenge the systems of oppression still present in our world.”
Follow-up Advocate at Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women, Duluth, MN“I work with women as they transition from shelter life to independent living in the community. Women's Studies gave me the foundation to understand the intersections of race, class, gender and privilege and how that is integral to understanding the pattern of battering. Women's Studies also taught me to engage in compassionate listening, and always to strive to understand where another person is coming from. I would not be the advocate I am today without this background.”