Ruchi Shah is the 2022-23 Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for Communities of Practice at the Athena Center, where she supports the execution of Athena's multiple communities of practice, specifically the Applied Learning team's administration, programming, and facilitation work administrative, programming support for Athena’s Communities of Practice. Check out her day(s) in the life - in sunny New Orleans!
I, along with my colleague and long-time SWS conference attendee (ask them about their Sociology Phd candidacy!) Chriss Sneed traveled down to a 3-day conference in the heart of New Orleans to present on a presidential panel centered around entrepreneurship and gender.
Sociologists for Women in Society is a nonprofit professional feminist organization dedicated to encouraging feminist scholarship and activism in sociological spaces. Like most academic associations, they meet yearly for a multi-day conference where trained sociologists or those doing related work, share their cutting-edge research, network, and learn from each others’ work. The SWS 2023 Winter Meeting, focusing on Sexualities and Migrations in the Context of Global Justice, spanned from Thursday evening to Saturday night in mid-January.
Thursday, 10 am
I landed in New Orleans, giving me plenty of time to explore the city before the conference began. I spent the next few hours exploring the nearby French Quarter, trying their signature beignets, and stopped by a bookstore while also working on a few last things for Athena to prepare for the start of the semester.
While at Crescent City books, I came across Barnard’s Dr. Alexandra Horowitz (of Dog Cognition Lab fame)’s book!
I got settled in my hotel room (with a beautiful view!) and attended the Welcome Reception, saying hi to Chriss and learning about Arizona State University’s fascinating dichotomies between leadership’s attitudes towards diversity and inclusion and their demographies, as presented by Mary Romero, 2021 SWS Distinguished Feminist Lecturer.
Friday, 9 am
I grabbed a filling breakfast and settled down in one of the Sheraton New Orlean’s many meeting halls for Plenary I on Gendered Migrations: Navigating Within the Neo-liberal State. Having graduated from Barnard with an American Studies’ concentration in Transnational America, I really appreciated the panelists’ insight into the varied dimensions of migration - such as Pei-Chia Lan’s analysis on the multiple assimilationist pathways of marital immigrants’ children in Taiwan.
After lunch, I headed to an intimate roundtable on Interrogating the Gaps, Travels, and Borders of Intersectionality as a Global Phenomenon. The diverse panelists spoke about researching up, tackling intersectionality in the classroom, and how, despite its use as a buzzword, intersectionality can provide a valuable lens (among others) to use when participating in research and other activisms.
The panel ended past time, meaning I raced to meet with my Hand match, an worldly sociologist, for more beignets and coffee near the hotel. She has been in the field for years, and I took the opportunity to ask her about how she conducts qualitative research on LGBTQ activism in India, her research focus, and her perspective on the field as someone who has been widely published.
After a long chat, I stopped by the SWS’s Sister to Sister Committee reception, a reception for women and non-binary people of color to meet more people! I got the chance to chat with Intersectionality panelist Pallavi Banerjee, ate some gator sausage, and talked to a bunch of current graduate students about their research and their experiences at their respective home institutions.
Saturday, 11 am
I woke up nervous about presenting later today, so I skipped the morning panels and Chriss and I met to cowork and put the final touches on our powerpoint presentation for a half hour in the early afternoon.
It’s presentation time! Chriss and I presented on “Imagining Feminist Entrepreneurship through Applied Learning” as part of a Presidential Panel on Gender and Entrepreneurship and discussed Athena’s unique perspective on collaborative learning as central to individual growth and how entrepreneurship at Athena works to reframe success from binary, capitalist focused measures into a more expansive definition. After the panelists presented, we all had a generative discussion on defining a wider range of people as ‘entrepreneurs’ and the value and complications of encouraging people, especially women and non-binary people, to be entrepreneurs in current society.
I ran to a nearby room to catch Ochy Curiel, the inaugural SWS Honorary Feminist Sociology Distinction Recipient, known for her feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial scholar-activism. I learned a lot from her strong perspective on community and activism and what it means to do the work!
We ended the conference with a banquet, featuring a silent auction, dinner, and music - DJ’d by Athena’s very own Chriss! I was worried enough about getting the pralines and art I bought in New Orleans to fit in my suitcase, so I didn’t bid on any items, but everything from handmade scarves to a Mardi Gras shoe were available to bid on. All proceeds went to the Birthmark Doula Collective, a New Orleans-based birth justice organization.
Sunday, 7:30 am
I woke up bright and early to make sure I was packed before my 11 am flight and grabbed some pastries (you guessed it, beignets!) from SWS’s breakfast spread before checking out and grabbing an Uber to MSY. Farewell, New Orleans!