Core Reflections

Sr. Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ,  Where What Is Still Undiscovered Abides , n.d.. Charcoal on paper. Collection of St. Catherine University. [Image Source: Fine Arts Collection, used with permission]

Sr. Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ, Where What Is Still Undiscovered Abides, n.d.. Charcoal on paper. Collection of St. Catherine University. [Image Source: Fine Arts Collection, used with permission]

As we pause to reflect on this past year of teaching, and look forward to a summer season of rest and rejuvenation, we would like to share anonymous student testimony from two signature courses in the Core Curriculum at St. Kate’s. Both baccalaureate- and associate-degree students are required to take The Reflective Woman (TRW) and The Reflective Life, respectively, gateway seminars designed to introduce students to the many wisdoms of our tripartite mission: Catholic, women, liberal arts. We observed several common themes in these statements that attest to the distinctiveness of an education at St. Kate’s. These include:

  • a commitment to healing and learning in community;
  • an appreciation of Catholic Social Teaching and the values of the CSJs;
  • a responsibility to acknowledge and understand the complex role that race plays in our lived experience;
  • a deep understanding of women’s empowerment and equality;
  • a desire to share learning with friends and family;
  • an invitation to, in the words of one student, “share my story.”


The Reflective Life class lays a foundation for sincere thinking, and sets the standard for academic excellence at St. Catherine University. Coming into my first semester at St. Kate’s as a student in this class enabled me to more fully comprehend the school’s mission and foundational philosophies. I was also able to become instantly immersed in this rich learning community, which acted as a portal into the entire collective of staff, students and alumni who share a common goal of healing and nourishing a broken world through truth and beauty. The three pillars of St. Kate’s mission as a school fully encompass the elements required in every area of leadership: a core philosophy, value for myself as a woman and for all women, and a life-pursuit of learning as defined by the liberal arts. As someone who seeks to be a healthcare professional, this course enabled me to more fully comprehend my root desires for the work of therapy as something that values human life and seeks to enrich it by helping out the dear neighbor whenever I am given the opportunity. Rather than focusing strictly on the medical and logistic aspects of an OTA degree, TRL has prepared me for truly transformational leadership by giving me the opportunity to focus on these root desires and philosophies as the breath that gives life to medical knowledge.


 “My place in the St. Kate’s community was unclear to me until taking this course [The Reflective Life]. Certainly, learning about the Catholic Social Teaching gave me an understanding of how alike my core beliefs are to those teachings. When I enrolled in my classes I was not even sure if being Catholic was a requirement. I was happy to read that St. Kate’s is all inclusive. Truly, reading about how the sisters paved the way for women’s education was inspiring. My place in the St. Kate’s community is as an empowered woman; through my studies at St. Kate’s I will be able to role model perseverance and independence for my daughter. Lastly, learning liberal arts has reminded me to be socially conscious in all my endeavors, which will have a profound effect on me personally and professionally.


“Because of the strong presence of woman’s empowerment and value of equality demonstrated in this class [The Reflective Life], I was able to feel a sense of community at St. Kate’s. Even though this is an online course and I was not physically meeting with the class, I felt like we all had similar values and we are all strong people who have voices to be heard. I felt like the stories we read and the assignments given all served a unique purpose to better our understanding of ourselves and society as a whole. Also, the instructor was very uplifting and his encouragement made me feel like he really cared about us as students. This class presented St. Kate’s core values and gave me an opportunity to elaborate on my own values and perspectives through the readings and assignments. Before this class, I had never been exposed to any material about diversity in the way it was presented in this class.  The readings and assignments definitely opened my eyes to the diverse cultural perspectives and made me reevaluate the way I had been looking at things. This class has contributed to my sense of place in the larger world by providing me a chance to see things from someone else’s viewpoint. This class has helped me relate to others from different backgrounds through the readings and with other students. Overall, this class has helped me realize that we are all together in this life, and we need to help one another no matter what the situation is.


 “When I first got to St. Kate’s, I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it. I had left all my friends back at my old school, and I was commuting just to get an education. Comparing myself to the people I grew up with, I considered myself quite open-minded (even after studying abroad). BOY, was I wrong! This class [The Reflective Woman] has opened my eyes to so many issues in our society and has forced me to look at the depressing reality that we are surrounded with. I’ve had students in other classes tell me about how much they hated TRW and I’m just astonished because I love it! I’ve cried, laughed, and smiled throughout this class and it never felt unnatural. You provided such an open and loving learning environment for all of your students. It was so appreciated and honestly, you made me fall in love with St. Kate’s from the first class period when you remembered where we were from. My dad will ask me how school was most nights when I get home, and I can’t wait to tell him about all the things I learned about in TRW. I tell him about how naïve I was when I looked at the world before, and how glad I am that I’ve changed my entire outlook. I think it’s especially important for me to be aware of these issues going into healthcare — there are too many racial and socioeconomic disparities there.


“This course [The Reflective Woman] helped me to expand on my current knowledge of social justice issues, and I especially gained more knowledge on race related issues. I believe I am more aware than ever of how race can influence our interactions, and life experiences of every individual. The feminist framework in this class helped me to further explore factors contributing to the inequities I face in my everyday life, which really helped to validate my feelings on many issues. This is invaluable because I can now move forward in my life feeling confident that my personal experiences matter, and are a part of the bigger story of how our culture views women. I now feel more empowered and fearless in confronting these issues head on, rather than continuing to sweep them under the proverbial rug.


“I just want to say thank you for letting me share what happened in class today. I apologize if I made the situation awkward at all, it was not my intention to. As you may know, this is my first semester here at St. Catherine and this is the only class I feel like I can share my feelings and express everything. I get nervous talking in front of class and TRW really helps me get over my fear. So overall I would like to say thank you for being an amazing instructor. Thank you for letting me get over my fears and lastly, thank you for letting me share my story.

A Collective Reflection on Women-of-Color Feminisms Study Group

Facilitated and compiled by Hui Wilcox

A group of St. Kate’s faculty and staff members gathered from June 4 through June 8, to engage in a study group with the theme of “Understanding Women-of-Color Feminisms.” We offer a collective reflection, mirroring our week-long process of collaborative learning, accountability, and transformation.  

We begin with Camilo Malagón’s reflection, as he modeled for us thoughtful written reflection all week long. His work also exemplifies the rigor and care necessary for the building of community, coalition, and allyship around women-of-color feminisms. Following Camilo’s piece, a few participants offer their thoughts on the questions that guided the design and the process of the study group. Our discussions were organic and free-flowing. We all took turns facilitating discussions, we listened to music, drew, and did embodied exercises, and almost no one gave any lectures (although Hui verged on this a couple of times!). Mostly we read (a lot!), listened to each other and held sacred each other’s stories and ideas. Our reflections demonstrate the power of compassionate listening.

As a group, we also grappled with the tension between different ways of knowing and the conflicted roles of women-of-color feminist scholars in both the academy and their communities of origin or struggles. We recognize that written words, especially those in the academic contexts, can also be exclusive and oppressive, even as they serve as vehicles of empowerment for some of us. So we disagreed and challenged each other. These moments of disagreement were necessary for our individual and collective growth and healing. What mattered is that we showed up for each other, and we spoke with and listened to each other.

Final Reflection WOC Feminisms Workshop
by Camilo A. Malagón

The work of this week has been intense, enriching and powerful. A group of passionate members of the St. Catherine University community, led by Mission Chair and Professor Hui Wilcox took the time to reflect deeply on texts written by Women of Color (WOC), to think about the theoretical practices explained in the texts and to think about how these texts have a bearing on our disciplines and our lives.


I especially appreciated the range of texts that we read from the last thirty to forty years: it elucidated for me, and for the rest of the participants, the breadth of the feminist thought produced by women of color. We read many authors’ writing from a variety of humanities and social sciences disciplines and had a chance to reflect on this long history. I particularly enjoyed reading and learning about the work of Patricia Hill Collins, Sarah Ahmed, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Trinh T. Minh-ha, bell hooks and Audre Lorde, among many others. Audre Lorde and bell hooks are well-established feminist thinkers whom I have heard of before but never got the chance to read their work with some depth before attending this workshop, and it was enriching as these two writers lay down the foundation of WOC feminist thought by proposing definitions for feminism based on reflections not of specific acts or agents of sexism and oppression, but rather reflections upon the different interlocking systems of oppression. These systems of oppression and their analysis create an economic structure and cultural superstructure that feminist work wants to undo.

Moreover, the work of Hill Collins, Sarah Ahmed, Mohanty and Minh-ha provided different theoretical entries onto feminism, wanting to provide an epistemology of black feminist thought, providing a phenomenological approach to the concept(s) of orientation(s), reflecting upon feminism as a transnational practice and writing at the intersection of postcoloniality and feminism respectively. I especially appreciated the work of Ahmed, as the concept of “orientation” can be very valuable for my work on space and Latin American cultural production for different reasons.


First, the concept of “orientations” can be used as a category that helps understand the specific plot of a novel through an analysis of space and subjects: how do subjects “orient” themselves in the story? How do their choices of orientation have a bearing on the development of the story? Second, “orientations” can serve to understand the context of the artifacts themselves within a system or a tradition: how does the text “orient itself” within a specific tradition? Is a writing within or against a specific set of texts? Moreover, how does the text circulate, and how does this set of market orientations determine its context, validity, and cultural capital? Third, I can reflect on the “orientation” of my work, the philosophical, ideological, methodological presuppositions of my work and how these have helped determine my objects of study (and the limits of such study) and finally, I can reflect on my own orientation, not only my positionality as a subject, but my personal trajectory and how that impinges onto my reflections, my ideas, my academic project and career.

I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to take part on this seminar, and I wished that it would have lasted a month and not just a week. Hui Wilcox’s leadership was both inviting and thoughtful as she made the seminar a place of reflection for a group of staff and faculty from various disciplines and with different goals for the week. The seminar has opened many different avenues for inquiry and provided many different authors that I hope to keep exploring in the coming months and years at St. Kate’s. Thank you for a wonderful week!

How are women-of-color feminisms defined? How are they historically related to and differentiated from white feminism?

“While I don't have a comprehensive definition in mind as of yet, my initial thoughts are that women-of-color feminisms give voice to the ways in which women of color have thought about, experienced, practiced, and developed feminism over time and in relation to white women feminists — but not secondary or as an extension of white women feminists. Women-of-color feminisms address time, space, ways of knowing, historical myths & fallacies, and anti-feminist perspectives & systems that have perpetuated the disregard, marginalization, and violence towards women of color.” –Carey Winkler

“WOC feminisms are more radical, inclusive, and courageous. It takes courage to tell those with relative power (white women) that what you have isn't for me, doesn't work for me, and that I need something different and more real. They are also more complete. A feminism that does not clearly and intentionally consider race, class, etc. is incomplete.” –Sarah Park Dahlen

“Through the readings provided and discussions in the group, I am reminded that women of color feminism are defined through the history of each community. The term in itself is very broad, women of color feminism. We simply cannot cluster women of color experiences into one version of feminism. And we certainly cannot rely on definitions of white feminism because it does not include our unique experiences. It is not a one size fits all. Each community's feminism is founded and defined by the experiences of the women from that community. We do a disservice to ourselves when we do not include the intersectionality of women of color's identities and experiences.” –Anonymous participant

“I am growing as a feminist. I am still learning to understand my own position within feminism. I align with the definition of feminism that is about undoing oppression in all its forms. I struggle with the idea that feminism has a westernized bent/or is understood as western which in turn excludes me, or looks down on me as third world, someone who needs to be saved by the western feminists. ‘Oh without the women's studies courses at UW Madison maybe she would have had ten kids by now and still being abused by her Hmong husband whom she married at age 17.’ I am rejecting the white savior notion of feminism. Still trying to find my own place.” –Pa Der Vang


“While I think I was aware that WOC found feminism problematic, before this seminar, I didn’t really understand how. The readings — especially those by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa as well as the anthologies This Bridge Called my Back and Colonize This! — resonated with me most, providing theory and narratives that articulated the micro and macro ways WOC are left out of feminism. For instance, I as struck by the connection between white women rejecting patriarchy in the name of feminism, but oppressing women of color in the process. Digesting this was simultaneously maddening, humbling and painful, but I’m learning more and more that this place of discomfort is where real understanding and learning begins.

“I'm appreciative for the deeper understanding of the history, development and structure of feminism, especially through academic channels, and from the perspective of women of color. I think this is where the ‘learn from, not about’ part comes in for me: the most impactful part of the seminar was hearing stories from my WOC colleagues — their personal experiences with racism, sexism, tokenism and appropriation; their family relationships, cultural traditions; and how they feel moving through their work, family and social environments. I find myself thinking often of their stories. They have helped me re-frame my understanding of feminism. Their stories also challenge me to remain self-aware, especially in terms of my role — as a cis middle-class white woman — in their experiences.”  –Nicole Watson

How do we understand intersectionality in ways that speak to our work and lived experience?

“My initial thoughts about how understanding intersectionality relates to my work and lived experience is that it is an essential aspect of thinking expansively about how to understand both individual and group experiences, building bridges of communication, empathy, and solidarity, and critically analyze systems, policies, and practices that diminish & disenfranchise individual and group identities. I've been thinking a bit of a slide puzzle in that there is a lot of movement in concert with others required to get the full picture. While there are patterns, they are not static and will change depending on who is a the table — heard, seen, and felt in the world.” –Carey Winkler

“We have to have open hearts and open minds. We have to see each other and look for commonalities and strengths, as well as the things we are each concerned with. We have to know and understand that we are each complex beings with multifaceted identities and histories and relationships, and therefore see ourselves and each other as whole persons, rather than essentialized persons.” –Sarah Park Dahlen


“I am simultaneously fascinated and overwhelmed by the complexities of intersectionality. Because intersectionality is so complex, I have a hard time holding all of the pieces at one time. For me, my own intersectionality is a big mess — and I heard (and didn't hear) this from our group as well. I am a member of many different groups of identities because I mostly fit in in that group, but it’s actually not my entire reality. I really appreciated having the primary lens for this week be color. One silence that I noticed is gender — non-conforming gender or gender fluidity was only mentioned briefly a couple of times.” –Carol Geisler

How do feminisms/feminists of various communities meet each other and hold each other accountable? How do we support each other and hold each other accountable?

“My field of art, art history, art interpretation and galleries/museums could be a really productive space for different feminist communities to encounter one another. As we discussed in the seminar, the art world has been full of controversial and complex stories of racism, appropriation and sexism, especially during the last year. I know I can use my role as a purveyor of art to bridge communities of difference, and to offer a space to engage WOC feminisms. It’s been a goal of mine to do a better job facilitating these themes through our exhibitions, and this seminar gave me the foundational knowledge I knew I needed to even start that kind of work. (Wouldn't a whole exhibition on WOC feminisms be amazing? What would that look like?)

“Regarding accountability: I'm working hard to understand my own biases, and the ways those biases affect my relationships and my work. This seminar challenged me to be self-aware in new ways (i.e. understanding that my version of feminism looks different than the feminism of others).” –Nicole Watson


“I am going to be sitting with that for a bit longer. As a white woman, I know that it is important for me to continue to put myself in positions of being a listener and being reminded of my privilege. At the same time, I must hold myself accountable and lean into my fears in practicing allyship. I also have to continue growing my willingness to sit in the not-knowing and not-having. And, I have to continue working on de-colonizing my thinking — and I have to talk to other white people about this — to learn from and challenge each other.” –Carey Winkler

“I think our increasingly connected/networked world offers a lot of possibilities for encounter, but at the same time, it's become very easy to retreat into silos and safe spaces. We need both. We need to look around and look for and see one another, and we also need safe spaces where we can heal from the daily aggressions and assaults. Thanks to social media, I've become part of a few small, online groups with other IWOC, and these have basically become my support groups and lifelines during very difficult periods. They are spaces where we both support one another, as well as push each other to research, publish, and speak up for our communities. We need to recognize when we are in communities like these, and give as much as you get to your people.” –Sarah Park Dahlen

“Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. My greatest teacher about intersectionality has always been my own lived experience — figuring it out in real time in real space with real people. It's how I learn best. The readings were fabulous — and created new spaces my mind that lead to new thinking/understanding about ideas — but it was the rich, deep, and vulnerable dialogue that jolted me to new places to understanding about people. I am still night dreaming, daydreaming, journaling, drawing about the uncomfortable places and new understandings for me.” –Carol Geisler

How do we build community across differences?

“I can’t express how grateful I am to WOC seminar participants for graciously sharing ways in which I can be a better ally to them. They did this through their stories, but also directly (‘here is an example in which you can be a better ally’), challenging me to better support them at St. Kate’s and beyond.” –Nicole Watson

“Building individual relationships that include a sense of bravery, a willingness to make mistakes, and accountability.

“My take is that St. Kate's is currently in a state of flux with its identity and that it will take all voices to land on a path forward that feels both salient and true to the values, mission, etc.

Humility, listening, caring, thinking and acting more collectively.” –Carey Winkler

“I think this begins with intersectionality — not all Asian women or Black women are the same, and we may have intersecting identities and concerns with people who are very unlike us in other ways. As well, we have to recognize that we are stronger together, so we should have the mindset that building community is important and necessary. We should also appreciate differences — love them, respect them, learn from them.” –Sarah Park Dahlen

“Education, dialogue, and dissemination of new ideas. By education, I mean a collaborative group format where we are all teachers/learners looking at our own power over/with/under ourselves and each other in the context of our lives. Readings/information/various viewpoints/films/music/arts/dance give us a place to start. Next is the messiness of dialogue.    I think deep dialogue requires a kind of commitment — to hang in there and work through things even when it's really messy and painful. I would be willing to be in a group dialogue about whether or not we collectively/individually want to make this kind of commitment and continue the work in this form. I also really understand that it might be a space where it's better if I'm not there given who I am in the world. Part of my own discernment is how/where/in what format can I make my best contribution? Dissemination — in any form — gives us something to work towards. A workshop, a piece of writing, a dance, developing a new course (graduate! or undergraduate), a curriculum for new employee orientation, working with small groups of faculty and staff, creating co-curricular programming that helps students explore these issues, helping departments review syllabi/course assignments based on WOC feminisms — whatever we co-create — it helps us come together for a purpose.” –Carol Geisler

Other expected or unexpected outcomes:


“I was so inspired by this week! I definitely received this: ‘I know that this kind of structure allows me to read deeply, think, and engage in thoughtful dialogue — rather than just reading information on my own.’

“I think my own scholarship will probably take a turn as a result of this week.  I always had some awareness about cultural appropriation and lack of women of color voices in my academic discipline of holistic health - but the readings and the dialogue have moved me to a place of action.  I don't quite know yet what the action will be — but I can feel it welling inside of me.  I am returning to one of my childhood homes in India this summer for a month — and I think from that something new will emerge.” –Carol Geisler  

“I learned so much from the rigorous readings as well as from other seminar participants. The readings served as a good launching point for me as I know that I need to spend more time with this material and continue to delve deep into women of color feminisms. I appreciated the mix of highly theoretical pieces with personal narratives — they met my learning style and served as a good model for bridging theory and practice.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet people from across campus. I particularly appreciated hearing various perspectives on the challenges experienced at St. Kate's as employees and in terms of what students are experiencing. Again, I appreciated hearing both the systemic perspectives as well as the individual experiences of people experiencing discrimination and oppression.” –Carey Winkler

“Although I still feel like I am digesting the information last week and I now want to go back and re-read the articles or even the full books after the discussions that took place last week. Now that I have been exposed to a broader range of women of color feminists and authors, going back to the material again and again will only strengthen my understanding of the work. As a result, my confidence in lifting them up in my scholarship and my work will only help a larger group of people also become exposed to the material.  

“I went into this week hoping that the reading would help support my doctorate work. Little did I know that it would help me completely change my thinking and my approach to my dissertation? Although I have been aware of the fact that the traditional way of delivering higher education may not be the best way to approach the new students enrolling in college. I have been focusing on curriculum delivery and traditional means of support that have been in place for students. Even though I was resisting tradition, I myself in my own work have been considering the theoretical frameworks of Foucault. But, why not someone else? Why not lift up a woman and or a woman of color in this section of my dissertation? The work of Paulo Freire is what initially influenced my work, so I am not sure I can completely walk away from him, but I am committed to exploring alternative authors that deserve as much recognition as those who have been so systematically engrained in the higher education theory.

“It is through this commitment that I will support feminists from different communities. The more we share their work, the more they will be recognized as the experts and the scholars that they are!” –Heidi Anderson-Isaacson


“I was thrilled to join my esteemed colleagues in the understanding women-of-color feminisms week long seminar. The reading list was inclusive and captured the intersectional issues impacting race and gender. There is something powerful about finding people who are feel the same way about injustice. Reading and discussing feminist writing by Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, Trinh, Minh-Ha, Patricia Hill Collins and others opened a new way of thinking for me and a week was hardly enough to get through the text. One of the readings by Audre Lorde touched on how difference can be weaponized against use if we do not examine it and name it for what it is and that my silence will not protect me. I was challenged, uplifted, inspired and validated." –Leso Munala

“I am currently in the process of writing a paper about Hmong women’s empowerment. I have struggled with this paper for a long time because I could never really wrap my head around what feminism meant for me, how it applied to Hmong women, and [even its] application to the progress of Hmong women’s empowerment. The readings that Dr. Wilcox assigned gave me deeper insight into these questions.” –Pa Der Vang

“The format of the seminar felt intellectually, physically and emotionally productive to me. The embodied exercises grounded me in our gatherings, the free-flowing discussion was conducive to meaningful storytelling and having the opportunity to be a "student" of my peers was gratifying. In particular, (and probably not surprising) Carol and Carey's art making exercise was most engaging, challenging and fulfilling for me. I appreciated the ways everyone brought their disciplines and areas of expertise into our discussions.” –Nicole Watson

Bibliography on Women-of-Color Feminisms

Ahmed. Sara. 2006. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. “Introduction”

Alexander, M. Jacqui. 2005. Pedagogies of Crossing. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. 2007 (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 3rd ed. San Francisco, Aunt Lute Books.

Brooks, Siobhan. 2002. “Black Feminism in Everyday Life: Race, Mental Illness, Poverty and Motherhood.” in Colonize This! On Today’s Feminism, eds. Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman. New York Seal.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2009 (2000). Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge.

Collins, Patricia Hill and Sirma Bilge. 2016. Intersectionality. Cambridge, MA: Polity.

Crenshaw, Kimberle.

Combahee River Statement” 

hooks, bell. 2015. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. New York: Routledge.

Keating, AnaLouise. 2013. Transformation Now! Toward a Post-Oppositional Politics of Change. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Lopez, Adriana. 2002. “In Praise of Difficult Chicas: Feminism and Femininity.” in Colonize This! On Today’s Feminism, eds. Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman. New York: Seal.

Lorde, Audre. 2007 (1984). Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Moraga, Cherríe. “La Güera” in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table Press.

Rojas, Maythee. 2009. Women of Color and Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Studies.

Shah, Sonia. 1994. “Presenting the Blue Goddess: Toward a National, Pan-Asian Feminist Agenda.” in The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s, ed. Karin Aguilar-San Juan. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Smith, Andrea. 2015 (2005). Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Smith, Taigi. 2002. “What Happens When Your Hood is the Last Stop on the White Flight Express?” in Colonize This! On Today’s Feminism, eds. Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman. New York: Seal.

Swarr, Amanda Lock and Richa Nagar. 2010. “Theorizing Transnational Feminist Praxis,” in Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar, eds. Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Trinh, Minh-Ha. 1989. Women, Native, Other. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Part III.

Tumang, Patricia Justine. 2002. “Nasaan ka anak ko? A Queer Filipino-American Feminist’s Tale of Abortion and Self-Recovery.” in Colonize This! On Today’s Feminism, eds. Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman. New York: Seal.

Vang, Mai Der. 2016. Afterland. Grey Wolf Press.

Woo, Merle. 1981 (1983). “Letter to Ma,” in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table Press.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2004. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hui Wilcox, PhD, is the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Endowed Chair in Women's Education and Director of the Otte Initiative at St. Catherine University. She is an associate professor of Sociology, Women's Studies and Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity.

Musings on the Myser Workshop

By Kate Barrett

The Myser Workshop is designed to give faculty and staff the opportunity to work on integrating our Catholic identity into their work, teaching, scholarship, and service. The workshop offers time for reading, reflection, discussion, and planning on ways in which the Catholic Intellectual, Social, and Sacramental Traditions can inform, shape, and enrich our work at St. Kate’s.

I co-facilitated this year’s workshop with Bill McDonough, professor of theology, and Jill Underdahl, CSJ, co-director of Celeste’s Dream. Our discussions ranged from syllabus development, pedagogical approaches, campus integration, shared governance, and the deep value for Core courses now taught across two of our colleges. We reflected on the ways in which we do good as well as the blocks that we experience in our attempts to do good.
The recurring theme that we continued to come back to this year is a quote by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ: “The future [is] promised, yet unknown.” Johnson also says, “We have no magic key that will unlock the future.” We reflected on how we are moving into the future as we continually seek to become more whole — as individuals, and as a university community. We discussed how we can use our words and actions to be bridges, build trust, and act with humility as we move toward our more whole selves.
Sister Jill offered us her reflections on the Sacramental Tradition through the lens of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. We read an essay by Marcia Allen, CSJ, of the Concordia, Kansas congregation, titled “Acatamiento — Seized by Love.” In it Allen explores the spirituality of the CSJ mission:  to love God and Neighbor without distinction and how through a practice of observation and reflection she becomes aware of God’s loving (sacramental) presence. We learned how the first Sisters of St. Joseph came together to address the needs of those suffering the effects of war and disease in 17th century. We discussed how we can orient (open) ourselves to experiencing beauty (sacramental presence) even in unlikely and difficult places. We shared ways in which we behold beauty, how we experience beauty through all of our senses, and how beauty and joy enrich and bring meaning to our work and learning. What are ways in which we can use beauty and joy in our work in more intentional ways? How can beauty and joy help us to slow down in our work and become more attentive to that which is around us?
To highlight the significant, impactful energy within sacramental presence, Allen highlights the word, Acatamiento, from the Ignatian/CSJ tradition. It is a word that St. Ignatius used to describe the indescribable. Myser participant, Camilo Malagón, assistant professor of international languages and literatures, helped us further understand the word by looking at several related words: 
Acatar – to comply with, to respect, to follow (rules),
Captar – to understand
Catar – to taste, to experiment, to try, to examine
Capturar – to capture
Cautivar –to influence, ser cautivado (to be captivated by)

What are the various ways in which we become captivated — captivated by beauty, by mystery, by inspiration, by the sacred? What is it inside of us that allows us to be captivated? 

We referred to Pope Leo XIII’s writing of Rerum Novarum in 1891 to ground our discussion of Catholic Social Teaching. While often referred to as a list of virtues or actions, Catholic Social Teaching is much more encompassing and challenging. Catholic Social Teaching is often best learned through relationships with others with vastly different backgrounds which lead to new ways of seeing and understanding the world, and transforms how we understand and see ourselves in the world. Providing students with opportunities to work with and learn from people’s stories who are living on the margins — who have been imprisoned, who have lived in severe poverty, who have had to escape their home for their own safety — teaches us about systemic oppression, injustice, and privilege. It has been my experience that through building authentic relationships with people who have been marginalized by dominant cultures, my understanding of the world has been transformed, as has my understanding who I am and how I want to be in the world.
We ended our week with a powerful discussion of Pope Francis’s four principles outlined in Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), his first Apostolic Exhortation, which is his first letter to the world, written just months after he began his tenure as Pope in 2013. These themes continue to appear in Pope Francis’s writings and speeches. The four themes are the following:

  1. Time is greater than space: This principle speaks to the “constant tension between fullness and limitation…encouraging us to work slowly but surely…without being obsessed with immediate results.” It calls us to “give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage people to the point where they can bear fruit in significant historical events.”
  2. Unity prevails over conflict: This principle encourages us not to avoid or ignore conflict, nor to remain trapped in conflict, but rather to “face conflict head on, to resolve it, and make it a link toward a new build communion amid disagreement…this requires us to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity.” This principle calls us to work toward becoming a place in which “conflict, tensions, and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity…that preserves what is valid and useful on both sides.”
  3. Realities are more important than ideas: At the heart of this principle is that “ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism and nominalism, capable at most of classifying and defining, but certainly not calling to action…This principle compels us to put word into practice, to perform works of justice,” which make the ideas fruitful.
  4. The whole is greater than the part: This principle speaks to the tension between globalization and localization. We need both to prevent us from falling into narrow-minded thinking (globalization) as well as to keep us grounded where we are (localization). “We can work on a small scale, in our own neighborhood, but with a larger perspective.”

I encourage you to read more from Evangelii Gaudium. How might these principles challenge and shape how you think about your work at St. Kate’s?

“Our future is certain, yet unknown." We ended our week together in agreement about a few things:

  1. Our struggles are not unique in higher education, but our work is. What makes us unique at St. Kate’s is how we teach, who we teach, where we teach, and why we teach. We are all a part of this work, in all the roles we inhabit — faculty, staff, and administration.
  2. It is important to stay connected to where we find joy. Overwhelmingly, we find joy in our students. Let’s make sure we are staying connected to them and being intentional about creating time and spaces for students to experience joy in our classrooms, on our campus, and in their lives.
  3. We learn through storytelling and through listening to voices different from our own, voices outside of the dominant discourse. We need to be listening and learning from all voices as we move toward our greater whole, toward our future.

Kate Barrett, OTD, is the Archbishop Harry Flynn Endowed Chair in Catholic Identity and Director of the Myser Initiative at St. Catherine University. She is an associate professor of occupational therapy.

June Report from Kate Barrett, Director of the Myser Initiative in Catholic Identity

Breaking the Impasse

The eighth annual Breaking the Impasse was held in the Rauenhorst Ballroom on Febuary 22nd and was co-sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cardondelet Justice Commission and the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity.  The theme of the event this year was "Moving Forward Together;” a discussion of ways we can strengthen our communities to move beyond a politics of divisiveness, with Sr. Simone Campbell, of NETWORK and guest, Courtney Martin, journalist for social change. (click here for more event information)

National Catholic Sister's Week

In other news, the Myser Initiative partnered with Campus Ministry and the Multicultural and International Programs and Services (MIPS) to celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) March 8-14 on campus.  NCSW is a week each year to highlight Catholic sisters and raise awareness of their profound influence throughout the world. We are fortunate to have the NCSW program and staff headquartered right here on our campus.  Together, we all worked to offer programming throughout the week.  

  • NCSW showed (un)veiled - the making of an exhibit, a documentary film chronicling the creation of a multi-dimensional exhibit held at St. Catherine's in 2016 that examined the evolution and historical significance of the religious habit. 

  • Myser sponsored a panel discussion with CSJs “Sisters, Students, and Sustainability”.  The panel was very inspiring and as a result, the Biology club applied for a small grant through the Myser Initiative to support a project to help us become a more “Bee Friendly” Campus.  Be on the look-out for signs of this around campus in the fall. (click here for audio from the event)

  • Campus Ministry facilitated an opportunity for students to meet sisters and talk with them on Founder’s Day.

  • MIPS and the Myser Initiative sponsored a repeat of Habits and Hijabs, bringing sisters and Muslim students together to discuss similarities and differences on head coverings.    

The Myser Initiative also partnered with the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph’s, a group of nine schools throughout the US.  We made pins and stickers (see picture) and all wore them throughout the week on our various campuses. Check out the following hashtag for more information on NCSW: #ncsw2017 and for information specific to the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph: #dearneighbor.

Funded Mission Possible Projects

On January 24, during our presentation at The Learning Network (a.k.a. TLN), we announced a funding initiative aimed to spur mission-centered action at St. Catherine University. We called it the "Mission Possible Challenge" and invited staff and faculty to propose projects and programming that address our tripartite mission - liberal arts, women, Catholic - with the goal of enhancing our mission-driven educational culture. Many of you applied, and we are pleased to announce that we've funded three innovative and collaborative projects that integrate two or all three of the mission plaits. Financial contributions to the Mission Chair program funds make this possible; we are grateful to the donors for their generosity. Stay tuned for updates on these projects as they are realized in the coming months!

Women’s Mental Health Toolkit for the 21st Century
Susan Hawthorne (Philosophy), Lisa Kiesel (Social Work), Heide Malat (Counseling Center), Michael Peterson (Counseling and Student Development, MPLS), Laurel Bidwell (Social Work), Anne Williams-Wengerd (Psychology) Lynda Szymanski (Psychology), Amy Ihlan (MAOL), Geri Chavis (English), Lindsay Whipple (Student Affairs), Kim Dinsey-Read (Nursing)

The overall purpose of the “Toolkit” project is to bring increased awareness of issues surrounding mental health and illness to campus. Our top priority is to address the fact that many do not prioritize their own mental health, or that of friends, students, or colleagues. Our events will offer reasons and tools to do so. We also want to address roadblocks to success for our community members who have mental health issues; these roadblocks include stigmatization, lack of acceptance, the high prevalence of mental illness in young women, and lack access to or knowledge of care resources. Finally, we want to draw attention to wider social justice issues around mental illness—such as imprisonment, homelessness, and neglect— in which students, faculty, and staff could become involved.

CFA Online Orientation: St. Catherine University Mission Video Module
Cynthia Conley (CACL), Amy Fitzgerald (Academic Advising), Anne Weyandt (Academic Affairs), Kathy Mills (Academic Affairs)

The College for Adults will produce a high quality 3-5 minute video for all new CFA students that will be embedded in a required online orientation, placed on the CFA page within the University website, and potentially used in other marketing and educational venues as appropriate. Our purpose is to connect all new CFA students with St. Kate's mission. This is particularly important for our adult learners who have reduced time on campus and therefore have fewer opportunities to be exposed to the multiple ways the mission is expressed through campus activities.

Troops to Teachers - and Other Careers
David Stricker (Education), Jennifer Seales (Admissions)

This funding will finance travel to at least four local campuses where we can connect with veteran-specific staff/faculty/advisors and articulate how a number of St. Kate’s programs, including – but not limited to teacher education – are already poised to empower a veteran-specific population. In addition, insights will be gathered regarding what St. Kate’s needs in terms of marketing efforts, campus resources, veteran specific connections in the area, and examples of institutions that have been successful at recruiting and retaining female veteran students. Through this work, we will develop an informed and rich perspective regarding higher education best practice service to a female veteran population and determine the viability of establishing St. Kate’s as a veteran friendly campus.

June Report from Allison Adrian, Endowed Chair in Women's Education

Women's Art Institute participants, undated (Image Source: Patricia Olson) 

Women's Art Institute participants, undated (Image Source: Patricia Olson) 

The Otte Initiative in Women’s Education is excited to announce three separate Women-Centered Learning Communities [WLCs] for the 2017-2018 year. Small cohorts of six to eight staff and/or faculty will have the opportunity to focus on one of three themes for the 2017-2018 academic year: women-centered scholarship, women-centered projects, and women-centered pedagogy. This year Patricia Olson, Associate Professor of Art and Art History and Director of the Women's Art Institute, will facilitate the first six meetings of the cohorts using methods honed from her experience teaching the Women's Art Institute for the past eighteen years. WLCs will be exploratory, creative, and instrumental in enhancing how we activate knowledge and practices grounded in our women's mission.

Women-Centered Learning Communities, 2017-2018

 Women’s colleges as a whole have been powerful catalysts for positive change among women for more than 150 years.  -Eldred and Sebrechts 2002

Looking at Art: Laurie Phillips, Catherine Kennedy, Kyrin Hobson, Women’s Art Institute 2006, Patricia Olson, 2006, oil on ragboard, 14⅛ x 8 inches (Image Source: Patricia Olson) 

Looking at Art: Laurie Phillips, Catherine Kennedy, Kyrin Hobson,
Women’s Art Institute 2006, Patricia Olson, 2006, oil on ragboard, 14⅛ x 8 inches (Image Source: Patricia Olson) 

Applications for WLCs are due Friday, July 21st. Participants will be notified by Friday, August 4th.

Please submit the short application form through this link.

If you have questions, contact Allison Adrian ( or Charlie Zieke (

Purpose & Design

Participation in WLCs will foster creativity and innovation that strengthens mission-centered work at St. Kate’s. WLCs will be instrumental in activating knowledge and practices grounded in our women’s mission. Each participant will receive $300 at the end of the academic year for active participation in their cohort.

WLC membership and composition guidelines are:

  • All faculty and staff (women, men, and gender non-conforming people) from all Colleges are eligible and encouraged to become members of WLCs.
  • Colleagues from within departments and offices are encouraged to apply together.
  • In addition, some interdisciplinary/cross-campus exchange is desired to enhance interaction, especially between professional studies and liberal arts programs.

WLC Activities

  • WLCs will convene for the first six sessions of the experience in a large group format facilitated by Patricia Olson, and then once a month for ninety minutes from November through April, for a total of twelve meetings.
  • Each WLC is expected to share the results of its work with the larger university community. Each cohort will determine together what form this will take and whether it will take place at the end of the academic term or the beginning of the following academic year.
  • Participants will submit a short reflection of their work to the Center for Mission Blog. Articles in Colleagues, break-out sessions at TLN, or other opportunities to share the communities’ findings are also encouraged.
Looking at Art: Kristin Copham and Elizabeth Erickson, Women’s Art Institute 2004, Patricia Olson, 2005, oil on ragboard, 13¼ x 9 ¾ inches(Image Source: Patricia Olson) 

Looking at Art: Kristin Copham and Elizabeth Erickson, Women’s Art Institute 2004, Patricia Olson, 2005, oil on ragboard, 13¼ x 9 ¾ inches(Image Source: Patricia Olson) 


The first six sessions, facilitated by Patricia Olson, will be held in the Visual Arts Building 302 on the following dates:

  • Thursday, August 24th from 12:10-1:30pm.
  • Friday, September 8th, from 12:10-1:30pm.
  • Friday, September 15th, from 12:10-1:30pm.
  • Friday, September 22nd, from 12:10-1:30pm.
  • Friday, September 29th, from 12:10-1:30pm.
  • Friday, October 6th, from 12:10-1:30pm.

The following six sessions will meet on dates and locations agreed upon by each cohort.  The Visual Arts Building 302 has been reserved on the following dates should one cohort wish to retain this space and time.

  • Friday, November 3rd, from 10:30-12:00pm.
  • Friday, December 1st, from 10:30-12:00pm.
  • Friday, January 5th, from 10:30-12:00pm.
  • Friday, February 2nd, from 10:30-12:00pm.
  • Friday, March 2nd, from 10:30-12:00pm.
  • Friday, April 6th, from 10:30-12:00pm.

WLC Topics

I. Women-Centered Scholarship

Our institution was founded to provide access to an excellent academic experience for students marginalized from higher education. Our mission calls us to engage in scholarship with hope and desire for a more inclusive world, especially as it pertains to the knowledge, expertise, and experiences of women and gender non-conforming people.

This WLC will foster a productive support system for scholars looking to invest in scholarship that intersects with our women’s mission. Such a designation can refer to the content (what it is you study), purpose (why you study it) and approach (how you study it) – or a combination of the latter - to a particular topic. We are particularly interested in cultivating collaborative and/or community-engaged scholarship*. During the first six 90-minute meetings facilitated by Patricia Olson, participants will develop and distill questions about their scholarly ideas that are investigated throughout the year, and ultimately applied to scholarship.  

*“…an intellectually and methodologically rigorous endeavor that is responsive to public audiences and public peer review. It is scholarly work that advances one or more academic disciplines by emphasizing co-production of knowledge with community stakeholders.” -as defined by Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis

II. Women-Centered Projects

Women's Art Institute 2007 (Image Source: Patricia Olson)

Women's Art Institute 2007 (Image Source: Patricia Olson)

Our work at a women-centered institution relies on the expertise and support of mission-driven staff. Graduates from women’s colleges are more likely to be “completely satisfied” with their education than peers from co-ed liberal arts institutions or public landmark institutions. This greater overall satisfaction of our alumnae is derived not only from curricular components of the education, but also from co-curricular opportunities and support. Staff, from gardeners to financial aid and career counselors, work directly and indirectly with students to create an inclusive and transformational educational environment. During the first six 90-minute weekly meetings facilitated by Patricia Olson, participants will develop and distill questions about women-centered work that will be investigated throughout the year, and ultimately applied to projects at St. Kate’s. 

III. Women-Centered Pedagogy

The purpose of this WLC is to cultivate expertise in the area of women-centered or feminist* pedagogy. This includes investigation, analysis, synthesis and implementation of practices within and across disciplines into your pedagogical strategies at St. Kate’s. During the first six meetings facilitated by Patricia Olson, participants will develop and distill questions about their teaching practices that are investigated throughout the year, and ultimately applied to current curricula at St. Kate’s.

*pedagogy, research, and work is ‘feminist’ when “it is grounded in the set of theoretical traditions that privilege women’s issues, voices, and lived experiences” (Sandra Harding, 1987:3).

Statement on Women's Education

St. Catherine University Statement on Women’s Education

When women do well, the world does well. St. Catherine has educated women to lead and influence since its founding in 1905. We take women’s experiences and knowledge seriously. Seeking a world in which all people* have opportunities for authentic lives, we educate women and men to work together toward a socially responsible world free of sexism, racism, and other forms of injustice. Our learning environments are women-centered in purpose and approach. We include women's scholarship and expertise in course content and question the absence of women’s voices. We empower all students* to contribute to society and challenge barriers to opportunity, both overt and subtle. This enriches the lives not only of women, but of all humanity. 

*across age, racial and ethnic identity, economic circumstance, religious affiliation, gender identity, sexuality, and physical ability.

June Report from Amy K. Hamlin, Endowed Chair in the Liberal Arts

Dr. Gabrielle Civil leading her workshop "Experiments in Joy," March 20, 2017, in the Visual Arts Building. [Image Source: Amy K. Hamlin]

Dr. Gabrielle Civil leading her workshop "Experiments in Joy," March 20, 2017, in the Visual Arts Building. [Image Source: Amy K. Hamlin]

Dr. Gabrielle Civil's steps for "Experiments in Joy," March 20, 2017. Used with permission [Image Source: Amy K. Hamlin]

Dr. Gabrielle Civil's steps for "Experiments in Joy," March 20, 2017. Used with permission [Image Source: Amy K. Hamlin]

On March 10, we were pleased to host our former colleague Dr. Gabrielle Civil for a lecture and workshop called "Experiments in Joy: Recharging Our Culture." Both events aimed to mobilize the mission of St. Kate’s by following the lead of Civil's creative and pedagogical practice. She states: “The aim of my work is to open up space.” Through participatory exercises, deep reflection, and robust discussion, participants re-imagined their role at the University through the performative lens of Civil’s “experiments in joy.” She provided aspirational and practical suggestions for how we might animate office and classroom spaces around our tripartite mission: Catholic identity, women’s education, liberal arts. Using her background in creative writing and performance, Civil offered creative visioning strategies for both personal development and institutional transformation. Her remarks came from a deep understanding and appreciation of the mission at St. Kate’s as well as her experience in helping to build and lead a new program at Antioch College.