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Grad Student Develops New Courses for Gender and Sexuality Studies

February 25, 2021

Addie ShrodesSchool of Education and Social Policy graduate student Addie Shrodes will be teaching two courses she designed for Northwestern University’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) program: Everyday Resistance and Reimagination and Queer & Trans Technology, Play, and Protest.

The interdisciplinary courses, offered in the Spring and Summer terms by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, look at how everyday actions and digital technologies have the potential to reproduce injustice and create social change.

In the Spring course, Everyday Resistance and Reimagination (GNDR_ST 390), students will learn tools from feminist, queer, queer-of-color, and trans studies to examine everyday practices as potentially transformative of systems and structures.

“We will explore agency in day-to-day spaces such as schools, social movements, and the dance floor through scholarly and creative sources centering BIPOC, trans, and queer makers,” Shrodes wrote in the course description.

In the Summer course on Queer & Trans Technology, Play, and Protest (GNDR_ST 374), students will explore how social media, gaming, and virtual reality reproduce oppressive ideologies around race, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability. They’ll also examine the flip side: How cutting-edge technologies facilitate forms of queer and trans play that disrupt oppression.

“I designed the courses to help students acquire tools and develop skills to critically and imaginatively engage with cultural representations, technologies, and our everyday lives  as sites of both oppression and agency or freedom,” Shrodes said. “I also want to consider how analytic tools in Gender and Sexuality Studies might generatively expand our understanding of learning and change.”

Shrodes, a PhD candidate in learning sciences, studies learning, language, and literacy with digital media, focusing on the critical digital literacies in LGBTQ+ youth digital culture.

She is the first SESP doctoral student to pursue a graduate certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the first to serve as a graduate assistant in the GSS program. As part of the Gender and Sexuality Studies teaching assistantship, she designs and teaches one course in the academic year and has the option to design and teach one summer course.

“From the get-go, Addie struck me as an intelligent, articulate, and engaged person," said Paola Zamperini, director of graduate studies for Gender and Sexuality Studies. “But it was her profound commitment and dedication to making the theoretical work we do in gender and sexuality studies matter to pedagogy, and vice versa, that made me realize how truly stellar Addie is.”

As a teaching assistant for Zamperini’s course “Traditions of Feminist Thought”, Shrodes brought her “excellence in scholarship and teaching to a whole new level, and the entire course improved as a result,” Zamperini said. “I count myself lucky to be able to have the chance to continue to engage with Addie about matters big and small for years to come.”

While it’s unusual for graduate students in SESP to propose and teach courses, alumna Mollie McQuillan (PhD19) worked with SESP Dean David Figlio and Professor Jeannette Colyvas in 2018 to develop an approval process to allow it to occur in some cases. McQuillan developed her course, “Gender Identity Development, Minority Stress, and Policy: An Interdisciplinary Perspective,” after undergraduates requested more classes addressing issues related to trans and gender-expansive identities. 

Shrodes visited McQuillan’s class as a guest speaker and led the students in an engaging conversation about gender in out-of-school spaces and resistance, said McQuillan, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Shrodes’ new course “is a wonderful example of using interdisciplinary approaches to examine educational phenomena,” McQuillan said.

"I also appreciate that Addie is drawing from other scholars trained at Northwestern, such as Whitney Pow, (assistant professor of queer and transgender media studies at New York University), which speaks to the intellectual contributions of former and existing Northwestern academics.” 

Shrodes attended community college in Southeast Michigan before earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her master’s in English literature and urban humanities from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her interest in literacy and learning in LGBTQ+ digital culture was sparked her own experience in social media spaces, as well by her wide-ranging professional background, which includes designing digital movement building campaigns for national non-profits, aiding a regional government agency strive to create youth pathways to public planning decisions, and helping an NPR program find new ways to tell stories about the environment.

In 2020, Shrodes won the Best Paper Award from the Literacy Research Association’s Area 10, Literacy Technology & Media. In 2019, Shrodes won the Outstanding Graduate Student Paper award from Writing & Literacies Special Interest Group at the American Educational Research Association. From 2018-2020, she served as the president of the Queer Pride Graduate Student Association and a board member for the Multicultural Student Affairs LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Shrodes is the Graduate Student Committee co-chair for the Queer Studies Special Interest Group of American Educational Research Association. Her work has been published in Reading Research Quarterly and featured on the International Literacy Association blog Literacy Now.