G.E.A.R. Awards Recognizes College of the Arts Faculty and Student

The Kent State University Women’s Center kicked off the first annual G.E.A.R. Awards this semester. The G.E.A.R. Awards stands for Gender, Equity, Advocacy and Representation. In the College of the Arts, Caitlin Kane, Ph.D., Linda Hoeptner-Poling, Ph.D. and Sohaela Rojas, a fashion merchandising student, were nominated for the award. The program aims to recognize individuals who help “turn the gears” for a more equitable future. Nominees are praised for their efforts in providing opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, in various aspects of society such as social, political and economic spheres. The College of the Arts is proud of the nominees’ accomplishments on and off campus.

Caitlin Kane, Ph.D(she/they) is an assistant professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, teaching a variety of courses, including History of Theatre and Drama sequence, Theatre and Social Change, LGBTQ+ Theatre and Introduction to Dramaturgy. They received a Ph.D. in Performing and Media Arts with graduate minors in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Directing from Cornell University. Dr. Kane is committed to building gender parity, racial equity and accessibility into all their courses. This commitment pertains to both the content they teach and the policies they develop, often because of a conversation with students. “I am particularly proud of the changes that Dr. Yuko Kurahashi and I have been making to diversify the History of Theatre and Drama curricula and clarify its relevance to student artists,” said Dr. Kane. “I am also working with Professor Courtney Brown to bring consent-based practices, grounded in our work and training as intimacy directors, into all of the School of Theatre and Dance classes and productions. As part of this work, I often serve as an intimacy director or intimacy consultant on mainstage and student productions and am mentoring several students who are interested in pursuing careers in the field of intimacy direction and coordination.”

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Kane’s advocacy for gender equity can be seen in their work as the chair for AAUP-KSU's LGBTQIA+ faculty advocacy committee: Committee Q. In that role, they work with faculty and staff across campus to strengthen the policies and procedures in place to support and protect trans, gender non-conforming and nonbinary faculty, staff and students. Committee Q is working to address the challenges associated with changing one's name and pronouns in KSU's online systems and advocating for the establishment of more gender-neutral bathrooms. They are also collaborating with other groups on campus, including Spectrum, to create spaces for connection and community building amongst LGBTQIA+ faculty.

Dr. Kane is currently co-editing an anthology, entitled “Dramaturgy and History: Staging the Archive” with Dr. Erin Stoneking (University of Alabama), which will come out next fall. They are dramaturging two new works, Leigh Fondakowski's “Casa Cushman” and Al Evangelista's “places i can't dance.” This summer, Dr. Kane will be continuing work on their first solo-authored book, “Queer Archival Performance and/as Collective Knowledge Creation” with the support of a University Research Council Summer Research/Creative Activity Appointment.

Linda Hoeptner-Poling, Ph.D. (she/her), an associate professor of art education at the School of Art, holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, an M.A. in Art Education and a B.A. Art Education from Kent State University, along with a graduate certificate in Gerontology.

“Creating equitable spaces for all at Kent State takes a strong commitment to service; working together to assure there is gender equity takes community, creativity, collaboration, and persistence in that service,” said Dr. Hoeptner-Poling. “Having my efforts recognized is so affirming, as service and scholarship dedicated to creating gender equity and feminist activism can be met with resistance.”

Related to gender, Dr. Hoeptner-Poling has written on feminism(s), feminist pedagogy and feminist activism in art education. Her other writings pertain to (m)otherhood as it intersects with academic identity and inclusive and gender-fair K-12+ art curriculum. Through SRVSS Dr. Hoeptner-Poling has created “More Than Words,” community-based art education, in which survivors of sexual assault and power-based personal violence and their allies come together to create art to promote wellbeing. “More Than Words” meets periodically over the semester. Dr. Hoeptner-Poling co-led a virtual event with Hyunji Kwon of the University of South Carolina, gathering a panel of feminist artists, activists and scholars. These panelists shared how they speak truth to power through the arts in disrupting and stopping sexual assault and power-based personal violence through the arts.

Dr. Hoeptner-Poling has served on various committees with individuals who aim to dismantle gender oppression. She serves on the Board of the National Art Education Association Coalition for Feminism(s) in Art Education, an organization working to transform art teaching and pedagogy at all levels. Additionally, Dr. Hoeptner-Poling co-edited the anthology “NAEA Women's Caucus Lobby Activism: Feminism(s) + Art Education” (2021) with like-minded intersectional feminists in her field. This work provides critical feminist understandings of issues of diversity in various K-16+ educational spaces.

Dr. Hoeptner-Poling is currently working on a book that speaks to the history of the National Art Education Association's (NAEA) Women's Caucus (renamed Coalition for Feminism(s) in Art Education). With co-author, Karen Keifer-Body from Penn State, this work will amplify the histories of trailblazing feminist art education research, leadership and policy activism with regards to language, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Dr. Hoeptner-Poling describes the writting, “From archival research, the book will draw attention to the activism of the NAEA Women’s Caucus contextualized within tenets of critical race feminism, which calls for organizational accountability from critical examination of hegemonic structures and practices that privilege white patriarchal colonialism and serves as a structure to deconstruct, interrogate, disrupt and reimagine inequities that exist in art education and all of education.”

Sohaela Rojas (she/her), junior undergraduate fashion merchandising major with a minor in business, serves as vice president of Kent State Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (KSURGE), this organization works to eliminate the stigma of gender and reproductive justice through educational events and the creation of safe spaces.

“Being nominated for a G.E.A.R. Award is an honor,” said Rojas, “It makes me extremely proud of the work I have done and the impact that it has had on others! I carry my belief in equity and justice with me always and I translate that belief into many areas of my life.”

Rojas is working with KSURGE on several projects this year. One recent event is a candlelight vigil in honor of Nex Benedict and all transgender and non-binary individuals who have been victims of hate and violence. KSURGE is also partnering with Kent State of Well-Being on an initiative to make condoms widely available on Kent State’s campus. Recently, the student organization launched a service to provide anyone with emergency contraceptives, safely and discreetly. Outside of KSURGE, Rojas traveled to Washington D.C. on March 26 for a Planned Parenthood-organized protest of the Supreme Court ruling to ban Mifepristone, a safe medication used in medical abortions.

“They [G.E.A.R. nominees] are all amazing people. Knowing that there are others who are as passionate about these issues as I am and that they are working towards creating a more equitable environment gives me the strength to continue doing the work that I do,” Rojas said.  

About the Women's Center

Established in 1996, the Kent State University Women’s Center is here to support you as a student, faculty or staff member through advocacy and education about women, gender, and diversity. Through the promotion of dialogue and engagement with campus and community partners, we value diversity, foster inclusion and pursue equity of access, opportunity and experience for all.

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POSTED: Monday, April 1, 2024 12:25 PM
Updated: Monday, April 1, 2024 12:59 PM