College of Arts & Sciences

The UNCW Gender Studies and Research Center:   
A Resource for All 

FEBRUARY 06, 2023

The UNCW Gender Studies and Research Center, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, supports gender equality through research support, workshops and lectures, and offers an interdisciplinary minor and post-baccalaureate certificate. A diverse community of students, scholars and advocates committed to promoting social justice and equity for minoritized gender identities, they are led by the values of advocacy and equity; well-being and health; research and education; and community and collaboration. 

Dana Stachowiak, associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the Watson College of Education Department of Educational Leadership, has directed the center since 2019. Formerly known as the Women’s Studies and Resource Center, it was renamed the Gender Studies and Research Center in January 2020. 

One of Stachowiak’s first initiatives as director was establishing the “Front Porch Forum on Gender Justice” series with the explicit purpose of getting out into the community and having discussions on the actual front porches of women and LGBTQIA-owned businesses to advance gender justice.  

They held two that fall, but then the Covid pandemic hit. “We successfully held four forums that first “covid semester” - all virtually, and many joined us via Zoom from their front porches. We now alternate between community front porches and UNCW campus front porches for these events,” they said. 

In addition to the name change, since Stachowiak has taken the helm, the center has made the post-bac certificate teachable, adding new course requirements to create an opportunity for students to be more competitive and marketable in the workforce. The curriculum for both the WGS minor and post-bac certificate has been modified to more closely align with WGS trends across the nation. 

The center’s physical space (Bear Hall, Room 211) has been redesigned to be more inclusive. An art gallery that houses student, faculty, and staff artwork related to gender studies is anchored by a special commissioned piece by transpainter Rae Senarighi. 

The GSRC collaborates with partners across the university, co-hosting events and offering financial, social and research support. 

The Transgender Joy Research Lab is new this semester and stems from research Stachowiak has been working on for the last year on locating transgender joy. They piloted it and presented the findings at a national conference last year and it is in the first round of engagement with participants for an IRB-approved study.  

Stachowiak approached Kate Nooner, chair of the UNCW Department of Psychology, for support on starting a research component, similar to the labs that psychology holds. After some discussion, it became clear there is a natural connection between the fields in this specific area and Nooner was able to offer physical space and academic support in her department. 

The lab brings together gender studies and psychology by way of mindfulness, embodiment and body mapping. In addition to body mapping and mindfulness/embodiment activities, participants will engage in interviews and focus groups and take a resiliency test to help define and locate trans joy. 

“Right now, the plan is for this study to span over the course of three years, and we hope that several additional collaborations and faculty and student research projects will come out of it,” said Stachowiak. “We also plan to present at conferences, hold capacity building workshops, and have an interactive exhibit on campus to showcase the participant body maps. We just applied for an in-house grant to help support this work as well, in which we collaborated with two other faculty members and a community partner.” 

Some of the center’s other initiatives include: 
You Belong Here Campaign: To help cultivate an environment where all students feel and know they belong, the GSRC started a campaign to bring awareness to the importance of security and support on campus and throughout Wilmington. Door placards, buttons and capacity-building workshops for faculty, staff and students were created and shared across academic departments and student affairs units.  

Transcend Collective Honor Society: The honor society encourages and supports community, collaboration, well-being and academic excellence for transgender, non-binary and gender expansive individuals at UNCW. It is the first of its kind in the United States. Students participate in campus and community events, host trans-inclusive events in collaboration with various campus centers and groups, as well as engage in mentoring with LGBTQIA+ professionals in the larger Wilmington community.  

GSRC Ambassadors: The ambassadors are a group of interdisciplinary and diverse student advocates pursuing a minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies who are committed to advancing social justice and equity for marginalized gender identities. The ambassadors work to promote the WGS minor on campus, organize and facilitate events centered around gender justice, and develop instructional tools for students and faculty to foster inclusive environments. These students organize events during Trans Awareness Month and Women's History Month.  

Research Fellowships: The fellowships support the research and scholarship of faculty, staff and students doing work related to gender studies. The monies can be used to offset research-related costs, such as books, articles, or films; conference registration and travel; or equipment. Fellows present their work at an annual research lunch and learn event.  

Triota Honor Society: Triota is a national college honor society which strives to maintain the feminist values central to Women's and Gender Studies and to encourage diversity, egalitarianism and supportive academic environments for all students.   

-C. Cropp and G. Guthrie