January 8, 2015 (Jupiter, FL)–– At the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, it is tradition that every academic year senior students in the Women’s Studies program attend the National Women’s Studies Association Conference (NWSA), under the leadership of associate professor Dr. Wairimu Njambi. This year, senior Mumbi Ngũgĩ accepted an invitation from alumnae Hina Shaikh and Lauren Martin to attend the 2014 NWSA conference titled “Feminist Transgressions,” and to chair a panel titled Navigating Racialized Bodies and Identities: Deconstructing Power and Resistance for Social Justice in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ngũgĩ’s panel, one of the very first panels of the conference, featured four graduate students¬¬— Shaikh, Martin and Zoe Lewycky, all of whom are Honors College alumni, and Roselyn Almonte. As the chair, Ngũgĩ’s main functions and responsibilities were to facilitate the flow and discussion. “I introduced the panelists and their papers, kept time (each had about 20 minutes to present their papers), and led the question and answer session at the conclusion of it,” she explains.
As a United States Territory, Puerto Rico is not much different from the rest of the United States, according to Ngũgĩ—people spoke English and American stores were everywhere she went. Nevertheless, she confesses that being in another place “alone” can be challenging. “Thankfully I had Shaikh and Martin to help me when I needed it,” she says. For Ngũgĩ, their support was comforting, and being able to see and interact with some of her old peers in an environment like that was a very unique experience. “I also had the opportunity to run into many other Honors College alumni such as Andy Lopez, Renata Bozzetto, Amanda Kennedy, Britni Hiatt, and Arely Lozano-Baugh,” she states. Even though she did not study with Lopez, Bozzetto and Kennedy, Ngũgĩ added that they have always been “legendary” in the Women’s Studies program, and it was a pleasure to meet them. “Lopez’s thesis, which I believe won outstanding thesis his graduation year, was the first student thesis I ever read. These people have been my role models, and to meet them and interact with them as ‘equals’ in this environment was amazing,” she explains. Ngũgĩ is very thankful to Dr. Njambi, her advisor, mentor, and professor, as none of these achievements would have been possible without her. “She taught us all, and we were all there in our own right. I think that really speaks to her leadership as a professor,” she notes.
Introduction to Women’s Studies was one of the first classes Ngũgĩ took at the Honors College. She confesses that it taught her to think critically, make connections across disciplines, and introduced her into the world of academe—a world she aspires to play a major role in some day. “This conference, along with previous conferences I’ve participated in, such as the 40th Annual African Literature Association’s conference in Johannesburg, South Africa at the University of Witwatersrand last April 2014, and the 38th annual New York African Studies Association conference in April 2013 at Binghamton University, are great ways to learn about academe and learn about scholars I have read about in classes and admire,” Ngũgĩ claims. At the NWSA Annual Conference, three of the most famous and significant feminist theorists attended and spoke on panels together: bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Chandra Mohanty. bell hooks, Gloria Jean Watkins’ pen name (purposefully in lower case), gave the plenary address. Ngũgĩ remembers reading hook’s book Feminism is for everybody, which was one of the first theoretical texts she read in her Intro to Women’s Studies course her freshman year. “With no doubt I would recommend this conference not only to Women’s Studies majors, but to any student interested in academe,” she states.
The Honors College is very proud of all of Ngũgĩ’s accomplishments throughout her four years of undergraduate studies—she is a perfect example of the strong-minded students that help make up the Honors College’s community, and it wishes her the best in her future endeavors.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.