Kathleen Farrell, assistant professor of Social Sciences and Education, is new on the Colby-Sawyer block, but for many of her students, she's already made an impact that will last a lifetime. Professor Farrell is what one would call a feminist, a sociologist and an inclusive educator. Activism pumps through her veins, and while she teaches it flows into her lessons. Through her teaching one can see that she's serious about rooting for the underdog, Aynsley Doyle '13 interviews one of her favorite professors.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Southern New Hampshire, in Milford. My family moved up to Winslow, Maine when I was a junior in high school. So, I'm from New England.
Where did you go to college and graduate school?
My undergraduate institution was Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut more New England. I majored in sociology with a minor in women and society. And I did an honor's thesis there on trends and Americans' attitudes toward gays and lesbians, so that started my academic track on gay and lesbian identities. I took a year off and waited tables for a while on the coast of Maine. Then I went to graduate school at Syracuse University, where I earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in Women's Studies and a master's degree and Ph.D. in Sociology.
Can you explain your dissertation and how it ties in with your current work?
Well, a lot of people have done work on analyzing representations of gays and lesbians on TV, so they look at the TV shows and make arguments about how the ideologies. That had already been done so much that I took a different approach. I was really interested in the people who make those images, in the political economy of gay and lesbian representation.
So, I kind of looked backstage at the gay TV industry. I was really interested in interviewing the people who work backstage. What I found was that these people wore so-called double hats. They were business people but also overwhelmingly gay and lesbian themselves, and they see their role as transforming society and culture. They believe that the work they do is going to have a major impact on gay rights and acceptability of gay and lesbian people in American culture. And I support a lot of what they say but I do think they overestimate the impact of their work.
Is there a certain reason you've decided to study and write about this?
I got really interested because I believe the media has incredible power in terms of giving us ideas that we then are able to draw from and construct an idea of reality. And I was really interested in an activist position considering I come from a sociologist feminist background. Basically, I'm just interested in inequality. I'm passionate about alleviating inequality.
Are you working on any new projects?
My new project will involve interviewing rural gay and lesbian late adolescents. Probably over the age of 18. Probably young college students who grew up in rural New Hampshire as gay and lesbian teens. I want to understand that experience of growing up in a rural area without a thriving gay and lesbian area nearby.
What's something you would want college kids to know?
Study something you love. Find something you love and major in it. If you don't love it, you're not going to enjoy it.
Aynsley Doyle intends to focus on painting as a studio arts major in the Fine and Performing Arts Department. She's also a student writer in College Communications.