I actually figured out what I wanted to say last week, then this weekend I received a package of material from Virginia Coiner Classick about her sister Constance and her niece Ana. When I finished reading through the material Saturday morning I was left completely speechless in terms of how to articulate my gratitude for this award. Constance Coiner led an amazing life. Just reading the words, I realized that she was an amazing person, teacher, scholar, mother, and I was left feeling deeply, deeply honored, humbled, and certainly inspired by the thought of even being considered for this award. So, thank you so much. I also want to say some of the things I did plan on saying before I became totally speechless after reading all that. Graduate students write lots of applications all of the time, but writing this one was perhaps the easiest I’ve ever done because it was so incredibly honest—not that we’re dishonest in others—but your courage to talk about certain things can falter or you don’t know what you’re supposed to be talking about. With this one, I didn’t hesitate; I just started writing. The reason it was so easy is because the undeniable connection between teaching, activism, and scholarship is so obvious in my mind, and to write an application where you can actually express that without hesitation was so refreshing for me.
I think probably the most political thing we can do as academics is to design a syllabus because you’re deciding what students will read and what they won’t read. Now that I’ve had the good fortune as a graduate student to be able to design my own seminar, I recognize how political that moment is and I love it! The ability to do that is a large reason why I’m here. Through that seminar I watched my students engage with very difficult material for first-year students: critical race theory, feminist theory, critiques of capitalism, reproductive rights—that was a really tricky one for the first years—the education system in America, and the media. I watched as they changed their worldviews after encountering this material. I’ll just end by saying, and I’m sure everyone here already knows this, but it never hurts to remember just how bright, enthusiastic, and compassionate our students are. I think sometimes we don’t give them enough credit. If you can expose them to certain types of material, their compassion forces them to change the way they see the world. Some of them are never the same after they take that first class. I just hope that everyone remembers that—for those of you who have been teaching for a very long time, I’m sure its easy to forget, but I am reminded, especially teaching first-year students, just how compassionate and enthusiastic they really are. So, with that, I would like to thank the Center for the Study of Women, Virginia Classick and everyone else who is involved in making this award possible. I think this is a really important award—and I’m not just saying that because I received it. The mere existence of this scholarship works to encourage students who still believe in the undeniable connection between scholarship, teaching and activism to continue to work towards that end. For that, I thank you all.
—Liza Taylor, a Ph.D. student studying feminist political theory in the
Department of Political Science at UCLA and recipient of the Constance Coiner Graduate Fellowship in June of 2012
Note: Liza Taylor spoke at the CSW Awards Luncheon on June 5, 2012. For more information on the 2012 CSW Awards, read the CSW newsletter: http://www.csw.ucla.edu/publications/newsletters/2011-2012/article-pdfs/June20124.pdf