Isom Center’s ‘Sarah Talks’ lecture series returns today, continues through Women’s History Month

Posted on Mar 8 2017 - 8:01am by Briana Florez

A three-part lecture series engaging the Ole Miss community in conversations about gender and sexuality will continue today as part of Women’s History Month.

“Sarah Talks” was established by the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. This is the Isom Center’s version of TED talks, which inspired the name. Speakers feature scholars, Mississippi entrepreneurs, social justice advocates and locals who will discuss their innovative research projects.

The series kicked off March 1 with Joester Brassell of Mama Jo’s Country Cookin’, Carla Rego of Lusa Bakery and Cafe and Dixie Grimes of Dixie Belle Cafe. The theme of the talk was “Women Creating Community Through Food: Intersectionality and Entrepreneurship.”

Today, local women who participated in the Women’s March on Washington will discuss their experiences from the march. These women are Jennifer Mizenko, Laura Antonow, Ellis Starkey, Cristen Hemmins, Merrill Nordstrom, Valentine Payne and Afton Thomas.

Mizenko said participating in the Women’s March was a life-changing experience.

“Imagine what it must be like to stand literally shoulder-to-shoulder with over a million people in unity,” Mizenko said. “Too often living in Mississippi I have felt completely isolated from progressive and liberal thinking. Being at the Women’s March made me realize I am not alone, and, in fact, I am part of an international community numbering in the millions.”

Ellis Starkey said she views the talk about the Women’s March as a way to spur conversation and provide an opportunity for reflection.

“We see this as a way to generate a conversation about the march, provide a space for reflection and use the moment as a way to figure out how to continue the momentum of the movement, specifically how people can stay active on the local and community level,” Ellis Starkey said.

Theresa Starkey, associate director of the Isom Center, said the center’s staff and student workers collaborated to decide who would give each talk.

“The decision to choose speakers is a collaborative effort that involves the Sarah Isom Center staff and our student workers,” Theresa Starkey said. “The center actively encourages our gender study students and minors to share their ideas with us, along with our Isom Center affiliates.”

On March 22, biology professor Lainy Day, psychology professor Kate Kellum, English professor Jaime Harker and graduate student Yash Bhambini will host a discussion about a cross-disciplinary program. The program is studying how different teaching orientations and knowledge of gender and sexuality can impact undergraduate students’ tolerance toward certain groups and how those attitudes transform over time.

Kellum said she hopes the talks will help decrease possible risks the LGBTQ community might face.

“LGBTQ populations are at a significantly higher risk for experiencing hate crimes, psychological distress, sexual abuse and committing suicide than the general population,” Kellum said. “We hope that this and other work can contribute in some way to reducing this additional risk.”

Sarah Talks will continue to occur every academic year, with at least two a semester. Theresa Starkey said the Isom Center hopes that by recording the talks and turning them into podcasts these talks can be made available as an online resource for anyone to access.

“These talks are a great way for students, faculty and the larger Oxford community to hear about interesting research projects and to learn what Mississippians are doing to make their state better through grassroots projects in the arts, economics and education,” Theresa Starkey said.