My name is Catherine Scallen, and I interned with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium the summer of 2010, right before my senior year in college. Meghan asked me to speak a little bit about what I’ve been up to since graduating college, and how my feminist beliefs have played out in that, so here I am!
I graduated from Notre Dame in 2011 with a degree in American Studies and a minor in Spanish. While I don’t have Gender Studies on my degree, the American Studies major is the greatest thing since sliced bread (seriously—check out this link to understand why I’m so obsessed with my major), and I kept a heavy focus on Gender Studies classes throughout my undergrad experience.
This culminated in my honors senior thesis—which I ADORED. I know everybody talks about how horrible writing a thesis is, and yes, there were definitely long sleepless nights and mental breakdowns alone in the library, but you can ask any of my friends—I’m completely obsessed with my thesis. Its official title is Bitch: Contemporary Feminism in American Consumer Culture, but I prefer to affectionately refer to it as The Bitch. You can find that little guy here. Good times.
After graduation, I packed up my bags and moved to New York City to dedicate myself to a year of post-graduate service with the program Good Shepherd Volunteers. I specifically chose GSV for two main reasons. First, if we’re being completely honest, they’re based in NYC, and I have always wanted to live there. Second, and a more legitimate reason,they explicitly state in their mission an emphasis on serving women and children, which was something I did not find in the vast majority of other post-grad service programs I researched. While there, I worked full time as the Inventory Assistant at HandCrafting Justice, a small fair trade non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of women and children around the world through the sale of high quality handcrafted goods.
I’m obviously biased, but I’d encourage anyone and everyone to look into a year or two of post-grad service. I learned so much more in that one year after graduation than I ever did in undergrad. A full-immersion service experience allowed me to engage with and begin to work through some serious hard truths about my previously highly idealistic views of social justice and advocacy work. Check out their websites to learn more.
In fact, I felt so strongly about the importance of post-grad service programs that I signed on to be a recruiter with Catholic Volunteer Network after I finished my year with Good Shepherd Volunteers. As a recruiter, I spent this past fall traveling across the US by plane, train, and automobile, visiting over 50 schools and talking with students about what exactly post-grad service is, and all the different options that exist within that realm.
Since graduation, I have always felt drawn to organizations that are mission-driven, which I think aligns nicely with my feminist views and principles. It has been my experience that in working within these types of organizations, the people you work with and the conversations that ensue are almost always engaging and provocative, challenging myself and those I work with to think deeper and more thoughtfully about the intersections of politics, faith, feminism, and American identity. To me, being a feminist is all about engaging in those sorts of conversations and questions, in recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of our world, and in keeping a lively and curiosity-filled outlook on life. With this mentality, I have both challenged and strengthened my worldview since my time at the Minnesota Women’s Consortium.