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Women's Studies at Aquinas College

Resourceful Women Conference

Announcing Resourceful Women Conference 2020 Virtual Keynote and Herbruck Prize Winners

The Resourceful Women Conference is a biennial, interdisciplinary conference featuring undergraduate student presentations on women, gender, and identity. It is an opportunity for undergraduates to work with faculty mentors to showcase their work from all disciplines – literary analyses, research projects, scientific studies, art, music, poetry, theatre, dance – addressing issues related to women, gender, or identity. 

A Brief History of the Resourceful Women Conference

By: Bethany Kilcrease, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at Aquinas College
The first Resourceful Women Conference (RWC) was held in honor of Women’s History Month on March 22, 1997.  The first organizers of the annual (now biennial) conference hoped to provide a venue for students to present undergraduate research and creative writing in an academically-rigorous but also collegial environment – an atmosphere designed to help students develop as “critical thinkers, effective communicators, and advocates for gender equality.”*  Moreover, due to the generosity of writer Diane Herbruck (pseudonym Emma Bonta), a prize of up to $500 is available for the most outstanding student papers of the conference. 

Given the multidisciplinary nature of women’s studies, the RWC brings together faculty, staff, and students from across disciplines to participate in a day-long discussion of women, gender, sexuality, and related topics.  Because each student presenter is paired with a faculty mentor, the RWC provides an opportunity for students and faculty to work together in an academic setting outside the classroom.  In addition, the conference also enables networking among members of the Aquinas College community and the students and faculty of other local institutions and colleges.  Over the years, undergraduate students from Calvin College, Davenport University, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Michigan State University, Muskegon Community College, Oakland University, and the University of Pittsburgh have submitted and presented papers.  Not only are students from other colleges invited to submit papers for presentation, but keynote speakers are frequently women from outside the immediate Aquinas community. Notable keynote speakers have included:
  • Aquinas Adjunct Asst. Professor of History Terri Trupiano Barry (1997)
  • Author Sue William Silverman (1999)
  • Dr. Alexa Canady, the first female African-American neurosurgeon (2001)
  • Journalist, activist, and Vice-Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke (2002)
  • Columbia University Professor of Anthropology Dr. Lila Abu-Lughod (2006)
  • Grand Rapids Community Activist Mary Alice Williams (2010)
  • AQ alumna Kelly Dittmar '05, a Research Professor at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (2012)
  • West Michigan Businesswomen Panel from GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women) (2014)
  • Kent County 63rd District Court Chief Judge Sara J. Smolenski (2016)
  • Dr. Diana Bitner, Ob/Gyn, Michigan State University Assistant Professor, and author of I Want to Age Like That (2018)

The Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center Strategic Plan for 2005-7 aimed to develop the RWC into an event “widely recognized as an important forum on gender and women’s issues... participated in by undergraduates throughout Michigan.”**  Given heavy faculty participation and consistently high-quality keynote speakers and student entries, the Women’s Studies Center has succeeded in positioning the RWC as one of the most important opportunities for undergraduates to present original work at Aquinas College. 
* “Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center Strategic Plan 2005-2007,” p. 3.
** Ibid.