On Saturday, April 13, Heather Utt was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in Women’s and Gender Studies during the annual WGST Honors and Awards Ceremony. Here is what she had to say of her time at WVU and the Center:
The way I was brought up, it was never really a question of whether or not I would go to college. I always enjoyed school, and I was lucky enough to be pretty good at it, as well. So, when senior year of high school came around, I sent in my application to West Virginia University.
Like for many others that I grew up with in this town, it was the one of the best and easiest options. And, like many of the people I’ve met since, I didn’t really know Women’s and Gender Studies was even an option, here or anywhere. Even so, I came across the intro to Women’s and Gender Studies course at my very first advising appointment at student orientation. The woman advising me said it was an easy course, not to mention that it sounded pretty interesting, so I signed up. I am so thankful I did, too.
For the first time I was getting answers to questions I hadn’t even realized I was asking. In that classroom I got my first opportunity to watch the film Iron Jawed Angels, a cinematic adaptation of the history of suffrage in our country. To this day that film holds a spot among my top favorite movie moments. More than that, it was because of that course that I decided to pursue a double major.
Since then, I have learned more about myself and the world I live in than I ever imagined I could in a classroom. Every day I get to challenge myself. It was when I took feminist theory in my third year, however, that it really started to sink in that I was laying a foundation that I could build on for the rest of my life. It was in that classroom that I formed, and rekindled, some friendships that hold a very special place in my heart.
It was in that classroom that I met Brian Jara, who has since turned out to be not just a professor, but someone I consider a friend and mentor. I’ve gotten the chance to be a part of some amazing events with Gender Equality Movement and Triota. I’ve seen the power and inspiration that comes from speak-outs at the annual Take Back the Night rally, as well as the strength that motivates performers at the Vagina Monologues. I got the opportunity to see the impact the documentary Miss Representation can have on the young women that will follow after us in the years to come. Each day I see more and more people come to our program, or attend one of the events, and I am reminded of why I am so thankful to be a part of this department. Every day I get to take what I learn in the classroom and apply it to the way I live my life.
When I look back on my college experience, I might not be able to say I did things a typical 20-something does, but I got to feel like I was making a difference in the world. Because of the faculty and other students in those classrooms, I have truly loved the last four years of my education, and I don’t think I would trade any part of it. Those are the people I have to thank for this. You all provided me with an environment and a curriculum in which I could thrive, excel, and be inspired. So thank you, all of you, for the last four years.