Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community: The start of every new semester brings with it excitement and anticipation. This year, those emotions are heightened and for some include anxiety associated with a return to campus life during the COVID…
LGBT Studies Welcomes New Director
Syracuse University is taking another step toward the development of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) studies major, with Professor Margaret Himley’s return to the full-time faculty.
Himley, the University’s associate provost for international education and engagement for the past six years, is the newest director of LGBT Studies—an interdisciplinary program she co-founded in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) in 2006.
A&S Dean Karin Ruhlandt is excited to work with Himley in the latter’s new capacity, praising her “positive and visionary” leadership style. “Margaret’s commitment to opportunity, access and academic excellence benefits students of all stripes,” she says. “Her appointment signals a new era in LGBT education and equality in the college, while affirming the importance of diversity and inclusion to the University experience.”
Starting this fall, Himley will supervise the LGBT studies minor and teach queer studies courses. She also will spearhead a campuswide effort to create an LGBT studies major—an idea that caught fire in 2016, on the heels of a report by the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion.
“They recommended we create an LGBT studies major, hire additional faculty and allocate more funding for LGBT studies, in general,” says Himley, also professor of writing studies in A&S and a Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence. “The recommendation raises lots of possibilities and questions, particularly about what such a major would look like, what kinds of academic experiences it should offer and what new faculty lines need to be created.”
Himley says she looks forward to working on the recommendation with Chancellor Kent Syverud, Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly and Dean Ruhlandt. “The feeling is mutual,” smiles Ruhlandt, also Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. “Margaret Himley is one of the college’s best faculty ambassadors.”
A new academic degree program is not the only thing on Himley’s to-do list. She also plans to lay the groundwork for a new Center for Critical Sexuality Studies—a “gathering place for faculty and students to support research, teaching and activism”—and to review and revise the popular LGBT studies minor, in hopes of making it more interdisciplinary, intersectional and international.
“I will be gathering information—working with faculty, talking with students, mapping the campus and identifying similar programs at other universities that could serve as models or cautionary tales,” Himley says. “Our goal is to make LGBT studies integral to Syracuse’s curriculum and undergraduate experience. It should be part of our campus culture.”
A proponent of progressive education, Himley combines a passion for innovative pedagogy with a scholarly interest in teaching and learning, as well as writing and rhetoric. She is equally bound to modern notions of social transformation. Teaching, research and activism, Himley opines, should coexist in and out of the classroom.
“LGBT studies is welcoming to all students,” she concludes. “Our program is not just about marginalized sexualities and genders; it produces critical knowledge that has wide-ranging implications and possibilities for culture and society at large. It is an exciting and relevant—and rapidly growing—field of scholarship.”