Posted on April 28, 2022
In 1952, Elizabeth Herndon and Diane Michel became the first full-time female students at Georgia Tech. Fast forward to 2022, and the class admitted in first year is 44% women – the highest percentage in the history of the Institute. Michelle Ramirez, an MA student in Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), developed her final project to explore the experiences of women on campus over the past 70 years.
The exhibition curated by Ramirez, “SDG 5, Gender equality: reimagining our future through art and technology», is exhibited until December 2022 in The Kendeda building for innovative sustainable design. Ramirez also designed an interactive oral history about women’s experiences at Georgia Tech, which she presented to visitors on April 13.
“I’m passionate about the intersection of storytelling, art, and feminism,” Ramirez said. “When I learned that 2022 marked the 70th anniversary of women’s participation at Georgia Tech, I wanted to design a master’s degree project that not only celebrates their remarkable achievements, but shows the reality of attending an institution at male predominance.”
With the support and guidance of his team of advisors – LMC Associate Professor Nassim Parvin, LMC Assistant Professors Anne Sullivan and Noura Howell, Serve-Learn-Support (SLS) Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist Rebecca A. Watts Hulland Director of the Women’s Resource Center Melanie De Maeyer – Ramirez invited trans women, non-binary people and cis women affiliated with Georgia Tech to submit digitized photographs, paintings, creative writings and research papers related to the theme “Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Visitors can see a selection of these works hanging from six banners on the second floor balustrade of the Kendeda building and three posters on the first floor of the building.
“The exhibit seeks to connect diverse research methods, artistic endeavours, and knowledge production that occur on the Georgia Tech campus today,” Ramirez said. “This is not a space to simply showcase women in tech, but to demonstrate how women and gender-nonconforming people in tech are reshaping research questions and pushing artistic boundaries, which can bring us closer to achieving this great goal.”
During her graduate studies, Ramirez worked as a graduate research assistant in SLS, a campus-wide initiative working with educators to integrate the UN SDGs and community partnerships into student learning.
“When Michelle shared that her final project would focus on gender equity, we started thinking about how she could combine her academic work with SLS. We are thrilled with the impressive exhibition she curated. “, said Watts Hull. “By engaging with a diverse group of students and faculty who submitted work, the exhibition shows how gender equity (SDG 5) can be linked to virtually every discipline and expressed in many creative ways.Thanks to the collaboration with the Kendeda building for innovative sustainable designthe exhibit also highlights equity in the built environment, advancing the Living Building’s goals of equity and beauty.
To further amplify the impact of the exhibition and reach a wider audience, a digital magazine including images of the banners and posters on display, research documents, as well as artist biographies and summaries of selected works is available at issuu.com/mmireya8/docs/gender_equality_exhibition.
“The exhibit presents a much-needed acknowledgment of support and celebration of gender equality progress and issues on the Georgia Tech campus,” Howell said. “Michelle chose to work in the background and showcase the works of others in this exhibition, but through her vision, curation and execution, the works in this exhibition come together as more than individual works. Taken together, the pieces in this exhibition celebrate the progress made to date in gender equality, critically acknowledge current, intersectional and queer issues of gender equality, and offer hopeful ways to imagine and strive towards a future of gender equality for all.
In addition to curating the SDG 5 exhibition, Ramirez invited visitors to a “living room” space she created in the basement of the Kendeda building for a day-long demonstration. She designed the space to serve as a “familiar” and “conversational” environment for visitors to experience the project.
Visitors interacted with objects lined with tactile conductive tape, which played snippets of interviews from the Living History Programs on the wall. Some of the exhibits were reproductions of relevant documents and photos, such as The First Grade Girls Handbook — a handbook written by a female student, which provided information on “campus dress, activities and rules” — and a RAT cap. Other elements were symbolic representations of video content, such as an old record player.
“Selecting snippets of stories, selecting and creating story-related artifacts, and designing ways to interact with the artifacts to play out the stories is a challenging design problem that Michelle tackled by listening carefully and understanding. do the stories justice alongside thoughtful, tangible design iterations,” Howell said. “All of that hard work fades into the background in a very engaging, slow, and thoughtful way to spark and bear witness to these stories in Georgia Tech’s history.”
The MS in Digital Media is one of six innovative study programs offered by the School of Letters, Media and Communication at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and science/technology.
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Cassidy Chreene Whittle