Tamara Berg: WGSS Professor

 

Tamara Berg is a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) professor here at Winona State. Some may describe her as an equality advocate, a WGSS activist, or even a feminist icon, but above all she’s a role model. Tamara is a survivor of gender-based violence and actively speaks out in her community to create change. She touches her students by providing a listening ear and encouraging them to speak out about social and political issues presented today.

 

 

Her Campus (HC): What made you want to be a WGSS professor and when did you know?

Tamara Berg (TB): My PhD is in English Literature with a Women’s & Gender Studies PhD minor. I loved the WGS classes I took as an undergrad and as a grad student. Back when I went to grad school (1989!), most WAGS profs had degrees in other disciplines, so it was not unusual to apply for WAGS jobs if your research was focused on women. My dissertation director is a famous feminist scholar, Susan Gubar, and she encouraged me to think about becoming a WAGS professor.

 

HC: How has your assault experience made you the person you are today?

TB: As a survivor, you understand how the trauma of gender-based violence affects your life in ways you might not expect. My experience of surviving sexual assault as a freshman in college changed the way I thought about a lot of things—abortion rights, intimate relationships, victim rights, and the way our culture blames victims of sexual assault in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I probably would not have minored in women’s studies as an undergrad had I not been assaulted. And I probably would not be doing the work I am going today to address gender-based violence on college campuses if I was not a survivor.

 

HC: What is it that sparked your passion for women, gender, and sexuality studies?

TB: Great mentors! And the “spark” that came from recognizing my personal experiences (my assault, the fact that I grew up in a trailer court and was discouraged from going to college by family and teachers alike) as part of a larger political conversation.

 

HC: What issue in this field do you feel most strongly about?

TB: That the work we do in WGSS must be intersectional.

 

HC: Have you participated in any protests or research for those issues?

TB: I have marched on Washington several times, most recently last March to protest the Trump presidency. I also regularly join counter protests to support Planned Parenthood in Rochester and Minneapolis.

 

HC: What work do you plan to do on your travel study to St. Croix?

TB: We will work with community partners (The Women’s Coalition, The Village Addiction Treatment Center, The Nature Conservancy, and Early Childhood Head Start), and we will do some hurricane relief work given the damage Hurricane Maria did to St. Croix. We will also do a lot of fun activities and learn about the island’s culture and colonial history.

 

HC: What advice can you offer undergraduate students?

TB: Follow your passion! Make friends that challenge you to think deeply and who have your back. Get to know your professors. Travel!

 

HC: What can your students do with things learned in your class to take a step in creating change?

TB: Hopefully they experience that “spark”—which can feel like they are seeing and thinking about things in a new and exciting way…and hopefully this new way of thinking leads to activism and a commitment to social justice work, whatever form that may take.

 

 

Tamara certainly creates a welcoming environment in her classroom. She works to get to know her students and hear their opinions while bringing attention to the issues at hand. We could all use a professor like Tamara Berg.