My name is Destinee Tunstall and I am a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College Class of 2017. I graduated with a double major in Criminal Justice and Gender Studies and a minor in Sociology. I am now attending the Catholic University of America pursuing my master’s in social work. When people ask me why I chose Social Work I often tell them that my passion stemmed from gender studies. Gender Studies helped to open my eyes to fight for social justice. It has also added to me being more marketable and receiving opportunities because of others interests. I am compassionate about social justice issues and my passion for change is pushing me into a career dedicated to helping others. I strongly believe the profession of social work is vital and it further conforms to my personal core values, beliefs, and experiences. Social work is a profession where the sky is the limit. I work with vulnerable populations experiencing intersectional oppression. I exercise the core learning of gender studies when working to end racism, classism, sexism and every other ism. I aspire to become a licensed clinical social worker that will dedicate my life to helping others create a story of dreams that can be realized and opportunities that can be ceased and accomplishments that will be fulfilled. Gender studies prepared me for this fight and I am thankful.
My journey with the Gender Studies program at WVWC began when I took a course, out of curiosity, during my sophomore year. I still remember how captivated I was by the honest conversations in class and by the challenging topics that we discussed. That first class blossomed into the pursuit of another, then another, and ultimately into a Gender Studies major that I am so proud to have been a part of.
Without a doubt, the opportunity to pursue a Gender Studies major has been one of the most influential experiences that I have had in my educational journey so far. In each class, I was challenged to engage in the material and conversations in ways that enabled me to grow exponentially. The classroom environment was always a safe space where curiosity and honesty were encouraged. Through this program I developed strong critical thinking skills that have helped me to navigate complicated issues through an analytical, social justice based lens. Above all, the professors are one of a kind because they care so deeply about their students. Their strong foundation of support and encouragement allowed me to see my potential, which continues to empower me years after graduation.
This fall, I began my journey as a Masters of Occupational Therapy student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am so grateful for the foundation of knowledge and skills that I learned through the Gender Studies program prior to this. They guide me on a daily basis as I navigate conversations about complex issues in health care with classmates, on interprofessional teams and in care settings. I am confident that this knowledge will also help me to provide top quality care to diverse populations in the future. And beyond the classroom I know that I am a better person because of the Gender Studies program. I am able to approach life with a more open, inclusive mind that has helped me to blossom into the best version of myself- as a friend, a community member, and a lifelong student.
Gender Studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College prepared me for the rigor that is graduate school. Directly, the courses within the Gender Studies program taught me to read and understand multiple sources and theories and to be able to synthesize them into a cohesive piece of analytical writing. Indirectly, the Gender Studies program provided me with opportunities to learn and practice a vast set of real-world skills such as networking, communication, and capacity-building. These skills are invaluable not only in the non-profit setting, but in many diverse private and governmental sectors. Gender Studies also offered me the chance to become active within my community and local government, something that I have continued into my life after undergrad. These courses provide the groundwork for a way of thinking and theorizing necessary for a multitude of fields from sociology to political science to clinical social and psychological work.
Before and during my interview for graduate school, I was nervous. I was nervous because I had no idea what they were going to ask me, if my responses were going to be good enough, or if I would even have an answer to their questions. However, I was able to link most of their questions with Gender Studies. For example, during the interview, one of the questions I was asked was how I felt working with diverse populations. As a direct consequence of my Gender Studies background, I was able to confidently state that I felt very comfortable working with a vast array of people because Gender Studies has made me more aware of the privileges that I bring to the table and the issues that people without such privileges face. It has brought to my attention common misconceptions and ways to make people feel more comfortable, such as asking what pronouns they prefer and not assuming their gender or sexual orientation. Furthermore, because of this department, when asked about my feelings toward social justice issues, I was able to demonstrate my strong support for them by explaining my involvement in protests and sit-ins we have done on campus. After the interview, I felt confident about my answers because talking about Gender Studies put me at ease. In fact, I was hoping they would ask me more questions about it! I believe that by having a background in Gender Studies, I was able to bring a different perspective and a unique set of skills to the program, which is what made me a competitive graduate school candidate.