After fourteen years of remarkable leadership Ingrid Semaan is stepping down as director of the WGSS program at the Stamford Campus. Her Stamford colleagues are happy to know that she will continue to teach and mentor in WGSS and Sociology while also pursuing new research projects. Her many awards from students, community organizations and faculty peers are evidence of the profound positive impact she has had on the academic mission and overall campus culture at Stamford. It’s hard to imagine what the Stamford Campus would be without the curricular innovation, extra-curricular programming, mentoring of students and faculty, and administrative leadership she has provided.
Arriving at Stamford in January 2006 Ingrid was tasked with reviving the Women’s Studies Minor and Center established by Morgne Cramer and maintained for several years by a committee of faculty sharing responsibilities after Morgne stepped down in 2000. Ingrid welcomed the hybrid design at Stamford that combines the academic program, extra curricular programming and the undergraduate center. The skills set she brought was the perfect fit to meet this broad charge.
The most striking evidence of Ingrid’s success is the phenomenal rise in the percentage of Stamford undergraduates graduating with the WS/WGSS minor, exploding from 3.5% when she arrived to 15% by 2013. Through the 2010s the cohort of WGSS minors was larger than the enrollment in most Stamford Campus majors. When 15% of the undergraduates at any campus participate in a single program, the ripple effect of that experience extends far beyond those officially registered for it. Hands shoot up with questions about gender and intersectionality in courses that don’t “count” toward the WGSS Minor. Such student-driven questions open up the discussion for everyone else in the room and have even nudged faculty in other disciplines to ask for bibliography or guest speakers to address gender in future syllabi.
Ingrid’s first priority has always been students’ needs — academic, economic, and emotional — on an urban campus that is the most diverse in the UConn system. Under her leadership the Stamford WGSS Center has grown into a vibrant space where students have launched several activist organizations. Ingrid served as faculty advisor for most of them including Spectrum (LGBTQ), Zero Tolerance (anti-violence), Mission Acceptance (fat phobia) and most recently #Resist! (intersectional feminist activism). She also regularly organized panel discussions where alumnae and alumni returned to talk about how feminist analysis and understanding inequality have influenced their choices in first jobs, post-graduate study and on-going volunteer commitments.
A superb administrator with an inspiring vision, Ingrid steered an enthusiastic WGSS advisory group of full-time and adjunct faculty through brainstorming meetings that ended in clear “action items.” She did it all on schedule, within budget and with good humor. The result was a rich schedule of extra curricular programming carefully keyed to specific courses. In short, Ingrid convinced students that their studies matter and faculty that their scholarship can be praxis.
Lastly, Ingrid’s visibility as director of WGSS has meant that she has carried an unusually heavy service load. Professional staff requested her participation on many planning and oversight committees and she has been a mainstay on the Campus Director’s Advisory Committee, the campus Care Team, the Safety Task Force, and the Scheduling Committee. While other Stamford faculty would rotate through such service assignments, Ingrid’s expertise in academics, mentoring and student services administration made her a valued and active ex officio member.
Ingrid’s Stamford colleagues and students look forward to being able to thank her in person for her enormous contribution to the campus. Until then, we send thunderous, high bandwidth virtual applause and all good wishes for her future projects.