By: Patti McDonald
Associate Professor of History Dr. Aminda Smith was recently named Co-Director of the Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen) at Michigan State University. She been closely involved with GenCen since its inception and served previously as the interim director, when she realized that she wanted to be a part of the center in a more permanent way.
“While I was interacting with students in the interim role, I realized how connected I am to this center and how much I really wanted to be involved for a longer term because I really have a vision for the future of the center and its academic programs,” she said.
Smith has been a member of the center’s advisory board, curriculum committee, and various fellowship and award committees. Also, she has been a GenCen Faculty Fellow since 2017 and teaches Women’s and Gender Studies courses, reflecting her passion and dedication to feminism advocacy and interdisciplinary education.
“Women’s and Gender studies is at the core of who I am and to be able to be involved with the GenCen during this leadership transition is incredibly rewarding,” she said.
When Smith started working with the GenCen in 2007, she worked closely with Dr. Lisa Fine and Dr. Anne Ferguson and later with outgoing co-director Stephanie Nawyn, who has led GenCen since 2016.
“To be able to step into the shoes of those women is pretty exciting and incredible,” Smith stated.
Smith said during her interim role, she worked closely with Nawyn after the February 14th shooting on campus and seeing how Stephanie responded in a crisis motivated Smith to want to take on the longer-term role.
“When that happened and I was in that interim role and I was in meetings with other chairs and directors while the university figured out how to move forward, I was really impressed with how Stephanie rose to that challenge in that moment,” Smith said.
“Through that experience, I knew I wanted to be involved with the Gen Cen in a longer-term role where I can really try to make a difference.”
As for the GenCen’s plans for the future, Smith said she and her team are trying to brainstorm ideas on how to support the university community in a post-COVID world.
“I think a big part of what I am working on now is looking at what university community and support looks like in a post-COVID world when remote work is so important to a lot of people,” Smith said.
“We want to support that flexibility because advocating for a work-life and school-life balance is something that we believe in. We want to build up virtual communities too, but that is going to take creativity because community is going to look very different now that people are not in the office or classroom at the same time.”
Dr. Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and a historian of modern China. She has been involved in conducting extensive research on Chinese communism and social movements, employing a global perspective and feminist methodologies. Smith holds a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Studies from Princeton University.
Speaking of global perspectives, one of Smith’s goals for the GenCen is strengthening the center’s global partnerships.
“We also want to build on our global partnerships because the flip side of the growing popularity of remote work is that people are more and more accustomed to virtual meetings. So our opportunities to be in constant contact with our global partners are there all the time,” she said.
“We want to maximize that and use that to stay connected with people we might have only seen once a year in person. We want to give our students that global perspective on gender and sexuality right here at MSU. We have a lot of global initiatives planned for students and faculty.”
The GenCen is led by co-directors, and Smith will share leadership duties with the center’s co-director for global research and engagement, Dr. Soma Chaudhuri.
Established in 2007, the Center for Gender in Global Context is housed in International Studies and Programs, MSU’s hub for international research, teaching, and outreach. GenCen’s mission is to connect scholars, students, and community stakeholders with feminist knowledge to advance social change.