Sidney Wegner, MA ’21

Tell us a little bit about your background.

sidney WegnerI am from a small, rural town in Northern California, which has its pros and its cons. I went to the University of California, Davis, where I studied English with emphases in critical literary theory and writing poetry as well as gender, sexuality, and women's studies.

What drew you to this program?

Definitely the one-on-one relationships between professors and students. I immediately felt comfortable and knew that with such support from faculty and administrators, I could succeed in this program. Also, an MA in Women's History gives me an edge when applying to jobs after this degree because it is not a common graduate degree to have, but I can go into a wide variety of different career fields.

What drew you to Sarah Lawrence?

I had the big public four-year university experience and wanted to try something new. Sarah Lawrence's priority on student success and not student competition also attracted me to the school.

What has been your favorite class? And why?

This is a really tough call, but my favorite class was “ReVisions” with Lyde Sizer. I think it's my favorite because it's the class I had with everyone in my year of the program, so I really got to bond with them while we all worked on figuring out our thesis topics and such. Past the people, the readings we were assigned completely reshaped how I think about history, and consequently how I am writing it.

Do you have a favorite faculty member or guest artist that you have worked with?

Margot Note is awesome! She only teaches a class once a month, but I never had a professor dedicate a whole class to making sure we (the Women's History graduate students) were taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

What is your research focus?

My research is on interracial lesbian relationships between women who were incarcerated in the United States during the early 20th century.

How would you describe your research project to a family member or friend with no background in the field?

I might say that not many people question where lesbianism comes from, but often the origin point of our identity, culture, community, etc., is attributed to the "romantic friendships" of the Victorian Era. The thing is these mostly middle-class and mostly white, cisgendered women did not wake up one day and start calling themselves lesbians—the language had to be invented. My research aims to demonstrate that the word lesbian and the meanings attached more or less came about from sexologists, psychologists, and penologists who studied incarcerated women. While women loving women have always existed in nearly all spaces, it was the women in confinement, already deemed deviant or defective, who became the subjects of researchers seeking to pathologize homosexuality.

How would you describe the program to someone who is still searching for a program?

If you are looking for a program set up for students to succeed and pursue pioneering research, this is the program for you. This program gives students vast freedoms in regard to research interests, and the professors genuinely want to help you with whatever you want to pursue. As someone who has a very niche thesis topic, I have found that my professors will go out of their way to find the resources that are going to help me the most, even though none specialize in lesbian history.

How would you describe graduate student campus culture and community?

The graduate student community as a whole is extremely tight-knit. The graduate student body is fairly small, which means that many of us get to know each other really quickly. I think you are most likely to find your strongest connections with those who are also in your program, but some of my best friends are in the theatre program. I am also the Graduate Student Association coordinator, so I have been able to get really involved at SLC and get to know a lot of different students and program directors.

Where do you like to study on campus?

We have a Women's History Lounge in the North Building, and it is awesome. There is art done by Women's History alumni on the walls and a mini-library with all sorts of books. Many WH students also go there to look for readings relevant to their research.

What campus resources do you utilize most?

I was always in the library, but I also go to all the events that I can make it to!

What are you reading right now?

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman.

Where do you see yourself in three years?

Teaching at a community college, living with my cat.

Are you in an internship, placement, or campus job? Tell us about that.

I currently work for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as the Graduate Admissions Office where I assist with new projects and student coordination. My jobs at SLC are amazing; I have had so many opportunities to get to know people at SLC that I never would have met otherwise. These connections have helped me develop all sorts of skills—from professionalism to project management.

What extracurricular activities do you engage in?

I am also the Graduate Student Association coordinator, which means I spend a lot of time coordinating with students and administration to set up events, programming, and new communication methods. When I was on the SLC campus, I also participated in Right to Write, a program which consists of students who travel to a Westchester detention facility to teach a creative writing workshop. I absolutely loved this work and wish that I could still be doing it.

What motivates you?

Who motivates me: Felycya Harris, Tony McDade, Tracy Mia Green, Aerrion Burnett, my lesbian ancestors, my Queer ancestors, women who have been incarcerated, Black women, trans women, Indigenous women ... truly, the people whose lives laid the foundation for queer and lesbian individuals and communities today.