Coffee Conversation: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender?

Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Dr. David Gudelunas, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa, led a coffee conversation on Thursday on the disruptive possibilities of drag culture. Coffee conversations ask students to participate in a dialogue rather than listen to a lecture; this one was organized around the question: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender? As part of this event, students talked about much more than just drag, addressing issues such as “Who taught you to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘behave like a boy,’ and what were you taught that means?” They debated whether or not shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race reified, challenged, or complicated gendered expectations.

Dr. Gudelunas leading a discussion on drag culture.

Dr. Gudelunas researches in the areas of emerging media technologies, gender, sexuality, and communication. He is a widely published scholar and the author of “Confidential to America: Newspaper Advice Columns and Sexual Education” and co-editor of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture (Palgrave). Gudelunas serves on the editorial boards of Sexuality & Culture and QED and has appeared in local and national media including MSNBC, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

Published Works: Nejat Nassir

The buildings of Downtown Tampa towering behind Honors student Nejat Nassir (2018)

Out of the many accolades and accomplishments that students seek throughout their time at the University of Tampa, becoming published remains as one of the most highly regarded. Nejat Nassir managed to snag a publication with the work she created in NUR 346, Expressive Arts in Healing: Health Promotion Through the Arts. Coming from a family of migrants to the US, Nassir views the refugee crisis in Syria with a heavy heart; as such, she responded with actuation rather than apathy, performing meaningful research into easing the burden of migration through artistic expression. Nassir views the expressive arts as a powerful “catalyst for change” and thus researched the ways in which various modalities of artistic expression can influence emotional rehabilitation. The International Expressive Arts Association (IEATA) showcased her work on in their official newsletter.

Good work, Nejat!

Honors Tutorial Spotlight: Shannon Fernandez-Denmark and Samantha Courtney

Shannon Fernandez-Denmark and Samantha Courtney beginning their PowerPoint presentation for eighty enthralled fourth-graders at Cimino Elementary

An Honors Tutorial can go just as far as a student’s imagination, passion, and ingenuity can take it. This allows for Honors students to develop creative opportunities for themselves with the help of willing professors, which is exactly what Honors students Shannon Fernandez Denmark and Samantha Courtney did alongside Dr. Ann Williams, Professor in the Biology Department. Rather than simply internalizing course material and vocabulary pertaining to the Microbiology course, they wanted to take it a step further; they wanted to teach a course to eighty fourth-graders at Cimino Elementary. What could be better proof of proficiency than being able to translate the content in a fun and exciting way to young children?  On November 15th, Fernandez-Denmark and Courtney saw the actualization of their project with an hour-long “Microbiology: Food and You” presentation. They received an extremely positive response from not only their advising professor, but also the students and teachers at Cimino Elementary. These two students stand as one more example of the dedication and creativity of many of the students in the Honors program.

Oxford Abroad Showcase: Gontse Molosiwa

Honors student Gontse Molosiwa has taken hold of one of the many opportunities the Honors Program has to offer: the Oxford Abroad Experience. Read below to hear her take on this incredible personal journey:

Gontse taking in the sights in front of Oxford University (2018)


Picturesque, picturesque, picturesque…and did I say picturesque? This word is embedded in my mind whenever I walk the streets of Oxford. The buildings ooze of history and it is a very student friendly city. The University of Oxford is a masterpiece in itself. It is made up of 38 colleges and I am associated with Christ Church. The tutorial system has enabled me to have in-depth one-on-one conversations with my tutors about subjects I care about such as economic development and business ethics. It is a rigorous system but I am grateful for this opportunity because it has completely changed my perspective on academia. I highly encourage my peers to study abroad here! Oxford University embodies an intellectually and visually stimulating environment and I am grateful to the Honors Program for this opportunity. The highlight of my study abroad happened in October. I got to see to my president (H.E Mokgweetsi Masisi) give a lecture about democracy and economic development in Africa at the Saïd Business School! I even got interviewed by the Botswana Television News afterward and was featured in a news segment back home. Oxford has been lovely so far. I get to meet new people every day, travel to new places, and broaden my mind. What more could one ask for? 

One of the goals of UT’s Honors Program is to help provide opportunities such as those Gontse has experienced. Of course, it’s not up to just the Honors Program; students need to seize opportunities as well!

Conferences – Kamakshi Dadhwal

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The SEPA 2018 annual conference was the first time I showcased my original research on a poster. There is a common understanding in the academic world that poster presentations are the most casual and easy part of any conference. This understanding did not stop me from being excited or anxious as I drove to Charleston. My poster was scheduled to be in the third and last poster session, which means I had plenty of time to not only fret over my knowledge of my own research but also attend the other poster sessions to get an idea of what was coming my way.

It took me all of five minutes, after I entered the first session, to realise that I was in the soup. Here was a room packed with people from various sub-fields of psychology, with different interests, and belonging to a wide variety of backgrounds. While it was overwhelming to be amidst the products of so many research initiatives, my anxiety transformed with each poster into an appreciation of the opportunity that I received through the support of the Honors Program at UT.

I learned a tremendous amount about the current research avenues of Psychology from just being in the presence of scholars and fellow college students who presented their research or led a discussion group at the conference. Moreover, I was able to visit some of the interesting historic and natural sites that Charleston has to offer. The Honors Program encouraged my endeavour to develop my own research and helped me achieve my goal to present at a conference, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Oxford – Hayley Alexander

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Oxford is such a historic and beautiful city to be able to live and study in. The tutorial system that Oxford University utilizes is considerably effective in helping me fully understand the topics I am studying. My molecular biology and pharmacology tutorials keep me very busy, but I am enjoying learning about these areas in a new way. I meet with my tutor either every week or every other week to go over the essay I had written for that session in depth, discuss any questions I may have, and then pick a topic for the next essay. Some of my favorite study spots include the Christ Church Library and the Radcliffe Camera. The Oxford Study Abroad Program has organized many trips and the ones I have attended so far include trips to London and Hampton Court Palace, which I have really enjoyed. So far, this experience has allowed me to gain independence, personally and educationally, while giving me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people that I would not have otherwise met. I am having such a positive experience here in Oxford and I am excited to discover even more about this wonderful city.