Sitting Down with GEP Program Director Iveta Jusová

7 February 2024
students observe historic sculpture

Iveta Jusová, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe Global Engagement, discusses the program’s unique academic attention to feminism, gender, race, and sexuality topics as well as the opportunities for personal growth as a college student.

What is inspiring to you about Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe?  What do you hope to accomplish with this program?

Iveta Jusová

What is my goal with this program? I want to encourage students to think about Europe as an ethnically and culturally diverse place. I want them to think about the ramifications of European colonialism and of WWII for Europe and for the rest of the world. I also hope to prompt students to consider the present-day implications of the history of the Cold War and to dispel some misconceptions concerning the life under state socialism in former Eastern Europe. As well, I ask students to reflect on how gender is inscribed into different languages differently and what the implications of those differences might be. It is my goal to encourage students to reflect on how not only gender, race and sexuality issues are contextually situated but so is feminist and queer theory, although they travel as well.

What makes this program different from other study abroad programs?

The WGSE program was pioneered three decades ago by a group of women’s studies professors as a feminist alternative to traditional study-abroad programs in Europe. What sets the program apart is first and foremost its feminist focus, as well as its intersectional and comparative approach. The program studies gender, race and LGBTQ topics in Europe comparatively, as the group travels to three countries across Western and East Central Europe. Students discuss current feminist and queer topics with local activists, while learning to analyze these topics through an intersectional theoretical lens. And every student also conducts an independent research project. The topic is up to the student.

What does a typical day look like on your program?

Every day is different on this program, while a basic structure remains. Learning takes place in classrooms, but we also visit NGOs, shelters, museums, and monuments. We read articles and write papers, but also watch movies and engage in debates with locals. Our classrooms are on university campuses, but also in a gender studies library and at an old anarchist squat decorated with anti-fascist, feminist, and Marxist flyers and slogans. For leisure, we go biking to a local lake near Utrecht for a swim, we kayak in Dutch canals, forest bathe in a German forest, attend a private organ concert in Olomouc, and even explore a beautiful cave in Moravia.

What does the housing situation look like, and what are the benefits of this living arrangement to students?

In Utrecht and Prague we stay in private apartments, while in Berlin students reside with hosts. Most of our hosts are feminist and queer activists, and they not only help students understand local events and culture but often take on roles as mentors for the students. 

What are you most looking forward to?

I look forward to seeing students engaged in new ways, to seeing their satisfaction after a successful interview. As well, I look forward to reconnecting with activists who regularly engage with our students, and especially with Women on Waves in Amsterdam. At the invitation of local feminists, Women on Waves has sailed to various countries around the world where abortion is illegal. Remaining with their boat in international waters, they provide abortion services on board their ship to those in need. WGSE students always find it inspiring to talk with the WoW founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, and so do I.

What advice would you give to students to encourage them to study abroad during their Carleton career? What benefits do you see to the experience in general?

As a US college student, you have access to various study-abroad options, including traveling with a small group accompanied by faculty, that are not available to those outside the US. Take the opportunity not only for your own personal growth but also because, as a US citizen or someone educated in the US, you might find yourself in a position to influence issues beyond the country’s borders. You should know what and how people outside the US think, what their priorities are, and how they view the US.

Iveta Jusová is a Professor of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. She has been at Carleton since 2016.