Digital Media Master’s Student Designs Exhibition of Women’s Experiences at Georgia Tech
Posted April 28, 2022
In 1952, Elizabeth Herndon and Diane Michel became the first full-time female students at Georgia Tech. Fast-forward to 2022, and the first-year admitted class is 44% women — the highest percentage in Institute history. Michelle Ramirez, a digital media master’s student in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), crafted her final project to explore women’s experiences on campus over the past 70 years.
Ramirez’s curated exhibition, “SDG 5, Gender Equality: Reimagining our Future through Art and Technology,” is on display through December 2022 in The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. Ramirez also designed an interactive oral history about women's experiences at Georgia Tech, which she demonstrated for visitors on April 13.
“I am passionate about the intersection of storytelling, art, and feminism,” Ramirez said. “When I learned that 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of women attending Georgia Tech, I wanted to design a master’s project that not only celebrates their remarkable achievements but shows the reality of attending a male-dominated institution.”
With the support and guidance of her team of advisors — LMC Associate Professor Nassim Parvin, LMC Assistant Professors Anne Sullivan and Noura Howell, Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist Rebecca A. Watts Hull, and Women’s Resource Center Director Melanie DeMaeyer — Ramirez invited trans women, non-binary folks, and cis women affiliated with Georgia Tech to submit digitized photography, paintings, creative writing, and research papers related to the theme “Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Visitors can see a selection of these artworks hanging from six banners on the second-floor railing of the Kendeda Building and three posters on the first floor of the building.
“The exhibition aims to connect diverse research methods, artistic endeavors, and knowledge production occurring today on Georgia Tech’s campus,” Ramirez said. “It is not a space to simply showcase women in technology, but to demonstrate how women and gender non-conforming folks in technology are reshaping research questions and pushing artistic boundaries, which can bring us closer to accomplishing this grand goal.”
During her graduate studies, Ramirez worked as a graduate research assistant in SLS, a campus-wide initiative working with educators to incorporate the U.N. SDGs and community partnerships into student learning.
“When Michelle shared that her final project would focus on gender equity, we started brainstorming ways she could bring together her academic work with SLS. We are thrilled with the impressive exhibit she curated,” Watts Hull said. “By engaging with a diverse group of students and faculty members who submitted works, the exhibit demonstrates how gender equity (SDG 5) can be linked to virtually any discipline and expressed in many creative ways. Through collaboration with the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, the exhibit also highlights equity in the built environment, advancing the Living Building’s equity and beauty goals.”
To further amplify the impact of the exhibition and reach a wider audience, a digital magazine including images of the banners and posters on display, research papers, as well as biographies of the artists and abstracts of the selected works is available at issuu.com/mmireya8/docs/gender_equality_exhibition.
“The exhibition presents a much-needed supportive and celebratory recognition of gender equality progress and issues on Georgia Tech’s campus,” Howell said. “Michelle chose to work in the background and showcase others’ artworks in this exhibition, yet through her vision, curation, and execution, the artworks in this exhibition come together as more than individual works. Taken together, the pieces in this exhibition celebrate the progress on gender equality that has been made so far, critically acknowledge ongoing and intersectional and queer issues of gender equality and offer hopeful ways of imagining and striving toward a future of gender equality for all.”
In addition to curating the SDG 5 exhibition, Ramirez invited visitors to a “living room” space she created in the basement of the Kendeda Building for a one-day demonstration. She designed the space to serve as a “familiar” and “conversational” environment for visitors to experience the project.
Visitors interacted with objects lined with touch-sensitive conductive tape, which played snippets of interviews from the Living History Programs on the wall. Some of the objects displayed were reproductions of relevant documents and photos, such as The Freshman Girls’ Handbook — a female-student-written handbook, which provided information on “dress, activities, and campus rules”— and a RAT Cap. Other items were symbolic representations of the video content, such as an old record player.
“Selecting the snippets of stories, selecting and creating artifacts to relate to the stories, and designing ways of interacting with the artifacts to play the stories is a challenging design problem that Michelle tackled through carefully listening and doing justice to stories alongside thoughtful, tangible design iterations,” Howell said. “All this hard work fades into the background of a highly engaging, slow, thoughtful way of eliciting and witnessing these stories of Georgia Tech's history.”
The M.S. in Digital Media is one of six innovative degree programs offered by the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the intersection of humanities, social sciences, and science/technology.
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Cassidy Chreene Whittle