After an extensive search conducted by members of Castleton’s faculty and administration over the past summer, the college has hired a new professor to head the Women’s and Gender Studies program. Melinda Mills comes to Castleton via Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga., where she received her PhD and taught sociology as a graduate student and full-time faculty member since 2004.
The search to fill the position, which holds the responsibility of leading the Women’s and Gender Studies program and also working closely with the sociology department, was no simple task. Trish Van Der Spuy, the chair of the search committee, said that there were approximately 80 applicants for the position and “a lot of really strong candidates.”
Following a thorough interview process, the search committee narrowed the field of applicants to its three strongest candidates, who were invited to Castleton’s campus for a final interview. Finally, Mills nabbed the position.
“There wasn’t one deciding factor,” said Van Der Spuy. “Everything about her was absolutely right. She demonstrated an ability to lead the program and is highly prepared academically. It was very clear immediately that she was the right choice.”
Now settled into her new environment, Mills’ goal is to work toward offering Castleton students a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies. A minor in the subject has been offered since 1994.
“There is no definitive timeline for the transition,” said Mills, “but we’re working on making it happened sooner than later.”
Mills said that the differences between Georgia State University and Castleton are rather extreme, but also positive.
“Georgia State has 30,000 undergraduate students. I don’t even know how many people were in my department; that’s how big it was. I feel like the contributions I make here are registered in a completely different way: they’re meaningful immediately.”
Mills has two main goals that she would like to fulfill in her new position. One, mentioned previously, is to offer Women’s and Gender Studies as a major. She said that she will rely mostly on her graduate experience at Georgia State. However, she mentioned that she may communicate with nearby schools that currently offer the major, such as Middlebury and UVM.
Her other goal is to help students to “feel like feminism is for everybody.”
“I want students to realize that feminism is not something bad. I want to help dispel myths about feminism as the ‘f-word.’ I don’t want it to be seen as something ‘just for women,'”
Mills has enjoyed her move north, especially, she said, the pace of life.
“I love not having so much traffic,” she said. “I don’t miss having to use public transportation and going nowhere fast. People seem to enjoy there time more here. Everyone has a really balanced life.”
Although she has only been teaching for a few weeks, some students are beginning to take notice.
“She is very intelligent from every angle,” said senior Christina Cole.
“I think she’s a little intimidated being at a new school,” said Josh Coty, a sophomore History Education major, “but she most definitely has a the potential to be a good professor.