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Shaping the activists of tomorrow

“Being an activist is something that we can do everyday. It’s not something that only those people over there do.”

On the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building, with a scenic view of the building’s ‘B’-wing, you can find Kate Drabinski typing away on her Mac preparing for her courses. As a senior lecturer in the Gender and Women’s Studies program, Drabinski fuses her love for activism with her passion for teaching.

As an undergraduate student, Drabinski attended Barner college and obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies; however, it was not until graduate school that Drabinski discovered her love for teaching.

“The most important lesson I learned from graduate school was that I loved to teach,” Drabinski said. “Teaching is my calling, and I get to develop and improve myself and my teaching style everyday at UMBC.”

While the only reason Drabinski chose UMBC was because it was where she was offered a job, she quickly fell in love with the teaching environment here on campus. “When UMBC says they are dedicated to their undergraduate teaching, they absolutely mean it,” Drabinski said.

“We’re paid to go to regular trainings on how to better our teaching and are exposed to different teaching styles, and we’re in constant contact with the Faculty Development Center on campus,” she said. 

Drabinski extends her teachings outside her classroom as she is the Director of Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL), a Living and Learning Community (LLC) and student organization. The group is for students of all genders and aims to encourage critical thinking and active learning, as well as increase awareness of the obstacles women are facing.

While she enjoys teaching all of the courses she offers, introductory courses are Drabinski’s favorite. “I love teaching intro courses because I remember when I took my first Women’s Studies course, and it blew my mind. Everything was new and the world looked different,” Drabinski said.

“The things that look like a part of everyday life are really just products of history, cultural choices, media representation, religion, deep structures of racism and discrimination. The list goes on,” Drabinski said.

“These introductory courses allow me to see my students go through the same revelations and have the same excitement that I had. That’s what I love about these courses.”

Above all, Drabinski picked Gender and Women’s Studies 200: Studies in Feminist Activism as her favorite course to teach because of how student-fueled it is. Each semester, students create their own activist projects, which involves picking a cause, executing an action plan and reflecting on their experience. “Every year, my students exceed anything that I could have came up with,” Drabinski said.

For all those young activists out there who can’t take Drabinski’s course, she shared some simple advice: “Coalitions with preexisting groups, flexibility, patience, and raising the consciousness of yourself and those around you are your friend.”


Editor’s note: Rebecca Warns is currently a student in Kate Drabinski’s GWST 200 course.