Intersectionality: A Coat of Many Colors

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Building off the work of Teachers College, Columbia University's Racial Literacy Lecture Series, Dean’s Forums feature candid conversations on race, equity & education at the School of Education.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM




University of St. Thomas - Minneapolis Campus,
MOH 201 and 202
1000 LaSalle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

"Intersectionality: A Coat of Many Colors"

Intersectionality, first coined by Dr. Kimberly Williams Crenshaw in 1989, is the theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality and class, contribute to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual. Her work in intersectionality is rooted in the research and activism of women of color, extending back to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in 1851. Additionally, Dr. Crenshaw observed the absence of women of color in feminist and race-based social movements, and accordingly scholar activists like bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga have called for a deeper look at the interconnected factors that influence power, privilege and oppression.

Intersectionality is a contextual framework for examining how systems of oppression deeply intertwine and influence experiences and opportunities for all of us. Social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender (and gender expression), class, physical and mental abilities, language, geography, LGBTQ, religious and spiritual beliefs, and others cannot be studied separately—even though it has been done this way for so long. They influence the decisions we make, the leadership roles we take, who we date, where we go to school, sports we participate in, and much more. 

None of these factors stands alone. Each of our identities—as a woman, a man, a person of color, being LGBTQ, having a disability, among others—are inextricably linked to each other. Recognizing that we all carry many identities that come with varying levels of power and privilege is called intersectionality. Intersectionality is made up of 3 basic building blocks: social identities, systems of oppression, and the ways in which they intersect.

Combined with Standpoint theory, that is where I stand in society affects my life experiences, we begin to understand how women and men experience life so differently based on their intersectionality. A 50-year-old black woman—living in New York City, with English as a first language, Christian, MA degree in teaching—and a 50-year-old black, lesbian woman—living in Alabama, MA in teaching, Christian, English as a first language—will have different experiences and opportunities based on their geographical location and gender identity.

About the Speakers

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Ea McMillan Porter is Assistant Director, Community Engagement and Recruiting in the School of Education. Ea has worked at the University of St. Thomas for 14 years. After 10 years working in finance, she went to work at the Mayo Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Her final position there was as the Director of Minority Recruitment for the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

With a degree in Human Resources Management, Ea has been involved in diversity work for over 20 years. Beginning at Pillsbury Company and continuing at the Mayo Medical Center, Ea has engaged in diversity work for the St. Paul Police Department, Minnesota Highway Patrol, several school districts, Bethel University and University of Northwestern of St. Paul. She is one of the founding members of the Parents for Transgender Equality National Council with the Human Rights Campaign. She serves on the boards of the University Advocates for Women and Equity at St. Thomas, the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, Park Avenue Methodist Church’s Youth and Family Services and the Minnesota Chapter of Black Women in Higher Education.


Dr. Eleni Roulis is Professor of Education in the Department of Educational Leadership. She received her PhD in Education at the University of Minnesota; her MA in Literature from New York University, New York; and a BA degree in English with a minor in Secondary Education from St. John’s University, New York. 

She has worked at the University of St. Thomas for 25 years, and during this time she has been the chair of the Department of Teacher Education and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction for 12 years, the founder and director of the Doctoral Program in Critical Pedagogy, and the Director of the Graduate Writing and Research Center. As a professor, her areas of expertise are critical pedagogy, feminist studies, sociolinguistics, research and curriculum development. 

In her last position as the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, she supervised the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement, the Office of Global Initiatives, the Murray Institute Advisory Board, the Graduate Curriculum Council, the English Language Services and all special projects as directed by the president.

Eleni has worked for over 40 years in education, beginning as a Language Arts/Reading/French teacher in the New York City public schools, grades 5-12, for 13 years and as the Associate Department Chair in English at the largest high school in the city, South Shore High. Here in Minnesota she has been adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis and Duluth) and at Augsburg College. She also worked as a Teacher Specialist and Licensing for the Minnesota Department of Education. Her work in higher education includes extensive program development, teaching and consulting with business and educational institutions. 

About the Dean's Forums

The Dean’s Forum builds off of the work of Columbia University, Teachers College’s Racial Literacy Lecture Series. In this ongoing series, the School of Education community will participate in candid conversations about race, equity and education.

All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.