University Marketing and Communications

Ashley Barnes-Gilbert

January 04, 2022

Written and photos by Craig Schreiner

In WHY I TEACH, Ashley Barnes-Gilbert, lecturer in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, talks about passing along the same personal and professional support that she received as a student. She teaches Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, Women: Race and Ethnicity, and a core course for incoming freshmen on the Individual and Society. She describes herself as a queer historian and theorist whose classes all examine topics on privilege, oppression and social positioning.

Barnes-Gilbert champions student voices and prioritizes diverse perspectives, a style she knows as integrated feminist pedagogy and which she experienced as compassionate caring during her undergraduate experience. In November she received the 2021 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People, a UW System award presented to one person from each of the 13 campuses.

“My pedagogical approach offers students a new understanding of the lifelong learner: learners that become advocates for others no matter their chosen careers, who have enhanced critical thinking skills, who have applied the lessons of feminist practices to their personal lives, and who work to craft and nurture intersectional community building.”


Ashley Barnes-Gilbert hugs a person.

Ashley Barnes-Gilbert, lecturer in the Department of Women’s Studies, right, hugs her students at a celebration of spring graduates by the PB Poorman Pride Center and Whitewater Student Government on May 8, 2021.


“As an undergraduate, I was very interested in becoming a professor of women’s and gender studies. I was inspired by the professors who supported me both professionally and personally. In college, I experienced a lot of rejection as an LGBTQ+ identified person. My professors supported me in ways I could never imagine, from nurturing my intellectual pursuit of queer theory in their classes to providing job opportunities and summer housing, ensuring safety and community support. In college, I made a promise to myself that if I ever had the honor of becoming a professor, I would model the approach of my college professors — serving the whole student and broadening the scope of retention tools, especially for underrepresented student populations. I find this work to be particularly valuable at UW-Whitewater because the need is so big. The mentor relationships I have built with my students have been the most rewarding aspect of my work here.”


A student sits in a chair outside during the Rainbow Celebration of Excellence event.

Chamomile Harrison, a double major in English and psychology and a graduating UW-Whitewater senior, received a UW System Women's and Gender Studies Consortium award at the Rainbow Celebration of Excellence honoring LGBTQ+ graduates, their supporters and continuing students, co-hosted by the PB Poorman Pride Center and Whitewater Student Government on Saturday, May 8, 2021.


“In Women’s and Gender Studies, our students are feminists, LGBTQ+-identified students, students of color, and first-generation college students,” said Barnes-Gilbert. “It is important for instructors to find creative ways to provide support for students who deal with far more than just attending classes. There are mental health needs that, I think, are common in the general population of our students but especially impact those who have experienced traumas. WSG students have a variety of career goals from advocacy work, working in higher education to social work. But I think our students have a shared experience of ‘claiming an education’ (a phrase coined by Adrienne Rich) — choosing their majors and minors not solely based on specific career goals but instead to heal themselves, heal their communities, and engage in diverse advocacy work in their personal lives, careers, and society.”


Ashley Barnes-Gilbert paints rainbow colors in a crosswalk on Warhawk Drive.

Ashley Barnes-Gilbert, right, lecturer in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, participates in painting rainbow colors on a crosswalk on Warhawk Drive following a celebration of spring graduates co-hosted by the PB Poorman Pride Center and Whitewater Student Government on Saturday, May 8, 2021.


“I adore teaching. I see the classroom as a space of intellectual and personal transformation. I always share with my students that I stay at UW-Whitewater because of the incredible students at this institution. It has been my honor to support students who might not otherwise have access to higher education in their pursuit of a college degree. I advocate for the expansion of higher education for students from diverse walks of life, from LGBTQ+ identified students to students of color to first-generation college students and all those at the intersections. I work to ensure my classroom, my syllabi, my advising, and my advocacy work all supports the aim of expanding access to higher education.”


WHY I TEACH is a series about the dedicated professionals at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, including professors, coaches, advisors and other staff members, who make every day a teachable moment — and every place a learning place — by their expertise and example.

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