Loyola University Chicago

Women's Studies and Gender Studies

Francesca Spizzo

Where have you found yourself and what career goals have you pursued since graduating from Loyola? Where do you see yourself heading in the next several years?

I love this question, because if you had asked me a week ago I’d say “I’m working a serving job at my local tavern on weekends, and Monday through Friday I’m holed up at the library working on case studies and interview prep.” Like many students, after I graduated from Loyola I had to move back home and continue looking for jobs there. Today, however, I can say that I accepted a job offer at Reach3 Insights- a new market research company in Chicago. I’m so happy to be moving back to the city, and pursuing a career in research. In the next several years I’d  like to advance my research skills, get my masters, and eventually my PhD. Will that happen before I’m 30? No idea. But I’m shooting for it. 


How did the Women’s and Gender Studies (WSGS) program impact your career success and life overall?

The Women’s Studies and Gender Studies program enabled me to think critically, empathetically, and diversely. In my personal life this has opened so many doors for me. I became a certified one love facilitator, a trained sexual assault advocate, and a better friend/partner/person overall.  In my professional life, it’s made me hyper aware of business practices that uphold the gender binary, repress sexual identity, and perpetuate all the -isms. Because of that awareness, it’s allowed me to point out problems and voice concerns that would have otherwise gone silent. 


What was your favorite course/project you took part in whilst being a part of the WSGS program? 

Technically this was an interdisciplinary class, but I took “Love and Violence in Medieval Ages” with Dr. Stabler. We read “Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart,” and it was amazing to view literary characters like Guinevere through a feminist lens (and see that she was kind of a baddie). We learned that Ladies would commission poets and writers to create stories dfor the court’s entertainment. In many ways, I believe Chrétien de Troyes’ Guinivere was a reflection of what Marie de Champagne wanted a woman to be. Guinevere had depth, was central to the plot, and practiced agency in the form of saying no. In a time when women had little political power outside of arranged marriages and swaying their husband’s opinion, it was empowering to have Guinevere command such attention and dedication. It was also kind of a steamy romance, so that was neat.


Do you have any fond memories of your experience within the program? If so, please elaborate.

I loved taking WSGS courses with Dr. Lombardi-Diop my freshman year. She was amazing at fostering class discussions. We were encouraged to interact with the texts and lessons on a personal level, often through reflection and journal posts. Her class provided an amazing foundation for critical thinking, as well as cultural understanding. I remember learning about the different variations of feminism, like Ecofeminism, Liberal/Socialist/Radical feminism, Cultural feminism, Womanism, etc. 

Do you feel as though your WSGS degree has guided you towards a more fulfilling career path? 

Yes! I work with some amazing people, and the company culture (as gross as that string of words sounds) is extremely open. I feel so at home with this kind of environment, because I’ve spent the past four years practicing vulnerability and radical honesty. I’m so excited to be in a group that welcomes my ability to communicate explicitly and with empathy. I feel like I’m better prepared to make mistakes and learn from them, as opposed to obsessing over them and being humiliated that I did one thing wrong. Everyone here wants to help their teammates, and the emphasis is on learning together. It’s not at all cut throat, which is fantastic because I don’t have the energy or the heart to do that. I didn’t learn that way, and I don’t want to work that way. 

In what ways has your WSGS education helped prepare you to be a more engaged global citizen and local neighbor?

My WSGS education has enabled me to see feminism, not as a homogenous group of traits or actions that look the same across cultures, but as a living and breathing kind of ideology, which changes shape and form across cultures and countries. I remember learning about the ways in which one culture’s feminism can look oppressive to another culture (like, how there’s an argument that the sexual liberation often associated with American women can be seen as the byproduct of the male gaze influencing women to be hypersexual). I think it’s extremely important to consider cultural context, and understand that feminism is deeply nuanced in a global context. In a more local sense, I’m the kind of neighbor that always talks about consent and has a gigantic mason jar filled with condoms and lube for anyone that needs it. The best sex is safe sex.

What advice would you offer to current or prospective WSGS students?

Question your inner voice, especially when it comes to judgement. Is that voice yours, or is it a reflection of what you were conditioned to think? Learn which spaces are meant for talking, which spaces are meant for listening, and which spaces are meant for both. If you make a mistake - in class, at work, with friends, etc. - sit with the discomfort that mistakes bring. Try to grow from it, as opposed to running from it and hoping to never make the same mistake again. Recognize that not every challenge to your opinion is a threat to you/your lived experience; sometimes it’s just an alternate point of view from another lived experience.