Faculty Activist Spotlight: Dr. Emily Bent
The Center for Community Action and Research would like to announce Dr. Emily Bent , PhD. as the first participant in our new Faculty Activist Spotlight series. As the newest addition to the Faculty in Residence program on the New York City Campus, Dr. Bent works as an Assistant Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies with a doctorate in Global Women’s Studies from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is a feminist-activist, avid world traveler, and long distance runner among many other things. Read more on her life as an activist and her advice to those seeking to become activists!
I continue to be motivated by organizations like Girls Learn International, Feminist Majority Foundation, and International Day of the Girl Summit because I get to connect with like-minded activists engaged in social change. We work together to organize exciting events and programs that advance girls’ status in society
Why is it important for you to stand up for the rights of girls and women around the globe?
In both my research and activism, I focus on advocating for girls’ human rights within a global context. It is important to me because girls often represent some of the most marginalized groups in the world. They experience high levels of institutional and familial violence, lack of access to education, denial of health and reproductive rights, and many other socio-cultural constraints. In my work, I aim to bring girls’ voices and perspectives to spaces of power whether that during key international meetings at the United Nations or in local social justice organizations. I believe it is critical to not only hear girls’ voices but to value their input as political peers in the struggle for human rights.
As a feminist activist, what has inspired you to begin your work with various non-profit organizations such as the Feminist Majority Foundation and the International Day of the Girl Summit? What keeps you motivated to continue your passionate work with these non-profit organizations?
Prior to my position as Assistant Professor at Pace University, I worked for about a decade in the nonprofit field – primarily in organizations that focused on girls’ human rights and empowerment, and/or women’s rights. I saw these positions as an extension of my background in gender studies; in undergrad, I majored in Women’s and Gender Studies and then in graduate school, I continued this pursuit with an explicit focus on girls’ studies, which is a sub-discipline of gender studies. After completing my MA, I looked for jobs where I could engage in hands on work with adolescent girls, developing skills in program and curriculum development, nonprofit administration, grants research and management, and board development. Each position provided me with a new experience and new set of skills, but at the heart of each organization was a passion for advancing the status of girls and women in the world. I think I continue to be motivated by organizations like Girls Learn International, Feminist Majority Foundation, and International Day of the Girl Summit because I get to connect with like-minded activists engaged in social change. We work together to organize exciting events and programs that advance girls’ status in society; I think these kinds of connections with grassroots activists and girls themselves allows me to bring those perspectives and experiences into the classroom at Pace as well as inspires my research on girls’ political participation.
At what point in your life did you realize that pursuing a doctoral degree was the right decision for you and your career?
My doctorate is in Global Women’s Studies from the National University of Ireland in Galway; I decided to pursue a PhD after realizing that I missed being in the classroom and wanted to take my activism to the next level – to take what I knew from my nonprofit experiences and bring it to the academy. A colleague from the New School and Girls Learn International shared information about a new doctoral program in Global Women’s Studies at the National University of Ireland and encouraged me to apply. She knew that I had been thinking about going back to graduate school and upon researching the program, I realized that it was the ideal spot for me. My PhD supervisor had studied under Charlotte Bunch at the 4th World Conference on Women advocating for women’s rights as human rights; she was a strong advocate for girls’ rights and willing to support my research agenda. Moreover, after applying I was offered a full scholarship to attend the University – making it a logical next step.
I can simply say that I am inspired by other activists and change agents who continue to challenge injustice in our daily lives. It is important to never lose that passion for change and drive for a more equitable world.
In your experience as a Program Director at Girls Learn International Inc., you must have run into many obstacles when trying to achieve a specific goal or task. What is the hardest thing you have come across as a feminist activist thus far?
It is difficult to identify the most difficult thing I have come across in my activism; I think any activist goal leads to struggles and difficulties. In my activism, I collaborate with a wide-variety of organizations, agencies, and girls interested in human rights thus often the most difficult task is coordinating across multiple actors. Activism requires all hands on deck, but when there is tension, conflict, or less than productive group dynamics I am often the person to pull everyone back together. This management can be stressful, but it is also necessary to ensure that a program or event comes together.
You are currently an instructor within Pace’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, as well as a Faculty in Residence at one of the NYC campus dorms. How do you balance your busy schedule at work to your personal life at home?
Because I wear multiple hats, I have developed strong time management skills and I work hard to integrate my responsibilities at Pace as an Assistant Professor with my activism, as well as my role as Faculty in Residence. At the same time, my activist interests bleed into my personal life and it can be difficult to separate the personal with the professional. But, I have also learned to take time for myself, exercise, binge watch my favorite TV shows, play with my dog, hang out with friends, and just remember that life exists outside of work. I don’t think that is something that necessarily comes easily to me, but self-care is also essential to being a successful activist. It is important to find that balance when you can.
What can we expect from you as an activist in the future? What are your long-term goals?
As an activist, I engage in social justice work in lots of different ways and while I can’t exactly say where my next activist project will be or what it will focus on – I can simply say that I am inspired by other activists and change agents who continue to challenge injustice in our daily lives. It is important to never lose that passion for change and drive for a more equitable world.
What is one piece of advice you would give anyone looking to pursue a career within the non-profits, or wanting to have their voice heard in the world as an activist?
My advice would be to put yourself out there; activism requires that you take a chance, trust others, and build community. As bell hooks argues, activism is never comfortable because creating change requires us to resist hierarchal systems of power designed to silence voices of resistance. Therefore, whether you want to engage in nonprofit work or join an activist organization working on an issue of importance to you – the best thing you can do is refuse to be silent. Refuse to accept that ‘this is just how things are’ – refuse the idea that activists are naïve or too idealistic – refuse the status quo. Activism leads to equality and justice; to me, it is what inspires my personal and professional life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This interview was conducted by Cesar Ballesteros, Student Outreach and New Media Projects Coordinator for the Center for Community Action and Research at Pace University NYC. Do you know a Pace student, staff, or faculty member doing amazing work who should be featured as a volunteer or activist spotlight? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!