“Wazoo Talks” highlights WSU community engagement


Wazoo Talks: Mary Jo Klinker

Sophia Sailer, Editor-in-Chief

Similar to the popular TED Talk format and concept, Winona State University has begun “Wazoo Talks” events.

Associate Director of Career Services, DeAnna Goddard, created the Wazoo Talks programming in an effort to further promote the importance of community engagement and specifically to display the community engagement accomplished by Winona State members who received grant funding to do so.

“We wanted to be able to offer an event for faculty to be able to share best practices around community engagement work that they’re doing through their courses. With recent events, we are realizing the importance of engagement just in general, but certainly with the community, with others, with their neighbors,” Goddard said.

As described on the university’s official website, “speakers will give a quick, thought-provoking overview about their community engagement project, the curriculum grant they received, and the lessons learned in the design and delivery process.”

Goddard explained how faculty and staff, as well as students, are chosen to lead a Wazoo Talk.

“We’re looking for in particular is an opportunity for students to be outside of the classroom and in the community. Being able to provide a service to the community while also learning,” Goddard said.

As part of Wazoo Talks programming, this Wednesday, March 23, Winona State faculty member Dr. Mary Jo Klinker will present on two projects for their Wazoo Talk: “Mutual Aid: LGBT Books to Prisoners” and “Queer, Trans, and Feminist Mutual Aid: Harm Reduction and Collective Care”. The discussion will be delivered through Zoom from 12-12:30 p.m.

Klinker is both the chairperson and professor of Winona State’s women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS) program. Klinker explained how their talk will be important for community learning as well as for students specifically minoring in WGSS.

“Feminist pedagogy is based on praxis: the bridging of theory and action. The Wazoo Talks highlight the importance of community engagement as feminist praxis, which is central to WGSS curriculum. For instance, in the WGSS minor, field experience and social change work are foundational to earning a minor,” Klinker explained.

Klinker also explained how WGSS students have been involved in the Winona State community and specifically so in regard to the projects she will present on. They highlighted students part of WGSS course “Queer Theories and Politics” as directly involved in the collaboration between local bookstore Chapter 2 Books and the Madison, Wis. LGBT Books to Prisoners Project, as well as various student leaders part of the KEAP Center, Full Spectrum, WSU Students for Reproduction Justice, WSU Students for Palestinian Liberation and more.

“I’m committed to education transforming the conditions of our lives and communities. The community engagement grant supported our class examining both the interlocking oppressions of the prison industrial complex and critical mutual aid efforts that seek to reorganize our world through care, repair, and social justice,” Klinker said.

The two projects Klinker will present on, as well as the Wazoo Talks programming in general, work on the bigger picture of “bridging theory and action as students are involved in building political education that transform our communities,” Klinker said.