By Donald Whitesall

Dr. Colleen Clemens and Cherise Fung, a student. Photo by Donald Whitesall, The Keystone
Dr. Colleen Clemens and Cherise Fung, a student.
Photo by Donald Whitesall, The Keystone

Dr. Colleen Clemens has worked for over four years to blend post-colonial studies and non-western literature with feminist viewpoints on equality for all. The feminist movement helps her bring insight on history and works that have been written over the years.

Clemens, who takes her students out of Western literature and into international writing, enlightens students with ideas from around the world. Clemens says that she uses feminism to change negative stereotypes in literature and history.

“It’s hard to undo years tropes,” says Clemens.

A member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Board, Clemens represents her female colleagues in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education consortium every semester, where she talks about how gender affects campuses, and ways to fix these problems.

Students show enthusiasm for her work. Erin Meehan, a junior at Kutztown University, emphasized Clemens’ unbiased knowledge and her effort to give a broad perspective. “She is very unbiased. She makes a point to show all sides of society. Even though she is a white female, she goes on to show all sides of the world,” says Meehan.

Another student in Clemens’ class, Dante Auman, praised her teaching style. “She integrates a lot and it is universal. She opens up views on things. She makes you think about different things. She knows a lot, and she can tell you a story and show you different views.”

Clemens’ colleague, Dr. Amanda Morris, gave her thoughts about the English professor and how she combines feminism with the curriculum. “I think it is fantastic. We need more of it. She is extremely dedicated and she loves sharing her work. That is why we are scholars.”

Clemens was born in Allentown, Pa. Her start as a feminist began in her junior year at Parkland High School when she played the clarinet in the marching band. A bandmate said that girls could not play the tuba because of how giant and loud the instrument is. This pushed her to prove him wrong and foreshadowed her career.

Clemens earned her Bachelors in education with certifications in French, communications and English at Penn State University. She went on to earn her Masters in English Education at DeSales University and a doctorate in post-colonial literature along with a certificate in gender studies from Lehigh University.

She also volunteered at Centre County’s Women’s Resource Center as a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor while at Penn State. This experience along with her doctorate work let her find her focus. “I had a strong interest in voicing equality,” said Clemens.

In October, Clemens spoke at Shepherd University’s Common Reading Event. She delivered a speech on the portrayal of Muslim women through popular texts and how it contributes to the misperceptions of these women throughout the media and Western culture.

Clemens said, “I wanted them to walk away from the talk with something large.” She uses her daughter as inspiration to fight for an equal environment.

The KU professor continues to fight problems on campus. She specified how social media is a big problem, and how people are using it to objectify women and put others down. “I don’t want to just shut these pages down,” she said “I also want to give them insight.”


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