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Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Program Coordinator

Dr. Kathryn Forbes, Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Area(s) of Expertise: Gender, Law, and Public Policy; Title IX; Sexual Harassment; Employment Discrimination; Gender Issues in South Asia;  Feminist Ethnography; Feminist Research Methods

Research Interests: Prior to coming to Fresno State, Forbes conducted research in India on the effects of military occupation and resistance to it on Kashmiri families in Srinagar, and her teaching continues to be informed by this early research. Her current research explores the articulations of gender, race, and class in US public policy and law with particular attention to employment, education, and housing issues in California. More specifically, her research traces how organizations and local governments create legal environments through their interpretations of civil rights law, in the formulation of compliance practices, during dispute resolution processes, and among employees and activist organizations as they mobilize their legal rights to combat discrimination and inequality. Her research is informed by feminist methods, the sociology of law, and the anthropology of bureaucracies. She is deeply committed to producing research that is usable to social justice organizations. Thus, much of her research comes out of political organizing around civil rights issues. Her publications appear in NWSA Journal, Feminist Formations, Feminism and Philosophy, Human Organization, as well as in a variety of popular media sources. She has served as the Faculty Rights Chair for the California Faculty Association. She has been awarded the Provost's Medal of Service, a Fulbright Fellowship, and she served as co-investigator on grants from Housing and Urban Development and as principal investigator on numerous institutional grants. 

Teaching Interests: Dr. Forbes teaches Gender, Law, and Social Policy, Feminist Research Methods, Women and Work, and Introduction to Women's Studies. 


Phone: 559.278.2606

Office: McKee Fisk 243

Program Faculty

Dr. Mary Coomes, Instructor, Ph.D., University of Michigan

Research Interests: Dr. Coomes’ fields of study include Gender and the West, Gender and the Environment, U.S. Environmental History, and U.S. Labor History. In addition, she is interested in grass-roots women’s organizing.

Teaching Interests: At Fresno State, Dr. Coomes teaches Introduction to Women’s Studies.


Phone: 559-278-9767

Office: McKee Fisk 229

Dakota M Draconi, MSW, Fresno State

Area(s) of Expertise: Child Abuse and Related Issues, Violence against Women, Homophobic Violence, Welcoming Diversity and Cultural Competency.

Research Interests: Dakota earned a Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies (2008) and a Master’s in Social Work (2012), both from Fresno State, and received the Student Affairs Graduate Dean’s Medal upon completion of the MSW program. Dakota’s Master’s Project was the creation of an LGBT+ Cultural Competency Training for Foster Parents. After successfully completing the MSW program, Dakota expanded the LGBT+ Cultural Competency Training to also address the specific training needs of Cultural Brokers, Inc. and WestCare California, Inc. Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs staff. Dakota has done extensive research on violence against vulnerable communities, oppression and privilege, intersectionality, and healing for survivors. Dakota gives guest lectures and trainings in the Fresno community, as well as throughout the state, on those topics. Dakota has been trained to lead Welcoming Diversity workshops by the National Coalition Building Institute, International, and serves as a member of the Fresno State Affiliate National Coalition Building Institute Team.

Teaching Interests: At Fresno State, Dakota has taught WS10 Introduction to Women’s Studies, WS12 Critical Thinking: Gender Issues, WS108 Rape, WS109 Incest, WS115 Women Children and Alcoholism, WS116 Domestic Violence, SWRK123 Social Welfare Policy, SWRK136 Cultural Diversity and Oppression.


Phone: 559-715-2778

Dr. Katherine Fobear, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of British Columbia

Research Interests: Dr. Kat Fobear is an assistant professor of Women's Studies and coordinator of the upcoming LGBTQ studies minor. Her research and activism focuses on the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender in migration and transitional justice. Her most recent work is with LGBTQ refugees and undocumented persons in Canada. Her new work focuses on the issues that transgender asylum seekers and undocumented persons face in the United States and Canada. She is an affiliate of Rainbow Refugee--a volunteer based organization in Canada dedicated to assisting those fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.


Phone: 559-278-2806

Office: McKee Fisk 211

Dr. Loretta Kensinger, Professor, Ph.D. Purdue University

Research Interests: Dr. Loretta Kensinger's fields of study include United States Government, Feminist Political Theory, Comparative Politics, and United States Women's History.  Her research interests focus on the political theory of Emma Goldman, social movements, as well as inclusions and exclusions in feminist thought and feminist pedagogy.  Currently, Loretta is exploring the interconnections between U.S. and Mexican anarchists in the early twentieth century, particularly in California.   She is co-editor, with Dr. Penny Weiss, of the edited volume "Feminist Interpretations of Emma Goldman," Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007. Samples of her other publications include: "Radical Lessons:  Thoughts on Emma Goldman, Chaos, Grief and Political Violence Post-9/11/01," Feminist Teacher, 2009;  "Plugged in Praxis: Thoughts on Cyber-Technology, Feminism, and Solidarity with the Women of Afghanistan," Journal of International Women's Studies, 2003; and"(In)Quest of Liberal Feminism," Hypatia,  1997.

Teaching Interests:  Loretta has taught a number of courses for the program, including the History of Feminism, Feminist Theory, Women in U.S. Politics, Representations of Women, Introduction to Women's Studies, and Critical Thinking: Gender Issues.   In 2003 she was honored with the School of Social Science "Outstanding Teacher Award".


Phone: 559.278.8150

Office: McKee Fisk 215

Dr. Larissa M. Mercado-López, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

Research Interests: Larissa M. Mercado-López, Ph.D., received her doctorate in English/Latina Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she completed her dissertation on a Ford Fellowship. She is on the Executive Committee for the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa, and is a member of the editorial board for the scholarly journal, Chicana/Latina Studies. Dr. Mercado-López’s book manuscript Mestiza Mat(t)ers: On the Corporeal Contours of Maternal Knowledge merges the Chicana philosophies of Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, and Maria Lugones, with works in feminist phenomenology by Iris Marion Young, Linda Alcoff, Jacqueline Martínez, and Mariana Ortega, to show how mestiza mothers construct opposition knowledges through the social and bodily lived experiences of mestizaje and maternity. In her second research trajectory, Dr. Mercado-López examines the discursive, visual, and environmental colonization of fitness, investigating in particular the ways in which popular fitness conflicts with working-class Latinas’ constructions of womanhood and their material realities.

Teaching Interests: At Fresno State, Dr. Mercado-López teaches Introduction to Women’s Studies and Politics of Latina Health and Size. At her previous institution, she taught Feminism and Globalization, Latinas in U.S. Society, Feminist Theories, Feminist Literary Theories, and Feminist Research Methodologies.


Phone: 559-278-8599

Office: Mckee Fisk 217


Melissa Knight, Instructor (Psy.D., Alliant International University - In Progress; M.O.B., California School of Professional Psychology)

Research Interests: Professor Knight will complete in 2013 her doctorate of psychology in organizational development at Alliant International University. She is the owner of Knight Consulting, an organizational consulting, training and development company specializing in capacity building for nonprofit agencies, which she formed in 1991. A nationally-certified trainer (BoardSource and Achieve Global), specializing in diversity, strategic planning, communication and fund development. Her research, writing and field work with nonprofit organizations throughout the state and nation has focused on empowering groups that have been marginalized. The preponderance of her work in this area has improved the lives of women, children, people with disabilities, LGBTQQI communities, people of color and homeless persons and those living in poverty.

Teaching Interests: Women of Color, Introduction to LGBTQI Studies, Representations of Women, Critical thinking


Office: McKee Fisk 229

 Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver (Blackfeet/Wyandot/Cherokee/Choctaw), Assistant Professor and Director of American Indian Studies, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Area(s) of Expertise: Interdisciplinary Women of Color and American Indian and Indigenous Feminisms; Colonial Race-Gender Phenomenology; Feminist Histories; Women of Color Feminist Theory and Activism; Transnational Feminisms; Decolonial and Third World Liberation Movements; Coloniality and the State; Feminist Legal Theory; History and Narrativity

Research Interests: Dr. Lee-Oliver’s research and teaching centralize questions about Indigenous and Third World phenomenology, paying particular attention to social movements that engage Decolonial political strategies, their key figures, scholars, and teachers. Her work examines the community activism and conditions that arise when national policies and societal beliefs pose challenges to peoples’ sovereignty, safety, and security, and the roles that women and gender non-conforming peoples play in community survival. Dr. Lee-Oliver’s book manuscript, Red Feminist Roots: American Indian Women, Coloniality, and the Liturgies of Death and Life, focuses on the phenomenon of American Indian women’s racialization as a trajectory that reflects the long shadow of colonial racism and heteronormativity that leave American Indian women and girls vulnerable to an epidemic rate of violence today. The book pays homage to American Indian women leaders whose legacies of resistance embrace cultural traditions in order to promote and protect American Indian lifeways, historically and today.

Teaching Interests: Dr. Lee-Oliver teaches Feminist Theory, Women, Violence and Law, American Indian and Indigenous Women Writers, and Introduction to Women’s Studies in addition to courses in American Indian Studies. She has taught courses on Abolition, Suffrage, and Feminism, Women of Color Social Movements, Colonialism and Globalization, and Indigenous and Third World Pedagogies of Wellness.


Phone: 559-278-5839

Office: SS 106


Enid Perez, Instructor, J.D., University of Michigan Law

Research Interests: Enid Perez has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. While attending law school, she also received a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies.

Teaching Interests: WS 12: Critical Thinking Gender Issues.


Phone: 559-278-9767

Office: McKee Fisk 229


Dr. Janet Trapp Slagter, Associate Professor, Ph.D. Southern Illinois University, Emerita

Area(s) of Expertise: History of Western Philosophy, Women and/in the History of Philosophy, Feminist Theory, Contemporary Corporate and Grassroots forms of Globalization, Women's Organizing in the US, Guatemala, Kenya, Women and Aging

Research Interests: Dr. Slagter has published on the Cuban women's movement, femininity and alienation, and on contemporary activism in central California, and maintains a research interest in the politics of women's health. Her current research focuses on faculty roles in shaping university policies.

Teaching Interests: Dr. Slagter teaches course in Feminist Theory, Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Women, a Seminar on Feminist Activism, Women and Aging, Women and the Environment, and Women's Bodies and has taught courses on Race, Class, and Gender Diversity in the US, Critical Thinking and Gender, and Women of Color in the US.  She serves or has served on local boards of the Fresno Free College Foundation/KFCF independent radio station, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Fresno Community Alliance magazine.

Phone: 559.278.7140

Office: SS 103B


Jeremy Alvarez, Administrative Support Assistant


Justine Esparza, Student Assistant


Office: McKee Fisk 243

Phone: 559.278.2858

Hours: M-F 8:00-5:00pm; 12-1 closed for lunch