Senior Stories: How Being Challenged Motivated and Inspired One GSF Major

Photo of Katherine Gan sitting in front of a body of water

College is a time for change, and Katherine Gan, a Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies major graduating in May agrees.  

“I am a very different person than I was when I first entered Duke,” Gan said, “but wonderful mentorships and friendships have made me grow a great amount in just a couple of years.” 

Gan credits the GSF department for challenging them and providing what they call a “much-needed intellectual environment to think about desire, power and feminism, particularly for women and people of color.” 

Gan’s interests lie in poetry in relation to the Asian experience in America, focusing on the Atlanta spa shootings in 2021. Their thesis, “Excavating the Afterlives of Empire through Asian/American Women’s Aesthetics & Poetry,” is the culmination of over a year’s worth of work. 

  “My thesis is my grappling with the Atlanta shootings, connecting that event to longer histories of colonialism and imperialism that determine the racialization, gendering, and sexualization of Asian women,” said Gan.  

The thesis enabled them to be grounded in academic work and projects that are both personally and politically relevant, Gan added. 

  Jennifer C. Nash, the Jean Fox O'Barr Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, calls Gan “fantastic and brilliant,” and lauds their academic achievements in the department, as well as externally. 

  Gan’s accomplishments include earning a Duke University Faculty Scholars Award, winning a 2021 Benenson Award and receiving a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

 After graduation, Gan will start a Ph.D. in American Culture at the University of Michigan, where they hope to continue the work they started at Duke.  

Gan’s advice to incoming students? “I would encourage them to major in GSF or Global Gender Studies (an interdisciplinary major between GSF and International Comparative Studies)! But more so, I would tell them to take risks and to pursue their personal, academic, and political interests.”