Bridging Theory and Practice: MSV at Emory University

Sixteen undergraduates made history this spring by completing MSV’s first-ever academic course offering at Emory University.  The course, Male Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Critical Issues and Concepts, taught by Ulester Douglas (UD), was the vision of the late Dr. Rudolph Byrd.  At the time of its offering, there was no course within Emory College that focused on male intimate partner violence against women or used a community-engaged learning approach to this issue.  Students gave their seal of approval by unanimously rating the course as excellent in their final evaluations.

-           It is the best class I have taken at Emory and I am a senior.

-          Very rarely do students get the opportunity to learn from someone who can speak not only to textbooks applications, but also to real-world and real life experiences.

-          Ulester and Dominick (TA for the course) were two of the best teachers I have had at Emory.

UD: “Teaching this course provided an exciting opportunity to reach today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.  When students are exposed to this kind of material it raises the stakes that they would do something, take action, to help prevent violence against women. There is still a high degree of indifference to male violence against women, in part because of the lack of knowledge about the issue”

-          Almost everything I was taught in this class was new information and I learned to think of abuse in completely new and different ways. 

-          Before (the class on stalking) I didn’t take stalking very seriously, and afterwards I was aware of its severity and importance.

-          I never before thought about the ways in which immigrant women constituted a vulnerable group for domestic violence. [This course] helped me expand upon the ways I view Intersectionality.

The class comprised 13 women and 3 men from across Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, and the Institute of Liberal Arts.  Over 13 weeks they explored the roots, tactics, and responses to male violence against women.   Students with varied exposure to studying male violence appreciated learning the subject matter from people in the field on the front lines of working with survivors and perpetrators.

-          The guest speakers helped bring the material into real life.

-          It’s one thing to learn about and read about gender violence but it’s totally different to hear directly from survivors and perpetrators.

-           Ulester’s firsthand experience made him an amazing asset.  He could answer almost any question on the issue in a manner the readings could not.

A centerpiece of MSV’s work and of the class is the community accountability model, MSV’s theoretical framework for addressing male violence against women.

UD: “I was pleased with the students’ response to the community accountability model – they really took to it. I was somewhat surprised because it can be quite provocative and challenging.  They were able to experience theory and practice at its best; it put into perspective so much of what they didn’t understand about the issue.”

-          I never before realized how the structure of patriarchy is so detrimental to a woman in our society.

-          The course made me look at the whole world different[ly].  To see the roles that everyone plays in the community accountability model was touching. 

-          Learning about how patriarchy dictates the way our society treats and views women was mind-blowing.

UD:  “The bottom line? This was a highly motivated class that was very engaged and committed to the issue at hand.  One of the rewards of teaching this course is the satisfaction of believing, knowing, that this group of women and men are going to make waves.  I am convinced that those students’ lives have been transformed, and they will do something to help prevent violence against women. “

Students were impacted on personal, academic, professional and community levels by this course.  One student reported that the course will make him a better man, father and husband.  Another student announced that she too wanted to become an advocate for survivors of violence after a presentation by Ayonna Johnson, legal advocate for the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.   And still another student, who was selected as an Emory Scholar, chose to intern at the Women’s Resource Center for the summer as a result of the course.

-          [This course] encouraged me to connect the things we learn to real world applications.

-          I took 2 classes during my four years of college here that really helped me become a better and healthier person.  This has been one of them.

UD:  “This was an amazing experience.  Witnessing the students’ intellectual and social transformation was priceless. MSV appreciates the support of all the partners at Emory who helped to make this course possible.  I would like to shout out Calinda Lee, Associate Director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute, and Dona Yarbrough, Director of The Center for Women at Emory for their leadership and for supporting me through this process.”

-          I am very content and satisfied that this course material and teaching style is the way I am ending my education at Emory.

This fall, twenty-plus new students will have the opportunity to be intellectually and socially challenged to attend to the implications of “knowing the truth” that, “More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime,”(CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2010).

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All quotes were culled from students’ written evaluations.