Gender Studies, Sex Education, and Representation: A Conversation with Abby Fussell S23

This September, the College welcomed 35 NCF additional transfers to campus, accounting for 10 percent of the incoming fall class, and Hampshire is preparing to welcome more of them this spring.

Driven by a quest for academic liberty and a radical approach to education, Abby found their way to Hampshire through a Google search. They knew they wanted to complete a substantial capstone project and find an environment where they could continue to receive narrative evaluations. But perhaps most important, Abby needed a place where they could further their studies and explore gender and sex education freely. “Hampshire reminded me of New College; leaving broke my heart.”

While at NCF, it became increasingly clear that academic exploration in Florida under the current governance was simply not possible. “There started being a lot of new laws, House bills, and Senate bills around what could and couldn’t be said in a college classroom,” Abby recalls. “I realized I couldn’t study my full scope there.” 

Since arriving at Hampshire, Abby’s academic journey has been a blend of passion and purpose. Concentrating on sex education and gender studies, they aspire to venture into public health and harm reduction. 

For their Div III, Abby is researching the gender orgasm gap. “The first component of the project is that I want to broaden the definition to include marginalized genders,” Abby says, highlighting the complexities beyond binary frameworks that past studies have failed to account for. For their final project, they aim to craft an inclusive guide for educators and researchers in the sex ed field, shedding light on disparities and advocating for comprehensive discourse. 

This semester, they’re a teaching assistant for Science of Stress, taught by Associate Professor of Physiology Cynthia Gill (CJ), which is a first-year seminar. “CJ is both my chair and my professor, and when I told her about my Div III idea, she asked if I wanted to TA her class,” they said. “I’m not a STEM major, but it’s going well. It’s really interesting, and it’s helping a lot with my Div.”

Abby holds a variety of other roles on campus, from assisting in the One Card Office for Campus Safety and Wellbeing, to working in the Office of Prevention and Education, to being a transfer representative on the Student Advocacy Board. 

They have a passion for building connections for their peers, many of whom are NCF transfers as well. When asked to describe Hampshire to someone outside the College, Abby replied, “Community nurturing. Yes, your classes are important, but it’s more important that you’re learning about how to tie those experiences into your community and what that means for you, and how you grow so that while you’re growing, you’re not only focused on supporting, you’re also building this beautiful community of people. You’re watering their tree a little bit and you have people who are watering yours and creating growth together.”