Visiting Professor

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

August 28, 1997

UW-RF Visiting Professor Discusses Gay History, Diversity
by Maria Rohl-Franco
UWRF News Bureau

A naitonally recognized gay rights activist, educator and spokesperson will be the 1997 UW-River Falls visiting professor.

James Sears will conduct a series of classroom lectures, participate in faculty meetings and present public lectures from Sept. 29 - Oct. 3.

As an intellectual gay activist living in the deep South, Sears has attracted national attention and angered many conservative Southerners; he was denounced as the "Satan of the University" by the Rev. Pat Robertson of the 700 Club. At the same time, his work has undoubtedly opened the minds of many; he was awarded the American Civil Liberties Union's First Amendment Award.

According to UW-RF Provost Robert Milam, visiting professors like Sears are essential in keeping with the University's objective to "remain guided by professional ethics and open to a wide array of differing perspectives and viewpoints." He added that Sears will "provide a window to the ideas and perspectives which will enable graduates to interact successfully in the global marketplace."

Sears is a professor of curriculum and higher education in the doctoral program of the department of educational leadership and policies at the University of South Carolina. He graduated summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in history, earned his master's in political science from UW-Madison and his doctorate in sociology and education from Indiana University.

Over the past 15 years, he has written more than 100 book chapters, articles, essays, and scholarly papers, as well as eight books. These critically acclaimed books include, "Growing up Gay in the South," "Bound by Diversity," "Sexuality and the Curriculum," "Teaching and Thinking About Curriculum," and "When Good Doesn't Equal Best."

During his week-long stay at UW-RF, Sears will be addressing lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns through lectures and workshops based on his books, homophobia and heterosexism, and cultural studies. His workshops focus on faculty response to student sexual diversity, the development of tolerance and doing local and regional historic research.

He will be meeting with various groups, including the Gay/Straight Alliance, University Committee on LGB Concerns & Safe Space Committee, and diversity awareness groups. He will also be available in all departments for individual faculty and staff consultations.

Sears will be sharing his lectures with a number of specific class sections during the week. According to Professor Faye Perkins of the department of health and human performance, "We will be bringing Sears to the masses, through 'mini convocations' right in the classrooms, instead of having the masses come to him."

Some of the classes Sears will be visiting are: Introduction to Political Science, Methods and Materials in Health Education, Social Psychology, Multicultural Education and Counseling for the Classroom Teacher. Topics Sears will be discussing include: "Politics and Philosophy of the Gay Movement," "Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia," "Constructing Sexual Identity," and "Meeting the Needs of GLBT Youth." The public is invited and strongly encouraged to participate in these classroom lectures.

A public lecture will be held on Thursday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Abbott Concert Hall in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building. Sears will speak about gay experiences from 1948-1968, during the "Homophile Era," and focus on his latest book, "Lonely Hunters." There will be a public reception from 9-10 p.m., also in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building.

Perkins noted, "Having Jim Sears on campus, sharing his wealth of knowledge and personal experience regarding GLBT issues will help us toward continuing to improve the climate for everyone at UW-RF."

Sears has a number of writing projects underway, including "Generations," a cultural and oral history of southern life through the eyes of five generations of gay men and lesbians.

He has participated in a variety of radio talk shows, and his columns have appeared in many lesbian and gay newspapers. He has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Parade Magazine, Time, ABC Nightly News, and he has been highlighted on such talk shows as Oprah Winfrey. His lectures throughout the United States include campus visits to Northwestern, University of Delaware, Penn State, SUNY-Albany and Bucknell.

During the early nineties, Sears worked as the editor of "Empathy," an interdisciplinary journal on sexual identities. He was also the founder and past president of the American Educational Research Association's lesbian and gay studies special interest group.

Sears has conducted workshops for AT&T, and Planned Parenthood of New England. He has spoken at political rallies such as Atlanta's Gay Pride and at major conferences, including the International Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the American Educational Research Association.

For more information, contact Faye Perkins at 715/425-3966.

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