Headshot of Dr.Melissa  Ooten

Dr. Melissa Ooten

Director, will Program

Affiliated Faculty, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

  • Profile

    Melissa Ooten is the associate director of the will program and gender research specialist at the University of Richmond. She has worked with will since 2005 and is deeply committed to educating the next generation of social justice advocates. She holds a Ph.D. in history from The College of William and Mary and specializes in researching social movement history and linking theory to praxis in pedagogical practice. She has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education since 2020. She published Race, Gender, and Movie Censorship in Virginia, 1922–1965 with Rowman and Littlefield in 2015 and has written a number of articles on issues ranging from mass incarceration to eugenics to teaching #BlackLivesMatter through film. Audacious Voices: Profiles in Intersectional Feminism, co-edited with will director Holly Blake, was published by She Writes Press in fall 2018. This edited collection features twelve stories written by alums about the power of the will program in their lives during and beyond college. In 2023, the University of California Press will publish her third book, A People’s Guide to Richmond and Central Virginia, an alternative guidebook that centers community histories of struggle, resistance, and resilience. She received a Virginia Humanities fellowship for this work in 2022.

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    • Presentations

      Presenter, “A People’s Guide to Richmond and Central Virginia: Community Engaged Histories,” American Historical Association Conference, January 2022.

      Moderator and Presenter, “Resistance Pedagogy in the Age of Betsy DeVos,” National Women’s Studies Association, November 2019.

      Moderator, “Organizing for Justice On Campus and Beyond: The WILL Program Model,” National Women’s Studies Association, November 2019.

      Convener and Facilitator, “Connecting Feminist Coursework to Praxis: Programmatic Tools to Help Students Work Toward Just Futures,” National Women’s Studies Association Program Administration and Development Pre-Conference, November 2018.

      Moderator, “Student Visions: Connecting Feminist Theory to Praxis in Pursuit of More Just Futures,” National Women’s Studies Association, November 2018.

      Presenter, “Whose Freedom? Whose Memory? Shaping a Transnational Public Memorial Landscape in the Atlantic World,” Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World (CLAW) Conference, March 2018.

      Presenter, “Teaching #BlackLivesMatter with Film and Video,” National Women’s Studies Association, November 2017.

      Invited Keynote, “Virginia Vice: Legislating Morality,” Library of Virginia, September 2017.

      Invited Black History Month and Women’s History Month Keynote, “First Class Citizenship: African American Women and the Struggle against Segregation in Virginia,” Randolph-Macon College, March 2017.

      Invited Presenter, “Mapping for Social Justice: Approaches with New Media and the Digital Humanities,” A People’s Guide Series cohort. Yale University, March 2017.

      Presenter, “The Process and Praxis of Social Justice Work: The WILL Program Model,” National Women’s Studies Association, November 2016.

      Presenter, “Narratives for Food Justice,” Imagining America Annual Meeting, October 2016.

      Presenter, “Reclaiming History and Building Community in Historic Fulton: Methods for Community-Engaged Research,” Imagining America Annual Meeting, October 2015.

      Invited Presenter, “Censorship in Black and White:  African American Resistance to State Censorship in Virginia,” Birth of an Answer:  100 Years of African American Filmmaking, Old Dominion University, September 2015.

      Presenter, “Race, Space and Place in the American South:  Virginia’s Civil Rights Monument and Memorialization in Richmond, VA,” Southern Association for Women Historians, June 2015.

    • Memberships

      National Women's Studies Association

      American Historical Association

      American Association of University Women

      Southern Association for Women's Historians

  • Publications
    Additional Publications

    Audacious Voices: Profiles in Intersectional Feminism. Co-edited with Holly Blake. Berkeley, CA: She Writes Press, 2018.

    Teaching #BlackLivesMatter in the Introductory Gender Studies Classroom: A Primer.” Films for the Feminist Classroom. Summer 2017.

    Race, Gender and Movie Censorship in Virginia, 1922-1965 Lantham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield.  2014.  New Directions in Southern History series edited by John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of History at UNC-Charlotte. 

    “From the Coal Mine to the Prison Yard: The Human Cost of Appalachia’s New Economy” with Jason Sawyer, William Shumann, and Rebecca Adkins-Fletcher, eds., Appalachia Revisited: Perspectives on Regional Continuity and Change (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2014).

    Censorship in Black and White: The Cultural and Racial Politics of Film Censorship in the Post World War II American South,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Winter 2013.

    A History of Resilience is a History of Resistance.” Appalachian Journal. Spring 2011.

    Waves of Feminism: Discussions and Disruptions.” With Emily Miller. Alice Ginsberg, ed. And Finally We Meet: Intersections and Intersectionality Among Feminist Activists, Academics and Students. Towson, MD: Institute for Teaching and Research on Women.

    Tackling the PIC: Successes and Challenges in Teaching the Prison-Industrial Complex.”  Radical Teacher. 2010.88 (2010): 32-43. Print.

    “Connecting Theory and Practice.” With Holly Blake. Ms. Magazine.

    Bridging the Divide: Connecting Feminist Histories and Activism in the Classroom.” With Holly Blake. Radical History Review 2008.102 (2008): 63-72. Print.

    Dangerous Bodies: Women and the Censorship of Sex Hygiene Films in Virginia.” Screen Media and Sexual Politics Anthology. Cambridge: Scholars Press.

    Filming Eugenics: Teaching the History of Eugenics Through Film.” With Sarah Trembanis. The Public Historian 29.3 (2007): 145-55. Print.

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