Headshot of Dr.Melissa  Ooten

Dr. Melissa Ooten

Director, will Program
Associate Dean, Social Justice Engagement and Practice, Westhampton College
Affiliated Faculty, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
  • Profile

    Melissa Ooten is the Director of the will Program and Associate Dean of Social Justice Engagement and Practice for Westhampton College 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 intersectional feminist histories and linking theory to praxis in pedagogical practice. Her publications include: A People’s Guide to Richmond and Central Virginia (University of California Press, 2023), an alternative guidebook co-written with Jason Sawyer that centers community histories of struggle, resistance, and resilience; Audacious Voices: Profiles in Intersectional Feminism (She Writes Press, 2018), a collection co-edited with Holly Blake that features twelve stories written by alums about the power of the will program in their lives; and Race, Gender, and Movie Censorship in Virginia, 1922–1965 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014). She has written a number of articles on issues ranging from mass incarceration to eugenics to teaching #BlackLivesMatter through film. In 2022, she received a Virginia Public Humanities fellowship to support her work on A People’s Guide. She has been a member of the National Women’s Studies Association since 2006, and she has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education since 2020.

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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

  • Links