Women’s and Gender Studies
Mary Beth (Betsy) started teaching at Merrimack College in the spring of 2010. Her teaching focus is broad and diverse and examines issues of identity and empowerment studied through the contexts of gender, race and class with special emphasis on cultural modes of sexuality and spirituality and an attention to social justice. She emphasizes social justice ideas in her classrooms as not just a curricular mandate but as a focus of engagement and inquiry.
She teaches a variety of courses including the introductory course, Gender and Society and others that specifically examine and critique gendered media representations including Gender and Pop Culture, Gender, Race and the Media and Studies in Masculinities. She has also introduced and designed curricula for the course Introduction to Ethnic Studies here at Merrimack as well as outside courses including Introduction to LGBT Studies, Introduction to African-American Studies and Hip Hop Culture.
Through travel in Mexico and the US Southwest, she expanded her coursework and experiential learning into cultural studies and more dramatically feminist spirituality with experience as a “seeker” examining diverse cultures and their sociological impact. Much of her praxis and research has examined the discourse between spirituality and sexuality and how this has impacted and constructed specific gender power dynamics. She has also examined examples of female divinity in indigenous cultures and analyzed how these become dynamic symbols of feminine source and creativity that empower and activate women. She believes that this type of hands-on learning is vital to instill in her own student’s learning processes.
In connection with this experience, she developed the upper-level course Changing Woman/Reality and Myth which examines the lives of Native American Women. She recently collaborated with Dr. Debra Michals to redesign the classroom without walls course Fieldwork in the American Southwest. This travel course educates students about the history, arts and crafts, political struggles, rituals, and story-telling of the southwestern Native American Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo cultures. In May/June 2017, she and Dr. Michals traveled with students to engage in fieldwork in New Mexico and Arizona that included visits to archaeological sites, pueblos, and reservations, as well as meeting with southwestern artists, writers, environmentalists, filmmakers, and social justice activists. The redesign of the course includes new opportunities to engage course themes in a dialogue not only with Catholic teachings but also with the Augustinian mission of social justice and community. A service learning component is a key part of the course, as students studied critical social justice issues of the region and worked with Navajo filmmaker Frost Fowler to produce a PSA (public service announcement) video about natural resource devastation in the region and its impact on native peoples.
Ms. Salerno is active in social justice and feminist activism and is a contributing member of The Social Justice Committee collaborating on workshops, lectures and events at Merrimack’s annual Social Justice Symposium and at related events at The University of New Hampshire. She is a firm believer in the adage “feminists are made, not born” and views Women’s Studies curricula as an opportunity for students to pursue their inquiries, challenge their perceptions and offer diverse perspectives while engaging in transformative growth.
- M.A., Interdisciplinary Studies/Women’s Studies and Feminist Spirituality, Lesley University
- B.A., Sociology, Westminster College
Gender and Society
Gender and Pop Culture
Gender, Race and the Media
Studies in Masculinity
Women and Film: Politics of Representation
Introduction to Ethnic Studies
Changing Woman/Reality and Myths
Fieldwork in the American Southwest