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John Boswell Initiative

The career of John Boswell '69 was marked by groundbreaking research and a dedication to teaching. To honor this legacy, Arts & Sciences has created the Boswell Initiative.

From the unique issues faced in retirement to the creation of new family formations, the Boswell Initiative delivers programs that promote innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship on the cultural, economic, political, and policy dimensions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender life in the United States and in other countries. This initiative complements the Boswell Lecture, delivered annually during William & Mary's Homecoming weekend.

The larger Boswell Initiative aims to: 

  1. Invite visiting lecturers or professors to campus for one semester or a full academic year. Visiting scholars of this type are an excellent way to invigorate the campus community with new teaching and new ideas, and enhance the College's course offerings in this area.

    The visiting professor will offer courses related to LGBT communities and social issues at the undergraduate and graduate level, and give public lectures or performances while on campus. Such professors could be in History, American Studies, Anthropology, Women's Studies, Sociology, Government, Public Policy, Modern Languages & Literatures, Religious Studies, English, Art & Art History, Music, or Theater, Speech & Dance – or others, depending on the particular fit and goals. The visiting lecturer/professorship position(s) will rotate among the humanities, arts, and social science departments, ensuring that the largest number of faculty, students, and staff are engaged with the diverse ways of knowing and participating in LGBT contributions, identities, and challenges.
  2. Depending on the visiting professor(s) in residence, it could be appropriate to offer a lecture and/or film series that dovetails with courses in the College's curriculum. The lecture/film series could highlight contemporary LGBT issues, ranging from civil rights actions to the mass marketing of LGBT identities in mainstream media. All such events would be open to the W&M community and the general public.
  3. We could award research stipends to W&M faculty to organize and host workshops exploring pertinent topics. For example, a workshop could focus on health issues in relation to LGBT communities. Which issues are salient and which issues are ignored in biomedical practice and research are possible foci. Or a workshop could focus on the arts and LGBT issues, and bring together artists working in this realm. The range of possible topics is extensive. An alternating-years schedule would ensure that a variety of topics are addressed and a range of scholarly approaches and methodologies included. Such workshops would be open to the public and carry the expectation of some kind of scholarly output. Depending on the topic, such output could be an edited volume, a special issue of a journal, a white paper, art exhibit or theater production that both synthesizes workshop ideas and furthers knowledge related to the issue. The workshop’s output will ensure broad impact and could provide opportunities to bring members of the LGBT community back to campus for scholarly engagement.

In May 2013 Arts & Sciences accepted a founding contribution from the William & Mary Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association to create a new account to accept annual contributions to the Boswell Initiative targeting $25,000 per year, with particular interest in multi-year pledges that will allow the faculty to plan programs. In the longer term we plan to create a second Boswell endowment to support the larger initiative.

Link to Boswell Initiative contribution page

You can contribute online to the Boswell Initiative.

If you are interested in discussing how you might contribute to the future of the Boswell programs, please contact [[as-development]]. Thanks