Gender studies research highlights female factory workers in China

Anzi Dong receives WW Women's Studies Fellowship from Institute for Citizens and Scholars

May 17, 2023

After Anzi Dong completed her undergrad internship at a social work organization in China, she decided to research the lived experiences of Chinese migrant women of rural communities as a focus for her graduate academic journey.

Dong came to Arizona State University after earning her master’s degree in women’s and gender studies at George Washington University and is now a fourth-year PhD candidate in gender studies at the School of Social Transformation. Selfie of Anzi Dong standing in front of a body of water and white cherry blossom tree. Anzi Dong is a PhD candidate in gender studies at the School of Social Transformation at ASU. Photo courtesy Anzi Dong Download Full Image

Her dissertation, a community-based participatory research project called “Care Enough to Act: Migrant Women’s Community-based Organizing in Suburban Shenzhen, China” focuses on a migrant women-led nonprofit organization in an industrial district in Shenzhen. 

These women have over a decade of work experience across various industries — from manufacturing to service. Many once worked in export-oriented factories responsible for producing commodities, such as phones, clothing and footwear that were sold worldwide.

“My work focuses on their unique approach to migrant women’s collective empowerment and capacity building,” Dong said. “This group of women works to build a gender-safe, gender-inclusive space within the migrant workers’ neighborhood, and in doing so, to empower migrant women who are or might experience all kinds of gender discrimination and gender-based violence in the workplace and within their community.”

Her work highlights their voices, insights, collective wisdom and experiential knowledge.

Through ethnographic fieldwork and archival studies, and daily engagement — virtually and in person with the group’s community organizations — Dong hopes to display the women’s collective effort in creating a mutual aid network to meet the community’s demands.

Dong chose ASU to get additional support for her research and has received guidance from professors from the School of Social Transformation.

“The school is interdisciplinary,” she said. “Although I’m in the gender studies program, one of my dissertation committee co-chairs is a justice studies professor. They all provide me with different perspectives, constructive feedback and encourage me to think about these issues from different angles.”

Seeking fellowships and funding

Professors and faculty have encouraged her to pursue outside support through fellowships and funding, including the competitive WW Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies.

The fellowship, offered through the Institute for Citizen and Scholars, is awarded to students conducting doctoral dissertations related to women's and gender studies.

“The application process is challenging because it requires great patience and dedication,” Dong said. “You will have to build your application portfolio and work on your research statement over and over again. Fortunately, faculty across the School of Social Transformation offers me great mentorship throughout the process.”

Dong joins a group of 600 scholars who have received the fellowship in the last 47 years to help complete dissertations addressing issues revolving around women and gender studies.

Dissertation is 'a collective effort'

As a PhD candidate, Dong knows her dissertation is the first step in her academic journey. 

“The end goal of my dissertation is to get a good start on experiencing how to do research with communities,” she said. “This is just the beginning. I want to make this research a lifetime dedication and build a sustainable, reciprocal and collaborative relationship with communities outside the university.

“How can I maintain this project? How can I carry on this project even afterward? I am determined to continually work with this group of women and bring this ongoing project into my future faculty position at a university or college.”

While this project focuses on the experiences and impacts of migrant women and building a lifetime of passionate work for herself, Dong hopes to help support current and future PhD candidates conducting their research by sharing her experience.

“Dissertation is an ongoing process and I can never make it through without my peers and cohorts’ support,” she said. “Embrace peer reviews, organize cohort-based writing groups, engage in mutual mentorship, and offer your generous and genuine feedback. Working on a dissertation is never a personal journey. It’s a collective effort. Do all you can to support your cohorts.” 

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sage Family Scholarship supports student's study of coral reef fisheries in Indonesia

May 17, 2023

Arizona State University student Zachary Whaley was recently awarded the Sage Family Southeast Asian Studies Scholarship, which is a tribute to William W. Sage’s interest and lifelong work in Laos and Southeast Asia that supports students at ASU who wish to travel and study abroad there.

Whaley is pursuing a double major in biological sciences, with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology, from the School of Life Sciences and in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change ASU SOLS student Zac Whaley working on coral restoration ASU student Zachary Whaley worked on coral restoration in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo courtesy Zachary Whaley Download Full Image

He is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College and is minoring in political science through the School of Politics and Global Studies. Whaley will graduate in May 2024. 

“Zac has a strong interest in the intersection of marine conservation ecology and food sovereignty, which has led him to develop a societally and ecologically relevant honor’s thesis project that he will conduct in Indonesia thanks to the Sage Fellowship,” said associate research professor Katie Cramer. Cramer is associated with the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, and serves as the director of Whaley’s thesis committee. 

“I admire his fierce intellectual curiosity, love of the natural world and passion for environmental justice. I have no doubt that he will continue to put his talents to use to be a force for positive change in the world,” she said.

We had the chance to sit down with Whaley and ask him about this award, his time at ASU and his passion for ecology.

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about your journey before you came to ASU? What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: I have always been very passionate about ecology and love being outside, whether that’s hiking, backpacking, surfing, fishing or just studying outdoors. I graduated from high school in 2020 and originally entered ASU as a chemical engineering student. In the fall of my sophomore year, I decided to switch my major to biological sciences. The major “aha” moment for me was realizing that I could pursue a career where I would be able to spend time outside rather than being stuck inside a lab or an office all day.

Q: Could you tell us what the Sage Family Scholarship means to you?

A: I feel very honored to be included in a network with other Sage scholars and with the Sage Family Foundation. Much of my studies have been focused on Southeast Asian culture and ecology, and I am currently taking Indonesian language classes. Being able to travel to Indonesia to observe and participate in the culture and ecology that I have learned about in class is an absolute dream come true. Thanks to the generosity of Bill Sage, I will be able to complete research on coral reef fisheries during my time and contribute to the food sovereignty of Indonesia.

Q: What have you planned so far as part of the scholarship? 

A: So far I am planning on visiting Marine Protected Areas within the Bird’s Head Seascape of Papua, Indonesia, in order to assess how the interplay of social, political and ecological factors influences coral reef fisheries there. I also plan on traveling around the country for a week and visiting coral reef sites in order to gain a better understanding of the social-ecological systems present in Indonesian coral reef ecosystems. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: I learned so much about conservation from my Indigenizing Food Systems Lab. This lab allowed me to really dive into Indigenous food systems and especially how they relate to ecology, which has helped shape my plans for graduate school and my honor's thesis project. 

Q: What is your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot on campus to study is outside the Student Services Building. I enjoy sitting under the trees while I listen to music and do my homework. My friends and I also meet up right outside the Memorial Union, which is the best place for people watching on campus. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school, particularly those in STEM?

A: ASU has so many opportunities for personal development, including research, clubs and specialized courses. I would recommend finding a lab or initiative to join that you find interesting and passionate about and taking full advantage of the resources ASU provides in order to best contribute to that activity. I’ve been able to learn so much through doing research and group projects through working in the Katie Cramer Lab and the Indigenizing Food Systems Humanities Lab and would definitely recommend that other students find and participate in similar experiences. 

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences