Corwin Receives Term Faculty Development Grant: Thinking Interdisciplinary Through Friendship Connections

We would like to congratulate our faculty member and associate director, David Powers Corwin, for winning a term faculty development grant to broaden the curriculum that CHSS offers. With this grant, they hope to develop a course titled: Friendships in Our World that can be offered across departments and programs within CHSS. Corwin hopes that this will be the first of several course offerings in the college that will focus on friendship studies. It is also worth mentioning that Corwin is the first faculty member in Women and Gender Studies to be awarded one of these grants. You can find out more information about the purpose of term faculty development grants through the Dean's office page: https://chss.gmu.edu/faculty/professional-development/term-faculty-devleopment-grants

What is friendship studies? 

At its roots, friendships studies starts by critiquing our cultural assumption (in the US) that marriage and family relationships are valued because of the social, cultural, and economic capital gained in these relationships. Friendship studies looks at relationships that have no sexual, romantic, or familial attachment and how not only they are important, but necessary in a person's development and every day interactions (even though some of this is changing with more openness about friends with benefits relationships). The research continues to say that last friendships improve overall physical, emotional, and mental health and even increases life expectancy. 

In the 90s, TV studies began to enter the conversation through shows such as Friends, The Golden Girls, Living Single, Girlfriends, and the increase in high school television series that focus on friend groups. While socially we don't value friendships, TV continues to put a great focus on them because people flock to these series. Arguably, the reason for their popularity is that according to research, most adults feel that they don't have strong friendships so they find them through fictional characters. There's also literature on the importance of friendships in college, professional careers, aging, and for faculty as they go up for tenure and promotion.

In thinking about identity, friendships are also studied differently based on race, gender, and sexuality. Often college students of color struggle to find like identified groups of people and there is research that they are much more successful when they have groups of like identified friends. LGBTQ folks often call their friends "families of choice" because of rejection from family and particularly during the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ folks relied on their friends for palliative care. There is also literature on how trans people struggle with maintaining close friendships because typically the gender binary and constructs of masculinity and femininity are reinforced in friend groups. 

These are the types of issues that will be taken up in this course, so if you are interested, be on the lookout for Fall 2021.