Jessica and Michael Stokes, both doctoral students in the Department of English, received the MSU Excellence in Diversity Award for their work with the HIVES Research Workshop. They were nominated for this honor in the “Teams: Emerging Progress” category.
“When I learned of the award, I was both giddy and ready to get back to work,” Jessica Stokes said. “In the midst of this pandemic, I know there’s even more work to be done to ensure commitments to reimagining a more equitable university are not just stated but acted upon.”
Divya Victor, Associate Professor of English, and Kate Sonka, Assistant Director of Inclusion and Academic Technology, nominated the Stokes for the award because of the work they have done in creating HIVES and the affect it has had on MSU.
In the midst of this pandemic, I know there’s even more work to be done to ensure commitments to reimagining a more equitable university are not just stated but acted upon.Jessica Stokes, co-founder of HIVES
“I was so delighted to hear the news that Jess, Michael, and HIVES won the Excellence in Diversity Award. It is richly deserved, and I am glad that MSU is supporting innovative and radically realigned curation,” Victor said. “Jess and Michael curate events that insist on greater inclusivity and accessibility, constantly laboring towards and advocating for greater care for the body and minds of disabled, minorized, and vulnerable folks at MSU and beyond. In short, HIVES is reinventing what is possible within academic communities. Long live HIVES.”
When Jessica and Michael Stokes, who are married, learned they both would be attending MSU, they started planning ways of doing interesting intersectional work around disability studies and started with what they knew – that the most important step to doing the work they wanted was to find and build a community, which is what lead to the creation of HIVES.
“Jessica Stokes and Michael Stokes should be recognized for their extraordinary efforts to expand the conversation about disability on campus as the co-founders of HIVES,” Sonka said. “Disability is a dimension of diversity that does not always receive the attention it deserves. It is crucial that MSU continues to expand its definition of diversity to include this group. In the years since the Stokes arrived at MSU, I have witnessed their incredible determination to make our campus a more inclusive and accessible place for everyone, but most especially for disabled students.”
HIVES is an ongoing scholarly, artistic, and communal organization dedicated to developing an understanding of the ways in which matter and beings function in interdependent networks. It seeks to create a generative space for conversations at the intersections of disability studies and animal studies in popular culture. It is an engagement with hiveminds, relationality, and interdependence across and within animal/human divides. This research workshop draws on popular culture in the form of novels, films, and video games and theory from disability studies to critical race theory to queer studies to animal studies in order to think through disrupting white western denials of interdependence.
Jessica Stokes and Michael Stokes should be recognized for their extraordinary efforts to expand the conversation about disability on campus as the co-founders of HIVES.Kate Sonka, Assistant Director of Inclusion and Academic Technology
When HIVES was first formed, Michael Stokes did a series of live blog posts from the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University.
“Since then, I’ve had the honor and privilege to be a part of screening films for discussion, hosting internationally renowned speakers, and helping to edit a zine,” he said.
As co-founder, Jessica Stokes has been part of all the HIVES events, including a zine, called ‘Buzz-Zine,’ that they put together this past fall with 17 contributors.
“We shared the work we did to create an accessible zine as part of MSU’s Accessible Learning Conference,” Jessica Stokes said. “In order to make the zine as accessible as possible, we arranged it in five separate formats: as a large-print Google Document, a tagged .pdf file, an HTML website, a print edition, and a braille edition.”
Both Jessica and Michael Stokes are in the Department of English Ph.D. program. Michael started at MSU as a master’s student but accelerated into the Ph.D. program, while Jessica is about to finish their third year as a doctoral student.
MSU has a vibrant, interdisciplinary English Department that fits well with a disability studies mindset. Disability studies is not housed in a single discipline but gathers together many ways of thinking to ask its questions.Jessica Stokes, co-founder of HIVES
Michael Stokes said he choose to attend MSU for his graduate studies because of the multiple opportunities the English program provided: faculty who were knowledgeable about science fiction, a strong Film Department within the English program, and many people who were interested in the field of disability studies.
“MSU has a vibrant, interdisciplinary English Department that fits well with a disability studies mindset,” Jessica Stokes said. “Disability studies is not housed in a single discipline but gathers together many ways of thinking to ask its questions. MSU’s English Department provides me with the opportunity to engage in rich trans- and interdisciplinary work.”