Pembroke Center

Reproductive Justice Course Provides Doula Training for Students

Students build knowledge, hands-on skills as birthworkers in Reproductive Justice course

Students in Sarah Williams' Reproductive Justice course
Students in "Reproductive In/Justice" take notes during lecture.

Sarah Williams’ Gender and Sexuality Studies course “Reproductive In/Justice”  was popular before the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Students were drawn to the course’s purpose, which was to investigate historical and current constraints against reproductive freedom through the lens of the reproductive justice movement. After June 2022, however, interest in the course exploded. Williams noted that, “Students are even hungrier for an education that combines a reproductive justice lens for understanding our contemporary moment with hands-on training in how to work for reproductive justice in our community.” To address this need, Williams, who is Louise Lamphere Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, revamped the course to create more hands-on learning opportunities. 

In Spring 2023, students in GNSS 1510 received birthworker training through a newly-added doula certification lab. The lab was instructed by Latham Thomas, doula and founder and director of Mama Glow, a maternal health and education company. It offered a way for students to build a foundation in reproductive health and rights while also building skills as birthworkers and completing community-engaged assignments that meet the resource requests of community partners Doulas of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Birthworker Co-op. 

The doula certification was a welcome addition to the class. Wendy Allison Lee, Director of the GNSS Undergraduate Program, commented: “It’s exciting that we have a class where students are learning the theory, scholarship, and practice, and how these can and should inform one another.” 

For Williams, a central goal of the course is “to help students have hope for the future of reproductive rights and health, and to provide a framework where they can begin to see themselves as integral parts of creating that future.”