Since 2021-22, Helis Sikk has been a Visiting Assistant Professor in Gender and Sexuality Studies (GNSS), and the Pembroke Center is pleased to announce that Sikk will have a regular faculty appointment as a lecturer starting 2023-24.
Sikk describes her path into academia as a “very queer trajectory.” Born and raised in Estonia, it was during her undergraduate studies in English and American and British Studies that she met an American Studies professor from the University of Wyoming whose classes she enjoyed and who encouraged her to apply to the University for a Master’s degree. She did, and relocated to the United States. She was drawn towards the United States in part because at the time, the United States had a bigger, more visible queer culture. She went on to receive her Ph.D. at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. As someone not from the United States, Sikk greatly appreciates the opportunity to have lived in culturally and geographically very different places from Indiana to Florida. She likes the challenge of asking herself, in her words, “How are you going to make that space your home? How will you find what makes it good for you?” After completing her doctorate, Sikk taught at multiple universities before coming to Brown. While at Brown as a visiting faculty member, she has taught the GNSS courses "Digital Feminist Humanities" and "Queer Comics," the GNSS Senior Seminar, and has co-taught "Method, Evidence, Critique: Gender and Sexuality Studies across the Disciplines," a required course for all Ph.D. students pursuing the graduate certificate in GNSS.
Sikk’s own experiences as an international student and academic will be a valuable asset to the GNSS program. A significant part of her duties as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, in addition to general concentration advising, will include advising students about study abroad and research opportunities. Sikk will also continue to teach for the concentration as a permanent lecturer. For the past two years, she has shepherded student research projects through the GNSS Senior Seminar, a task she enjoys. “I try to encourage an environment where students can explore and not be punished for it,” she says, noting that the most exciting, “out of the box” senior projects often begin with students “going down a rabbit hole of research just to go down the rabbit hole.”
Finally, Sikk will be at the administrative helm of the Center’s many academic events – from public talks by high profile speakers such as Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, the 2023-24 Pembroke Publics Lecturer, to research symposia and events aligned with the Pembroke Seminar. With a busy events schedule in 2023-24, Sikk says she will focus on how to make Pembroke Center events run as smoothly as possible. Sikk also notes that, following Pembroke Center Director Leela Gandhi’s lead, she will be taking “a more transnational/international perspective in terms of our events as well.”