Spotlight On Humanities Alumni: Lucia Spinelli

spinelliName: Lucia Spinelli

Occupation: Social Worker

Education: B.A. English and Women’s Studies (UR), 2007; M.S.W. (Columbia University), 2009

Current city/state of residence: Chicago, IL

Community activities: I volunteer at the ACLU of Illinois and have recently started volunteering for Hollaback! Additionally, I am an active member of my local NASW (National Association of Social Work) chapter


When and how did you choose your major?

It’s actually kind of funny because I had originally applied to U of R as an engineer with a Women’s Studies minor and then decided to double major in English and Women’s Studies instead.  I always had a passion for reading since I was a kid and in high school I was really drawn to the idea of literature as an agent for social change.  As for Women’s Studies, I was instantly drawn to some form of feminism since my parents bought me a Spice Girls cd for my 11th birthday (my feminist views are now much more nuanced thanks to SBAI!).  Reading feminist texts inspired me in a way that nothing else did so it just seemed like a perfect fit.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My senior year at U of R, I was president of Women’s Caucus and Women’s Studies Undergrad Council, Vice President of Tiernan Project and SAVVY and a Safe Zone trainer.  I’ve made some of my closest friends from these clubs!  Being in these clubs created a sense of community I had previously lacked.  We all took inspiration from each other and I think we were all better people because of it.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I went directly to graduate school, getting my Master’s in Social Work.  Social work seemed like a natural progression of the social justice work I did as an undergraduate and since I knew what I wanted to do, I didn’t waste any time and just jumped right in!

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Right now, I work as a social worker for a transitional housing program for homeless families.  Although I knew I wanted to be a social worker, I initially wasn’t sure what population I wanted to work with and honestly I kind of fell into homelessness.  During my senior year at U of R, I interned at Alternatives for Battered Women and in grad school did housing work with a tenants’ rights organization.  It just so happened my first job out of school was doing homelessness prevention and now I’m so glad that this is where I am!

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Having solid writing skills will come in handy in any profession and it gives me an advantage as an occasional grant writer.  Also, being able to think critically has allowed me to stand out from my peers.  In social work especially, nothing should be taken at face value.  Being able to look beyond that has helped me better assist my clients.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I’m actually trying to figure this out now!  I’ve always wanted to get my PhD and I’m slowly starting the application process.  I’m really interested in looking at the effects of gentrification and lack of affordable housing and its impact on homelessness.  Wish me luck!

What advice do you have for current students?

It’s okay when things don’t go exactly according to plan.  Just adjust and keep going.  Looking back, things that I originally saw as disappointments or accidents have gotten me where I am now.  Embrace them!

Susan B. Anthony And Her World: A New Class

By Josh Morse ’14 & Alayna Callanan ’14
Univ. Communications

In a new course offered this spring, University of Rochester students will take a closer look at Susan B. Anthony’s life. Taught by Professor Honey Meconi, who also is the director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, Susan B. Anthony and Her World seeks to encompass not only the major political issues that defined Susan B. Anthony’s life, but the physical, material, and cultural world which shaped her work.

Here in Rochester, Susan B. Anthony’s home for many years, we are uniquely positioned to explore her life. Meconi plans to capitalize on this with a number of field trips including visits to Anthony’s gravesite, the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House downtown, and to the Matilda Joslyn Gage House, located in Fayetteville, NY. “I’m always struck by how many students have never visited Anthony’s gravesite or her home, much less other nearby sites for women’s history,” Meconi explains. “Seeing these places really puts historical events in a new light, and I want to make sure that interested U of R students have that experience.”

Expanding upon this physical connection with Susan B. Anthony’s life, Meconi is partnering with the Humanities Project to bring four guest lecturers to Rochester, who will discuss different aspects of the social climate surrounding Susan B. Anthony.

Erika Howard ’13, an English major and women’s studies minor, is excited to be enrolled in the course. “I’ve always been fascinated with Susan B. Anthony and her ties to not only the city of Rochester, but our school as well,” Howard says. “Despite this deep link, however, I’ve never had a chance to study her other than a brief covering of her and other suffragists in the Colloquium of Women’s Studies course.”

By exploring Susan B. Anthony’s world, Meconi hopes her students will gain a more informed viewpoint from which to critically examine today’s social issues. “We are far from living in a post-racial society, alcohol abuse is still widespread (not least on college campuses), and one could well argue that women’s rights have eroded in recent decades,” Meconi says. “Knowing how we got where we are today always puts us in a stronger position in dealing with problems.”

Above all, Meconi hopes to impart a deeper appreciation of the challenges Susan B. Anthony undertook, and the strength it took to overcome them. “In terms of challenges for Anthony, the assumption that women were inferior to men in virtually all respects-a claim supposedly supported by “scientific” evidence-made it difficult for her and her colleagues to be taken seriously.  This meant glacial progress towards suffrage, which only came after her death and the death of her closest friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Yet neither woman gave up on their quest for equality.  They knew that what they were working for was right.  Their tenacity remains incredibly inspiring.”

Photo provided by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies