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About the FREE Center

The Ohio State Center for Feminist Research, Education and Engagement (FREE Center) is a hub for community-engaged feminist research and teaching that brings together individuals from across the university and the Columbus community. 

Supported by a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Office of Academic Affairs, the center aims to inspire, generate, and support collaborative research and community engagement projects rooted in feminist approaches and perspectives. 

Research and Connection Clusters are central to the work of the FREE Center. These clusters bring together faculty, graduate students, and community partners around shared areas of interest related to feminist research, education, and engagement, broadly defined. The FREE Center offers funding each semester to support the work of these clusters.  

The FREE Center also hosts a variety of events for the campus and Columbus communities, such as its annual spring panel discussion and FREE Writes, a writing group for feminist scholars at Ohio State.  

Headshot of Lori Patton Davis

Dr. Lori Patton Davis, PhD (she/her)

FREE Center Board Member, WGSS Affiliated Faculty Member, Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs

Lori Patton Davis is a Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University. She is best known for her important scholarship on racial and gender equity in education, culture centers on college campuses, Black girls and women in educational and social contexts, and college student development. Dr. Patton Davis has written extensively about Black women in higher education. She is co-editor of Investing in the Educational Success of Black Women and Girls and Critical Perspectives on Black Women in Higher Education. She has also co-edited special issues on Black women for the Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education, and the Journal of Negro Education. Patton Davis is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Patton Davis is also past president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. She has received many national awards for her scholarly contributions and is a frequently sought expert on a wide range of education topics. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, USA Today, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and dozens of other media outlets have quoted her and featured her research. She has also advised university presidents and other senior administrators, philanthropic foundation executives, culture center directors, and educators in urban K-12 schools. 

Headshot of Alison Norris

Dr. Alison Norris, MD, PhD (she/her)

FREE Center Board Member, WGSS Affiliated Faculty Member, Professor of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases

Alison Norris is an epidemiologist and a medical doctor who studies sexual and reproductive health with a goal of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and improving reproductive outcomes for people. She has a particular interest understanding how context (e.g., endemic disease, social norms, demographic factors, and cultural and institutional structures) influences health and disease. Methodologically, she focuses on using innovative methods to obtain high quality data about sensitive and stigmatized topics. Norris is co-Principal Investigator of the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network (OPEN), a multidisciplinary network of scholars who study the impacts of reproductive health related laws on the health and well-being of people in Ohio and surrounding states.

Headshot of Dr. Mary Thomas

Dr. Mary Thomas, PhD (she/they)

FREE Center Board Member, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Co-Director of OPEEP

Mary E. Thomas is a Professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, a member of the FREE Center Advisory Board, and the co-Director of the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project

Trained as a feminist geographer, her work examines how youth in the US come to understand themselves and their identities in and through institutional spaces like schools and detention facilities. Her research shows that while youth must spend vast amounts of time negotiating institutional structures that demand behavioral conformity, they alone shoulder the repercussions when they fail to meet expectations that are grounded in stereotypes, norms, and demands for idealized bodies. Her research foregrounds the emotional and subjective experiences of youth, especially girls, gender nonconforming, and queer youth, as they confront the oppressive social and cultural expectations of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and embodiment.

Headshot of Mytheli Sreenivas

Dr. Mytheli Sreenivas, PhD (she/her)

Ex-Officio FREE Center Board Member, Chair and Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Mytheli Sreenivas is the Chair and Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her work centers on the history of modern South Asia, with a focus on women’s and gender history, the history of sexuality and the family, colonialism and nationalism, and the cultural and political economy of reproduction. Broadly speaking, she is fascinated by how certain gendered norms that we often assume are constant and unchanging, such as about family, kinship, reproduction, sexuality, or love, are actually deeply intertwined with historical change in the modern world.


Laura Hennigan

Laura Hennigan (she/her)

Program Coordinator

Laura Hennigan is the Program Coordinator for the FREE Center, housed in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. A graduate of The Ohio State University, she has an extensive background in research, communications and connection building.

In this role, Laura supports the FREE Center as it deepens and broadens community engaged scholarship by sustaining collaborative interdisciplinary research and teaching partnerships among core faculty, affiliated faculty, students, and community partners.


Alyssa Bedrosian

Alyssa Bedrosian (she/her)

Graduate Associate

Alyssa Bedrosian is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at The Ohio State University. She is also pursuing a graduate minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Alyssa's interdisciplinary research explores feminist activism in Latin America and the United States. She is currently in the early stages of her dissertation project, which examines twenty-first-century Catholic feminism and abortion rights activism in Mexico, Argentina, and the United States. In addition to her role at the FREE Center, she serves as a Graduate Teaching Associate and a Graduate Advising Assistant in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. 

Prior to Ohio State, Alyssa worked as a communications professional for nearly eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and Spanish from Virginia Tech, a master's degree in Spanish from UNC Greensboro, and a master's degree in Latin American Cultural and Literary Studies from Ohio State.