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Frankie Mastrangelo, Ph.D.

Job title: Instructor
Affiliation: Department of Sociology

Dr. Mastrangelo's research focuses on identifying how capitalist structures impact social movement work, and brainstorming creative interventions that anticipate and circumvent this impact.

Frankie Mastrangelo, Ph.D., is a feminist researcher and teacher from south Florida. When she moved to the Orlando area for undergrad, she first learned about mutual aid and collective liberation frameworks, which went on to inform her research and teaching, eventually organizing with the Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farmworker Ministry. Mastrangelo earned her M.A. in media, cinema and digital studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her Ph.D. from the VCU Media, Art and Text program. Her writing has appeared in Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, VoegelinView, The Feminist Wire, BitchMedia and the Maximum Rocknroll column “Teaching Resistance.” She currently organizes with the Richmond Mutual Aid Collective (MAD RVA).


Q&A with Dr. Mastrangelo

Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about your educational journey?

I grew up in south Florida, and went to three different high schools. I didn’t focus on school much, and then enrolled in community college for two years. I’m a first-gen college student, so the process of figuring out a major and getting financial aid was all pretty overwhelming. I wound up transferring to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and the Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies program at Rollins became a second home to me. I got involved in local activism, found mentors and discovered ways to integrate my love for community organizing with academic spaces.

When did you first fall in love with your field of study? What made you decide to work in academia?

When I first encountered social and cultural theory (particularly intersectional scholarship) during undergrad, it felt like a portal to envisioning a brighter world. Theory offered different ways of thinking about and engaging with activist practice. I decided to work in academia because I want to be a part of creating spaces where we freely imagine and actively create equitable futures.

Can you explain the focus of your research?

The focus of my research is identifying how capitalist structures impact social movement work, and brainstorming creative interventions that anticipate and circumvent this impact. I’m particularly interested in how white feminism is a key example of racial capitalism engaging social movement rhetoric and digital strategies to reinforce an oppressive status quo. I have a lot to say about “girlboss culture” on Instagram and TikTok.

“When I first encountered social and cultural theory (particularly intersectional scholarship) during undergrad, it felt like a portal to envisioning a brighter world. Theory offered different ways of thinking about and engaging with activist practice.”

What attracted you to VCU? What are you most excited about in regards to VCU and Richmond?

I graduated from the VCU Media, Art, and Text doctoral program, and Richmond became my home during my Ph.D. years. I’m most excited about the thriving mutual aid networks that continue to grow and get stronger in Richmond. Richmond shows up for their neighbors! I love seeing that firsthand when I work the hotline for MAD RVA.

Can you talk a little about your teaching philosophy? What do you most like about teaching?

I care very deeply about bridging theory and practice. Empathy and compassion are key components of this. This looks like building relationships and a sense of community with students so the classroom feels like a comfortable place for imagining and creating, rather than perfectionism and accuracy. Holding space for critique and deconstruction, while cultivating room to generate ideas, projects and dreams that remind us another world is possible. Valuing the application of theory, and seeing students put ideas into practice through forms of expression that enable them to personally shine. I’ve been teaching at VCU since 2017. Every semester, VCU students offer new perspective, hope and energy when conceptualizing and building equitable futures.

Can you tell us either a quirky fact about yourself or some of your hobbies?

I accidentally stayed with a cult one night, thinking it was a chill, non-culty meditation retreat. Sounds scary but it was funny.

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