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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Most beautiful professor: Treva Ellison

Geography and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor Treva Ellison’s nomination came with an impressive superlative.

“They are truly representative of how you can be beautiful on the inside, which leads to expression on the outside. They demonstrate beauty through their passion for teaching, for mentorship and for other human beings. They bring light to this campus, and each day I see them I am made beautiful by association,” wrote the anonymous nominator.

Ellison said that the person who submitted the nomination probably noticed the lack of “visibly non conforming people working here.”

Ellison challenged the very concept of “beauty,” both inner and outer. This concept, they continued, could be different to someone who does not fit the standard mold of what society has deemed is beautiful.

“Beauty is a hard thing, especially for queer and trans folks, because a lot of our notions of beauty and common understanding are very much tied to gender binary.”

Ellison said that how we characterize beauty on a personal level speaks to our values. They also explained how the concept of beauty was complex because it is commodifiable. “It’s a social framework for expressing desire. It can be very powerful if it can be dislodged from its racial capitalist leverages.”

They expounded on their definition by citing that “beauty can be a powerful framework to challenge that ideal, if dislodged from the way it is used as a rubric of discipline.”

They noted that people often don’t realize that everyone’s perception of beauty is a reaction to our relationships with ourselves, other people and “how they see you.”

Beauty is innately linked to someone else’s acceptance which, for Professor Ellison, can prove problematic for people who don’t conform to society’s standard of beauty. They stated that this is why it is important to “challenge that mold.”

It’s easy to see how the student who nominated Ellison saw their beauty through their love of teaching. They challenged the way in which they were characterized as “beautiful” and why. For Ellison, the “passion for teaching” come through their own powerful experiences with professors who challenged them as a student.