Women's Studies is an academic discipline that uses the social construction of gender as the framework for understanding the social and cultural milieu in which women live. This framework includes an examination of gender in the context of diversity, including the variables of class, race, age, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual identity.
The mission of the Women's Studies program is to stimulate an on-going campus-wide examination of diversity issues focused on but not limited to gender, provide students with a critical framework with which to examine themselves and their society, promote interdisciplinary research that incorporates the social construction of gender, and prepare students for careers in women's organizations or service agencies. This mission is addressed by a faculty drawn from sixteen departments in three colleges.
Women's Studies courses require students to read, write, discuss, and think critically. In addition, they invite and sometimes require that students link knowledge to social action appropriate to the needs of either the University or local community. Materials drawn from the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and human service professions as well as from people of different gender, social class, race, age, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual identity require students to examine how the social construction of gender has affected their own choices in life as well as the distribution of power and resources in society. The instructional methods used place emphasis on the active involvement of students and explicitly value knowledge gained through life experiences in addition to the knowledge base of the discipline.
The Women's Studies program serves the general student population through the provision of one introductory and two upper-level courses approved for general education credit as well as through cross-listed courses from fifteen different departments. The introductory course serves approximately 600 students per year. The two upper-level courses approved for general education serve about sixty students per year. Eight to ten cross-listed courses available each semester serve another 600 students each year. Students who choose to add a concentration in Women's Studies to their academic program can complete a minor (15 credit hours), secondary major (24 credit hours), and/or graduate certificate (12 credit hours). Sixty students are working toward a minor and forty students are working toward the secondary major. Eight graduate students are working on the graduate certificate. Both undergraduate programs require courses from at least two disciplines other than Women's Studies. The graduate certificate requires an interdisciplinary seminar on feminist thought and practice.
Research conducted by members of the Women's Studies faculty collectively contributes to the scholarship of knowledge, instruction, and application. With regard to knowledge, research addresses: (1) the addition of new knowledge through the examination of women as a separate population, (2) the development of critical perspectives through the examination of women's involvement and influence in society, and (3) the integration of emerging theory on gender into the knowledge base that underlies the University's academic program. With regard to instruction, research addresses the critical thinking skills and competencies needed by students in order to understand and evaluate gender-based perspectives of social organizations and society. Finally, faculty affiliated with the human services profession conduct research on the need for, impact, and effectiveness of a wide range of social agencies, including schools, crisis intervention centers, life skills programs for women on welfare, etc. A wide range of research frameworks are both respected and valued. The intended consumers of research include individuals, social organizations, and communities as well as those who work in traditional academic fields.
Service is emphasized in the Women's Studies Program. All faculty members are expected to contribute to the routine governance of the program, college, and university though committee assignments and to their academic discipline through participation in regional, national, and international meetings. Women's Studies faculty members also serve as a resource to University efforts to reflect on its own programs, practices, and governing structures in terms of diversity. Faculty members serve on the President's Commission on the Status of Women, Gender Equity Committee, University Campaign for Non-Violence, and Ordinary Women (a student organization). In addition, faculty members routinely make presentations on women's issues to student organizations and living groups. Finally, faculty members serve the local community through affiliation with or direct service to agencies such as the Women's Crisis Center.