Women's studies program offers new perspectives for K-State students
By Chloe Bos
The women's studies program at Kansas State University was created to redress inequality and discrimination against women, said Angela Hubler, acting program director and associate professor of women's studies.
Previously, there had been little attention to women's rights in K-State's academia, she said.
In her introduction to women's studies class, Hubler asks her students to name 10 important women in American history. Few are able to complete the task.
"I think we still have a problem that needs to be addressed," Hubler said. "Who do girls have as role models? They need women as public figures and historical models."
Women's studies programs were established around the country in the 1970s with the emergence of the women's movement. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the women's studies program as a secondary major at K-State in 1977. The program established a minor and a graduate certificate in 1997, and in 2004, with the success of the secondary major and increased course enrollments, the regents approved upgrading the program from a secondary major to major. It also can be taken as a minor and to earn a graduate certificate.
"With a major, students can get a more structured and complete knowledge base about women's studies," Hubler said.
The introduction of the major expanded the program's core curriculum to include courses in feminist theory and race, class and gender. Women's studies explores feminism and other theories and methods through multidisciplinary, historically based, academic and social action research. It examines gender as a social institution that is central to the way society is organized. It focuses on understanding women's lives and status in society.
The women's studies program makes women of all ages the center of analysis. It studies ways in which women are shaped by major interconnected institutions of difference and considers women and their contributions to society. The program's goal is to incorporate theory and practice to reassess cultures and material relationships in order to eliminate gender inequality and other forms of hierarchy. Professors offer an interactive learning environment and encourage students to relate their own experiences to course content.
"This program is important because it offers students interested in women's issues an academic program," Hubler said. "It provides the skills and knowledge needed to go out into the workplace and put them into action."
For students to qualify for a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in women's studies, they will have to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and ability in the social construction of gender, oppression, violence against women, heterosexism, racism, class differences and global inequality. In addition, they will gain knowledge about gender inequality and how it developed and how it is maintained; the consequences of gender inequality; the history of feminism in the U.S. and globally; feminist perspectives and theories; feminist analysis, connecting theory and reality; and the critique of scholarship in women's studies.
A women's studies degree prepares students for a plethora of career opportunities. This includes the administration of women's programs, health or human services fields and education. The program also can be used for liberal arts majors because it provides a firm foundation for graduate work in any professional field or academic discipline. Graduates may decide to continue their studies in women's studies or in the social sciences, humanities, law or other social services or medical fields.
Specific careers that graduates of the program in the past have secured include mental health therapist, employee at the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Women's Information Network, academic adviser in continuing education, human resource manager, medical social worker and consultant. Graduates also have been employed at the national office of the League of Women Voters as assistant to the president, executive director and assistant project manager.