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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Women's and Gender Studies 40th Anniversary

The University of Dayton women's and gender studies program was first discussed during the 1960s when issues of gender were being raised on college campuses. The University formally launched a women's study program in 1978 with a social justice-oriented mission to make students aware that women and gender issues matter.

In March, the program will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a student panel and dinner during Women’s History Month, in conjunction with the University Women’s Center’s 15th anniversary.

“Thinking about 40 years of women and gender studies here at the University of Dayton means that there were some very courageous women who thought they could make a difference,” said Denise James, associate professor of philosophy and the program’s director.

The University offers both a major and minor in women’s and gender studies. The program focuses on the experiences and perspectives of women and considers how gender intersects with other factors, such as race and class, to shape our lives. Nearly 60 University of Dayton faculty members teach courses for women's and gender studies credit.

“We want to bring attention to the program early on in student’s career,” James said. “A lot of students take classes that are affiliated with the program, but they often come to think they are interested in it later in their college careers.”

Elisabeth Spector, a senior from Columbus, Ohio, started at the University as a chemistry major. But by the end of her freshman year she realized her passion was for women’s issues. After she graduates in May, Spector plans to attend graduate school for sexual education.

“My dream would be to completely revamp health education in school systems,” Spector said.

As the program’s marketing and event assistant, Spector has helped launch a campus poster campaign that will continue into March. The posters showcase quotes found in the University’s archives dating back to the first conversations of the program’s development. The first poster reads: “We have an important agenda -1978.”

“I believe many students would benefit from one of our classes, in order to better understand the prevalence of women and gender issues today,” Spector said.

James and other faculty members have been working to update the program’s capstone course to focus on vocational-based education to engage students with more projects in the community. James hopes that in the future the program can bring further awareness to why women’s and gender studies matters in today’s society.

“We have a lot of students with diverse interests and our graduates go on to do really interesting things with their degrees,” James said. “We are in a world where increasingly corporations want people who are savvy, who can work in a diverse world. To have a minor or major in women’s and gender studies with a business or engineering degree sets you apart from other people.”

The student panel on Monday, March 12, will feature students from the program describing their experiences, program-related work, their hopes for the program’s future and the discipline’s role in society at large. The dinner Tuesday, March 13, is open to students and faculty, as well as people who were influential in the program’s creation. Speakers will address the program’s accomplishments and their aspirations for the future. James also is designing an e-book to share the program’s history.

“My goal is for students to know that we are here and the study of gender is important for any career students are trying to pursue,” James said.

To find out more information visit the women’s and gender studies program website.

- Lauren Reid ‘18


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