The West Virginia University Center for Womens Studies is holding a reception, open to all, to kick off the new womens studies major. The event is from 4:30-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, in the Vandalia Lounge of the Mountainlair, with a program at 5 p.m.

This is a very exciting time in the history of womens studies at WVU ,said Barb Howe, director of the Center, part of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.With the inception of the major, we gain much more visibility in the University, and having a major brings an increased level of activity to our program.

The womens studies major developed from courses already in place. Students in the past had only been able to minor in womens studies. Now they can major in womens studies or double major in the field with another discipline. Graduate students can obtain a womens studies-directed master of arts in liberal studies degree or a graduate certificate.

The degree will benefit people entering many fields such as social work, law, teaching, business and human relations,Howe said.

Thirteen students have already declared womens studies as a major.

The program has arrived very quickly in terms of the number of students majoring in womens studies,Howe commented.In fact, the number of womens studies majors exceeds some other already established major programs, which is exciting in itself.

Its also been exciting to see how enthusiastic the students are,she continued.They compete with each other to be the first among the 13 to be the first admitted, the first to transfer from the advising center, and the first to double major within the college.

The first student to graduate with a degree in womens studies will be Jamie Baxter, from Lower Burrell, Pa., who plans to graduate in December 2003. Baxter, a student worker at the Center for the past three years, will speak at the reception.

Other speakers include Joan Gorham, associate dean, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences; Judith Gold Stitzel, founder the WVU Center for Womens Studies and the Centers first coordinator; Elizabeth Englehardt, assistant professor of womens studies and one of only about 30 people in the country to have a doctor of philosophy degree in womens studies; Joan Browning and Sharon Hurt Davidson, chair and founding chair, respectively, of the Womens Studies Visiting Committee; and Erin Price, from Mechanicsville, Va., a womens studies student who will graduate in May 2004.

The Center for Womens Studiesevents are made possible by the financial contributions of the many friends of womens studies at West Virginia University through their generous contributions to the Womens Studies Program Development Fund.

For more information on the reception and other events sponsored by the Center, go tohttp://www.as.wvu.edu/wmst/or call 304-293-2339.