Just six months after West Virginia University established a new undergraduate degree in women’s studies, Jamie Lynn Baxter will be the first to graduate from the program.
The 22-year-old from Lower Burrell, Pa., represents a growing number of students specializing in women’s and minority issues. She said growing up in the Pittsburgh suburbs influenced her decision.
“I grew up surrounded by the working class, people who worked in the mills, and I guess that put things in perspective for me. It taught me blatant discrimination happens everywhere,”she said.
Baxter was already a minor in women’s studies when the new major was approved in June.
“I was always taking women’s studies classes and enjoyed them so much that it just made sense. (Women’s studies) classes are so analytical. They make you see that the world isn’t so picture perfect and provide you with a whole new outlook. In Social Inequalities, we discussed all minority groups and looked at why people tend to be racist.”
She added,”Before I came here, I hadn’t even heard of women’s studies. I didn’t realize the extent of women’s discrimination. I thought it was only something that happened in the back woods.”
Currently, there are 18 students who have declared a major in women’s studies. Baxter said non-majors shouldn’t be afraid to get involved.
“The classes are great because there are only 20-30 students. It’s a small environment and there’s a lot of interaction. What’s awesome is faculty and staff know you. They’re so educated and they take time for you. I really would like people to know that it’s not scary. We don’t go into class and hate men. Everyone should at least take the intro class. It’s open to anyone. We talk about the media, domestic abuse and rape, white male privilege, equality in the workplace.”
Baxter is a double major in women’s studies and political science. She would like to someday lobby for women’s rights on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, she will be taking part in the December Graduates Convocation at 1:30 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.
Women’s studies background The bachelor of arts degree in women’s studies is open to WVU students interested in furthering their understanding of women’s studies as a discipline, developing literacy skills across the curriculum and having opportunities to pursue their own interests through field experiences, research and independent study.
The major allows for double majoring with a variety of other disciplines including communication studies, English, geography, history, international studies, political science, psychology and sociology.
The Center for Women’s Studies was established in 1980. In addition to the major, the center offers an area of emphasis in women’s studies for students in the Regents Bachelor of Arts Program, a graduate certificate open to all WVU graduate students and a graduate certificate and thesis direction option for students pursuing degrees in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program.
For more information about the program, contact Barbara Howe, 304-293-2339, ext. 1155.