Much has changed since 1980 when small women’s studies unit within West Virginia University’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences offered a handful of humanities courses.
Today, the WVU Center for Women’s Studies has nearly 100 faculty associates teaching and conducting research in women and gender studies in 15 colleges and schools across campus, including athletic coaching education, biology, community health promotion, disability studies, family and consumer sciences, geography, journalism, pubic health, resource management, and law.
More than 2,000 students enroll in women’s studies courses each year and there are currently 40 students with a declared undergraduate major or minor in women’s studies. At the graduate level, the Center has 10 students from a wide variety of disciplines— geography, education, law and history to name a few—adding a women’s studies emphasis to their degree.
The Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a year-long celebration, beginning on Wednesday (Jan. 27) with a reception, “Women Leading Change at WVU,” honoring Provost Michele Wheatly and former Interim Provost Jane Martin on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Erickson Alumni Center Grand Hall.
Wheatly and Martin will speak, as will WVU First Lady Beth Clements, WVU College of Law Dean Joyce McConnell and current WVU women’s studies majors. The evening will include a showcase of gospel music, featuring WVU’s own Dooley sisters.
The reception will showcase women leading change at WVU. According to Dr. Ann Oberhauser, director of the Center for Women’s Studies, the reception is a good opportunity to focus on women leaders within the academy.
“You don’t usually have women at such high levels of administration,” Oberhauser said.
It is also an opportunity to highlight and venerate the research and policy work being done at WVU under the umbrella of women and gender studies.
Current WVU Provost Wheatly is a successful woman in science and an administrator who has made recruiting women into the sciences a focus of her career. She has also made securing parental leave for all tenure-track faculty a top priority within her overall goal for shaping a family-friendly, balanced WVU.
Former Interim Provost Martin has been a WVU women’s studies faculty associate for many years and her research in nursing has focused on women’s concerns.
The Center for Women’s Studies was formally established in 1984, with Stitzel as director until 1992. Helen Bannan served as the Center’s second permanent director from 1994 to1998, and Barb Howe was both interim director and director from 1998 to 2008.
The first class of women’s studies certificate students graduated in 1986. In 2003, a BA in women’s studies was first offered, with the first WVU women’s studies major, Jamie Lynn Baxter, graduating in December of that year.
Oberhauser attributes much of the success of the Center to the goodwill of the Mountaineer community, as well as a strong group of supportive faculty, administrators and local businesswomen who have given their time and money to ensure the growth of the program.
Oberhauser envisions the Center eventually becoming a stand-alone department within the Eberly College. Part of this goal includes adding additional full-time faculty to the women’s studies program, as well as recruiting more faculty associates from various disciplines across campus. Gathering such a large and diverse group may necessitate an evolution in the Center’s name to become more inclusive of gender and sexuality.
As the 30th anniversary arrives, some positive developments include growing diversity of students in the program and especially an increase in the number of men taking women’s studies classes and choosing to add a minor or declare a major in the discipline.
Celebrations for the upcoming year include a lecture series focusing on the Center’s faculty associates doing work in women and gender studies. These talks began last week (Jan. 21) with an address by CASE Professor of the Year Ruth Kershner. They continue with a Feb. 10 presentation by Lisa DiBartolomeo. More information can be found on the Center’s website: wmst.wvu.edu.
Several more lectures will follow, focusing on women’s literature, Native American rituals, human trafficking, and the feminist perspectives in popular science.
There will also be a series of panel discussions this spring, the annual Women’s Studies Residency in Honor of Judith Gold Stitzel in the fall, and a reunion of the Center’s past directors, faculty, faculty associates, and students, set for later this year.
CONTACT: Dr. Ann Oberhauser, WVU Center for Women’s Studies
304-293-2339 or firstname.lastname@example.org