The APSU women’s and gender studies department helps prepare students for the negotiation of conflicts which may arise in either their personal lives or workplaces. According to Jill Eichhorn, associate professor of English and coordinator of women’s and gender studies, “The power dynamics between women and their role in the world never go away.”
This program was created as a response to the development of women’s courses and curriculum at other universities across the nation. APSU first offered a history course which focused on women in U.S. history in the 1970s. Professor Betty Jo Wallace taught this first course without pay.
Soon to follow were six more courses listed for the women’s studies minor. In 1993, Susan Calvovini became the coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program. By 1994, 11 students registered when the first introductory course was offered. Jill Eichhorn became the interim coordinator in 1997 and was full-time by 2000.
The program has since grown into an 18-hour minor which offers an introductory course for students who have a social science requirement as a part of their general education requirements. Women and gender studies “addresses gender, race, class, sexual orientation, abilities and disabilities,” Eichhorn said. The program takes a look at human history, literature, politics, economics and the creative arts.
Professor of women’s studies Barbara Gray, who will offer the first LGBT introductory course this fall, said students learn “through studies of social and political histories.” Gray said the course is not what students usually expect. “The students learn to get out of gender roles in order to change society for the future,” Gray said.
Eichhorn emphasized the importance of “navigating personal and professional lines” while resolving prejudice and bias. Through utilization of co-curricular media, the department is able to offer service learning hours to students. Some of these students recently travelled to Washington, D.C., where they interacted with legislators and met other students from similar programs across the nation.
“It’s an interesting course,” said student Ashanti Farmer, who is enrolled in Critical Studies in Women’s Literature. “I’ve learned that things haven’t changed much. Some of what these women in history were going through is still going on today.”
The women and gender studies department has also helped to bring other organizations to campus.
Two such groups are the Gay-Straight Alliance and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. The organizations hold various events throughout the year, including the GSA drag shows and the FMLA Clothesline Project and Vagina Monologues.
More information on APSU women’s and gender studies can be found at apsu.edu/womens-gender-studies.