Students and faculty started the Women's Studies Program in the 1970s in response
to the absence of the study of women's lives and experiences in traditional curricula.
In this respect, the students and faculty were echoing discontent with university
curricula nationwide as Women's Studies Programs emerged on campuses. Women on this
campus met, conducted a survey of needs for women on campus, and generated a list
of concerns that they took to the President. A priority on the list was the need for
a history course focusing on women in U.S. history.
Professor Betty Joe Wallace offered the first Women's Studies course, "Women in American History," in 1978. The interdisciplinary program was first housed in the History Department and coordinated by Professor Wallace. In this time frame, six courses were listed for the Women's Studies Minor, of which four were offered on a regular basis.
In 1993, Dr. Susan Calovini became the coordinator of the Women's Studies Program. Under Dr. Calovini's leadership the program increased in number of courses within the curriculum, number of classes offered per semester, number of students being served, and responsibilities of the coordinator. In Fall 1994 when the first introductory course was offered, eleven students were enrolled. Beginning in Fall 2008, the introductory course is a choice in the social science requirement as part of the general education requirements. Two sections of the introductory course (one in the classroom and one online) are now offered each semester. Additionally, students may choose to take Introduction to LGBTQ Studies offered each semester. To culminate the 18-hour minor, students join African American Studies minors for a capstone seminar in social justice, DIVR 4020. This course is designed to synthesize students' abilities in navigating intersectional (the complex layers of identity) politics, conversations, and social justice issues.
Dr. Jill Eichhorn began directing the program in Spring Semester of 1999. The Women's and Gender Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program housed in the College of Arts and Letters.