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  • Women's Studies Rededicated
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Women's Studies Rededicated

This past spring was the 10th anniversary of our Women's Studies concentration at Bloomfield College.  You will note that I said concentration and not major.  here is no major in Women's Studies.  The program here has basically had no home.  It has been an interdisciplinary program integrated with Co-curricular Programs under the Vice-president for Student Services/Dean of Students, while simultaneously being an academic program under the Vice-president for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean, offering classes in the Humanities, Nursing, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Creative Arts and Technology.  The program belongs to everyone...and no one.  There is a minor in Women's Studies, offered through Social and Behavioral Sciences, even though the program has been headed by a professor of history and one of the college's personal counsellors.  We have been a "Special Program".  The other "Special Program" has been English as a Second Language (ESL) / Eniglish for Academic Purposes (EAP).  ESL/EAP has had a budget.  Women's Studies has depended upon the kindness of strangers (actually, various Friends have allotted us some money out of their budgets.  

Still, it has been a pretty good program, I think, given the limitations.  For the past two years we have offered a series of lunchtime presentations called Talking Women's Lives, where various members of the campus community have discussed how they got to be where we are now, but intellectually and locationally.  Students participated in a World Women's March at the United Nations and created a Clotheline Project against violence towards women.  A second Clothesline Project was done jointly with women in a small town in Kenya.  We have supported the Kenyan women's micro-economic efforts by selling some of their production on campus.  A woman from Kenya was brought to Bloomfield to obtain a degree in education at Bloomfield so that she could return to be the headmaster of newly built school.  We have co-produced The Vagina Monologues with a student group, Sisters in Support, and co-sponsored projects with the Gay/Non-Gay Alliance and other campus organizations.  My particular input has been as editor and now publisher of the online publication of The Labor Room (see also here, from whence there is also a link the archived editions).  And we administer the Women's Studies Resource and Empowerment Center, through which has been offered other smaller programs, including a quilt-making group, a joint library with GNG Alliance, Safe Zone Training, and various other workshops.  We have been Productive.  

Well, we hired a new VPAA/Academic Dean.  ESL/EAP has joined with Study Abroad to become the Center for Global Studies.  And the Academic Dean has included Women's Studies in the budget.  But there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, as Robert Heinlein taught us:  we need to do some work.  The program has been aperating without a clearly defined mission.  With Middle States looming, we have to get our act together.  First we had a meeting where we hashed out a mission statement in a couple of hours:

The Women's Studies Program exists to empower women at Bloomfield College, to correct the injustices that we face in our daily lives and to advance gender equality by developing full local and global citizenship through Women's Studies courses and grassroots student-centered activism.

Key words: empower, correct, advance

The dean was duly impressed.  Sister Kathleen commented after the meeting that she had never seen an administrator so openly and obviously impressed with the work done by a group of people.  Of course, she did ask us what we meant by "full local and global citizenship" and how that was going to be measured.

So we had another meeting this past Thursday.  The first order of business was to hire a coordinator for the program.  We are pleased in my household that the person hired is my partner, although we do wish it paid more than the equivalent of an adjunct teaching one class per semester.  Then we worked on the definition.  It turns out that I was the only person that had actually written a definition, so we started from that and tinkered.  We came up with

A full local and global citizen is an equal, active and effective participant in public life with the goal of helping human beings cooperate for the mutal benefit and advancement of all in our local environments and in our larger political and cultural structures.
We proceeded with laying out the pathway to that state our students would presumably follow:
  • Understanding the issue (problem), it's context and extent; having and being able to locate up-to-date information from reliable and credible sources.
  • Taking a position and finding a voice
  • Creating a personal course of action
  • Reflecting on the consequences of the action and evaluating it:  how has the experience changed the individual (the student) and the local and global communities.
  • Connecting thought and action should be intentional.

Next year's projects will focus on human trafficking.

I've presented this because the coordinating committee, of which I am a member, welcomes commentary from any source.  I also am presenting it as a model for anyone who wishes to build a similar program.


--Robyn Serven
--Bloomfield College, NJ

Education Round-up:  I've categorized.

Philosophy and PoliticsStories:  Ourselves and OthersFreedom on CampusNCLB/Standardized Testing/Department of EdAdvocacy, Information and Action AlertsPeople Teaching

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    Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 11:38 AM PDT.

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    Comment Preferences

    •  Sorry for the lateness of the hour... (9+ / 0-)

      ...but I am having a bad allergy day, which caused me to spend more time writing the essay than I thought I would take.  Then again, I think I did a better job than I had intended. ;-)

      How is everyone's summer going?

      Robyn

      Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 11am EST

      by rserven on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 11:36:21 AM PDT

    •  I am really interested in your Women's Studies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven

      Program. The funding issues you have faced are ones that are shared by a lot of other "programs." They are symptomatic of some larger issues in the academic world generally. Many people feel that some of the most important research that is being done today is being done at the edges of the disciplines or on the borders between different disciplines. Unfortunately, hiring and funding are discipline-based. Programs like women's studies and medieval studies survive because of the efforts of interested faculty and students. How can we re-organize colleges and universities so that there is more support for these kinds of programs? Certainly, some of the international studies programs that have been developed in the part 10 years can serve as models. I do have a personal interest in this. I was more active in the women's studies program at my previous university. While we do have a women's studies program at my current university, it does not have as much impact on the overall curriculum.

      On a totally unrelated note, many thanks for your comments on the Anne coulter diary a few days ago.

      •  There are efforts to start... (0+ / 0-)

        ...an interdisciplinary program in Latino/Latina and Carribean Studies as well.  That's not really gotten too far off the ground, hampered in no small part because the percentage of hispanic faculty is far below the percentage of hispanic students.

        I agree that it is precisely these kinds of programs that are the cutting edge of education, the education for the new multicultural millenium, if you will.

        It would help if the budget problems at the state level didn't exascerbate our overall budget shortfalls.

        Robyn

        Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

        by rserven on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 01:11:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  if you love women, latinas and science! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven
      •  Thank you... (0+ / 0-)

        ...I will pass this along to the appropriate places.  The driving force behind our latino/latina etc program is a biology professor.  I will also pass it along to  our Association of Latin American Students organization.

        Robyn  

        Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

        by rserven on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 02:02:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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