Women’s and Gender Studies gains Master’s Program, department status

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With a handful of volunteer faculty members and a lot of perseverance, Saint Louis University’s women’s and gender studies program began as women’s studies 34 years ago. These volunteers took on additional work, with no added compensation, to start the program because they believed in the importance and value it could bring. Having grown significantly since then, women’s and gender studies will officially become a department at SLU on July 1, 2015.

What is even more exciting for the program is the recent addition of a new master’s degree program. The M.A. program provides multidisciplinary education about social justice issues and prepare students for real-world leadership experience.

For Dr. Gretchen Arnold, the interim chair of the department, this new program opens doors for many students and should be considered.

“Gender is an often-unexamined factor in all human products and activities, including the subject matter of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as well as academic and professional practices themselves. It is time that we acknowledge and examine the impact of gender in order to promote social equality.”

Through the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, students will investigate social problems and possible resolutions by engaging with communities through research, advocacy and service.

While some may think that a degree in women’s and gender studies does not help in the “real world,” Dr. Arnold believes otherwise. She says the new program will prepare students for doctorate programs and professional careers in teaching, research, policy analytics and social justice.

In addition to five core classes, including an internship, students will also have the opportunity to take elective courses from a multitude of other studies including political science, African-American studies, philosophy, English, social work, and a wide range of other areas and departments. The faculty of the new department hopes that students’ ability to engage in critical thinking, their research and writing skills and communication with diverse audiences will improve because of the program.

For those who are struggling with whether or not to try out this program, SLU junior Katie Kane encourages others to give it a shot. “While I am not a women’s and gender studies major, I have taken a few courses and have really learned from them. You address a lot of controversial issues in a safe environment and think of new ways to solve them,” Kane said.

Dr. Arnold credits the success thus far to the program’s, “flexibility, a past successful track with the graduate minor degree, and a well-planned-out M.A. degree.”

While some may not want to major in women’s and gender studies, the department encourages students to at least consider a minor. By integrating this program into a chosen field of study, professors believe that students can become better communicators, writers and leaders within their respective communities.