As the Final Report of the University of Wisconsin System Task Force on Women’s Studies wrote in 1974, a major objective of Women’s Studies is "to raise the aspirations of women, expanding their sense of possible future alternatives and opportunities and their own capabilities. The concurrent purpose is to enable men to widen their spheres of development for they, too, have been limited by narrow traditional concepts of ‘women’s roles’ and ‘men’s roles.’ Since 1974, Women’s Studies has achieved some of these goals, and as part of the continuing efforts to advance equality for women, the UW Colleges Women’s Studies Program has as its mission to introduce students to the scholarship on and by women within all academic disciplines.
The UW Colleges Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program addresses three areas of learning: curriculum, research, and civic and community engagement. Part of our mission is to extend learning from the classroom to research, service learning, and community outreach. We strive to balance traditional approaches to academic disciplines with a gender-focused perspective and to help students develop a general understanding of patriarchy and how it has affected and continues to affect, women’s and men’s lives.
An interdisciplinary program of study, Women’s Studies introduces students to the scholarship, literature, and creative works by and about women that are transforming the liberal arts and the professions. As an interdisciplinary, multicultural, and global course of study, women’s studies courses will prepare students to use both traditional and feminist perspectives to analyze gender, sex, and sexuality as biological, psychological, social, and cultural phenomena. This might include the study of social change movements, politics and government, fine arts, literature, and the social sciences, with one possible goal being the creation of an understanding that interrelated factors (e.g., race, ethnicity, class, age, disability, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation) inform knowledge of women’s history, culture, and social roles. Students should also gain knowledge of feminist movements for social change globally and in the US.
Through the use of feminist pedagogical methods, the UW Colleges Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program will develop and sustain a learning environment, curricula, and a trained faculty to provide a complex, informed, and thorough learning experience.
On a broader scope, the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program has several overall goals for students:
- improve critical thinking and provide students with the intellectual means to question prevailing assumptions
- promote social responsibility through revealing the connections between personal experience and political activity and validating student contributions and voices
- relate learning in the classroom to lives in communities
In the field of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, faculty and students will develop new interdisciplinary research, scholarship, creative work, and new methods for improving the study of women, in addition to critically evaluating traditional scholarship and research upon which they draw for their own work.
Civic and Community Engagement
Activism and advocacy are central components in the field of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. Consequently, the curriculum should respond to issues of concern relevant to the lives of women on our university campus, in our local areas, across the Americas, and around the globe. Further, the empowerment of a diverse population of women, both in the academy and in society, within local, regional, and global contexts remains a significant objective of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies as an academic discipline as well as a foundation for activism.
The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program aims to increase the solidarity among women on campus and to improve the campus climate for women. The program can accomplish this goal through several initiatives:
- by providing a diverse, comprehensive curriculum of courses acknowledging women’s experiences and issues.
- by supporting campus activities”student organizations, lectures, panels, etc.”that promote awareness, recognition, and celebration of women’s culture
- by developing campus resources (women’s support groups, sexual harassment mediation, appropriate counseling services, for example) for female students, staff, and faculty to create a space for their intellectual development, necessarily informed by emotional, psychological, and material conditions.