Gender studies minor adds new perspective to curriculum
RELEASED: Nov. 16, 2006
DANVILLE, KY—When it comes to majors and minors, Centre offers real benefits. Not only does the College enable students to design their own majors or complete a double major, but most recently, students, with the help of professors, were able to officially add a new minor to the curriculum.
JoAnna Hortillosa, a senior economics and Spanish double major and gender studies minor from Harrogate, Tenn., has been passionate about gender studies since early in her academic career.
"I became interested in gender studies when I was in high school. Now, being an educated young college woman who's on the verge of graduating and then entering the work force, equality and equal opportunity often loom in my mind," Hortillosa says.
In order for a new major or minor to be approved, a proposal must be presented to the Curriculum Committee, a group made up of Centre faculty members. If approved, the proposal is discussed in a faculty-wide meeting.
In the 1994-95 academic year, professors worked to create a gender studies minor but their proposal was not enacted due in large part to a lack of student interest. This time around, things were different. Not only were professors and administrators actively involved in the process, but students also played a significant role in adding gender studies to Centre's curriculum.
"I'm proud of what we were able to do in getting the minor passed and giving Centre students more options," Hortillosa says. "I'm a double major in economics and Spanish, but I've managed to also take gender studies classes throughout my Centre career, hoping that the minor would pass before I graduated."
In May, the proposal drafted by interested professors was presented at the last faculty meeting of the year. Knowing this, Hortillosa and Sam McCure, a junior sociology and anthropology major from Louisville, arranged a meeting with former dean John Ward to discuss students' concerns.
"I think it really helped that we spoke to the dean before he went before the Curriculum Committee and faculty," Hortillosa says. "He was extremely supportive of our efforts, and I felt so much better talking to him one-on-one, knowing that my voice was heard and that it would make a difference in the grander scheme."
One of the biggest obstacles faced by the gender studies committee, a group of six faculty members from different academic disciplines, was proving the academic validity of the subject.
"I know a lot of people hear 'gender studies' and think of bra-burning, man-hating radicals, and that certainly isn't what it's about," Hortillosa says. "It's one of the most unrestricted of liberal arts disciplines with classes in arts and humanities, the sciences, history, government and foreign language, just to name a few."
In order to address faculty concerns over courses offering objective views on men and women, coauthors of the proposal Sarah Goodrum, assistant professor of sociology, and Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, assistant professor of international studies, emphasized an even balance of study.
"Gender studies is an interdisciplinary academic program which aims to expand students’ understanding and appreciation of men’s and women’s lives and experiences both historically and in contemporary societies worldwide," Goodrum says. "My hope is that the addition of the gender studies minor at Centre will help us to better meet the College’s mission to commit 'to a belief in the unconditional value of each human being, to an appreciation of the differences among people, and to a recognition of the close connection between responsible self-development and community well-being.'"
Goodrum says this type of appreciation for and recognition of men’s and women’s experiences will better prepare students–professionally and personally–for life after Centre.
Hortillosa adds, "Everyone has a gender, everyone has an opinion on gender and everyone is affected by his or her gender, whether they realize it or not. It's part of who we are and how we interact with others."
On Nov. 29 Steve Beaudoin, associate professor of history, is presenting an information fair with his "Gender and Sexuality in Western Society" class. Students are encouraged to stop by the Warehouse between 4:15 and 5:30 p.m. and learn about the minor and other relevant issues.For more information on majors and minors at Centre, visit the majors and minors webpage.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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