As fall registration approaches, it seems that the Temple University course catalog is chock full of listings followed by the now familiar phrase, “cross-listed with Women’s Studies.”
A relatively new major, Women’s Studies is going strong, and its wide variety of course listings continues to pull in new majors each year.
Dr. Julia Ericksen, who teaches classes in the department, first moved the motion in the collegial assembly of the College of Liberal Arts to pass Women’s Studies as a major.
As a response to strong faculty interest, the major was created in 1978. Student interest grew quickly, and the Women’s Studies faculty had to rush to accommodate the demand.
“When we first started, there was just an enormous backlog of students who wanted to take courses,” Ericksen said in an interview with The Temple News last year.
“We ran lots of sections of “Introduction to Women’s Studies” and they just closed immediately.”
Currently, a major is offered, carrying a requirement of twelve courses and a minor with a requirement of “The Essential Issues” class and six other courses in Women’s Studies. Also offered is a graduate and undergraduate certificate.
According to Dr. Rebecca Alpert, who served as co-director in the program since 1991, a degree in Women’s Studies offers graduates virtually limitless possibilities.
“We have alumni who are lawyers and who are working as court advocates in the criminal justice system…Some go on to social work careers or administrative careers. Some teach. There is almost nothing you can’t do,” said Alpert in an interview with The Temple News last year.
According to Dr. Patricia Melzer, co-director of Women’s Studies, the department offers many courses aimed to educate Temple students in a variety of areas of Women’s Studies.
For instance, Melzer teaches classes such as “American Women’s Lives, International Women’s Writing and Sexual Difference in the Cinema.”
Melzer spent time at the Free University in Berlin, Germany doing feminist academic and activist work where she received her Master’s degree in North American Studies.
She received her Ph.D. from Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
“Teaching and doing research in Women’s Studies makes it possible for me to combine my profession with my personal beliefs and interests,” said Melzer.
In addition to their normal class listings, “special topics” classes are offered.
This spring, Temple’s Honors Department offered “Technology and Women,” a class that examines women’s role in technological development, as well as their role in the field of science-fiction literature.
According to the Women’s Studies Web site, the “core” of Women’s Studies “is an examination of the social, historical, and cultural roots of gender identity and gender equality and inequality.”
The affiliated faculty, which includes men, that teach within in the department serve to strengthen Women’s Studies and the goals they are trying to achieve through the students that they educate.
The department doesn’t just stay cooped up in Anderson Hall – the teachers and students spread their message across campus.
For instance, the department featured a retreat this winter that held a discussion session entitled “Activism and Baccalaureate: Time, Politics, and Platform,” which explained to students how to start or join an organization, how to manage their time and how to build a resume.
Many groups also exist across campus that promote these types of issues.
The Temple Alliance for Reproductive Rights and Action, The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, and The Students and Friends of Lesbians and Gays are groups designed to address the issues that are present involving gender and to get students involved in sending their message out.
“Gender is a main aspect in our lives that shapes and influences who we are and how we live,” said Melzer.
“It is also useful in understanding how gender works to communicate and bridge any gaps that may exist between men and women.”
For more information about Women’s Studies, visit astro.temple.edu/~dwhaites or stop by the Women’s Studies office in room 811 of Anderson Hall.
Features Editor Alix Gerz contributed to this article.
Christine Olley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.