New opportunity to examine link between identity, society

6/9/2009 | By: Skyler Dillon  |

A new master's degree and a 12-credit, graduate certificate program in gender, race and identity will be available in Fall 2009 for University students who hope to better understand the diverse interactions between their individuality and society.

"We really want our students to understand the intersections between structural factors and the way people experience their lives," said Mary Stewart, moving from the directorship of the University's Women's Studies program to lead the Gender, Race and Identity program - approved in March. "Where one is located in the social/political system shapes the person's life, opportunities, perceptions, and experiences."

Under the new program, Women's Studies will expand to include Ethnic Studies, Religious Studies and Holocaust, Genocide and Peace Studies courses. Stewart said the change accommodates interdisciplinary work that occurs among the four fields.

Students will choose a mentor among professors from various departments like English, anthropology and philosophy.

"We have some of the most productive scholars at the University involved," said Stewart. "A lot of the newer, younger faculty really like the idea of studying all the intersections of race, class and gender, and the constructions of identity. It's very creative work."

Another draw for scholars is the chance to work more closely with peers in related disciplines. On the undergraduate level, the University has offered a bachelor of arts in women's studies as well as a minor in the field.

"We offer faculty a place to make some very important connections, and the students are very happy to see minor (program) areas come under a larger umbrella so they have a chance to develop," explained Stewart.

That development has resulted in classes like "Men and Masculinities," "Gender and Migration," and White Identity, Race and Racism," which looks at race as including not only minorities but also Caucasians.

"Majors have been growing in women's studies, and the number of minors in ethnic studies is quite large," said Stewart. "The new program will expand upon the relationships between those areas.

"We would like to expand the peace studies component to include classes on conflict and dispute mediation," she said. "That would be very helpful in today's environment."

Stewart is pleased to be able to offer a program focused on interdisciplinary work and diversity.

"Those are two of the most important components of a University education," she said.

See the Gender, Race and Identity program for more information.


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