History of the Women's & Gender Studies Program at UNI
In 1976, in the midst of the second wave of the U.S. Women's Movement, Dr. Glenda Riley and Dr. Grace Ann Hovet, professors of History and English respectively, sought to change things at UNI. With the signatures of 300 students and 25 faculty, Drs. Riley and Hovet successfully instituted a minor in what was then called Women's Studies, even despite skepticism that Women's Studies was, to quote "a fad, a phase, and doesn't belong in academics. "The early stages of the program featured a core curriculum in the History of Women in the United States, Images of Women in Literature and Human Relationships and Sexuality and Psychology of Human Differences. The program was sustained with the creation of a Women's Center, which was established in Baker Hall 317. Here, interested students could find books relevant to women and women's studies, and discuss topics from androgyny to women's health, to assertiveness training. Dr. Glenda Riley continued to direct the program until leaving UNI.
After Dr. Glenda Riley's departure, the Women's Studies program continued to evolve with new courses and new directors. Dr. Elaine Kalmar and Dr. Donna Thompson held the program together in the late 1980s. Women's History Months showcased the work of scholars such as Dr. Rosemary Reuther, a feminist theologian, and preeminent Dr. Betty Friedan.
In 1989, the program had a sparse 5 minors. By 1993, there were 53. For this, we owe many thanks to the hard work of Dr. Martha Reineke, who directed the program from 1990 to 1994, at which point she developed and implemented a Masters program in Women's Studies and directed it until 1999. Additionally, Dr. Reineke established CROW Forum, or the Current Research on Women, among a myriad of other programs.
Through the direction of Drs. Victoria DeFrancisco, Annette Lynch, Susan Hill, Cynthia Goatley, and Phyllis Baker from the late 1990s and into the new century, the Women's Studies program was extremely active. Students from the program visited Beijing and Washington D.C. Inspired by the conversations at the UNI's Beijing conference on women, students at UNI participated in an interactive national satellite conference to determine the direction of the struggle for women's rights. The program saw the series of "Women on Fridays," which provided a forum for discussion and community. In October 2000, the University of Northern Iowa Women's Studies program was awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund a 20-month project establishing proactive programs to reduce violence against women on campus. The programs focused on prevention rather than victim services. The programming established two staff positions that proactively focused on preventing gender-based violence. The project was initiated by former Women's Studies graduate student Amymarie Moser who approached Women's Studies Director, Annette Lynch, with a series of ideas about how violence could be prevented on the UNI campus. Many of those ideas made their way into the grant proposal. Dr. Lynch added the emphasis on working with men, which continues today. The lists of accomplishments go on.
In January 2005, the Women's Studies Advisory Board voted to change the name of the Women's Studies program to the Women's and Gender Studies program. This change reflects more clearly the current focus of the Program in terms of teaching and faculty research, as well as the future direction of the Program. The name change took affect in the Fall of 2006. Finally, in 2006, a full time director position was created, and the program changed its name to Women's and Gender Studies, as it continues to evolve along the needs of its students and current research in the field of feminism.
The Women's and Gender Studies Master's of Arts program was required to undergo restructuring in the Spring of 2012. This restructuring included adding two applied tracks to our graduate program, with focuses in gender and violence prevention and gender and wellness, in addition to the traditional thesis track. The first cohort from the restructured track graduated in May 2015. The future for new and exciting research is extraordinarily promising.