Dr. Roseanne Hoefel and Carol Bender began their discussion with the administration of Alma College about a women's studies program in the fall of 1991. By the end of that school year, one was in place, a cross disciplinary minor with a 28 credit requirement. The core of the program was the Introduction to Women's Studies course, a Women's Literature course, Sex and Gender Roles from sociology, and feminist Philosophy and Religion. Elective courses were available from a variety of departments such as history's Ethnic and Racial Minorities course or exercise and Health science's Wellness course. Students also had the opportunity to sign up for practicum experiences and independent studies. The WST program was advised by a committee of professors from several departments who had an interest in contributing to women's causes at Alma. Enrollment in the Women's Studies Minor was small but fairly steady over the years. Students often paired the minor with majors in English, Communication, of Political Science.
The philosophy behind the movement emerged from a desire to focus on topics and issues concerning women's images, realities and choices. It works to develop an awareness of women's contributions, concerns, perspectives and theories by considering diversity of class, ethnicity, race and sexual orientation from various feminist perspectives which counterbalance traditional biases. The components of the minor offer a broad, socio-historical and multicultural study of women's status, roles and efforts toward survival, change and transformation.
In 1997, the coordination of the program was taken on by professors Karen Garner from the History Department and Denise Johnson from Economics, and the core of the minor was enhances with the addition of a Feminist Theories course, which gave an overview of American feminist thought. Also that year, Karen Garner organized Alma's Women's studies students to produce the Women's History Project, a large tribute to Alma women from the College's beginning. The extensive display was put on exhibit in the Heritage Center and Dow Science Center and was viewed by many members of the community.
Designed to move forward through a system of rotating coordinators, the Women's Studies program was next co-chaired by Sandra Lopez-Isnardi, art professor and Margarita Krakusin, Spanish professor beginning in 1999. They worked to forge a closer link with the MacCurdy Women's Resource House and to create a Women's Studies Web page.
During the 2001-2002 school year, the program was coordinated by professors Joanne Gilbert from the Communication Department and Catherine Fobes from Sociology who updated the web page (thanks to Mary Rosalez), established the Roseanne Hoefel Women's Studies Scholar in Residence Program, and sponsored the first Alma College production of "The Vagina Monologues," directed by Joanne Gilbert--an event that raised more than $4,000 for Women's Aid.
During the 2002-2003 academic year, Professor Chih-Ping Chen from the English Department assumed the Co-Directorship, and together with Joanne Gilbert, coordinated the WST program until the fall of 2007. During this time, WST created many exciting initiatives and events, hosting such renowned speakers as Jane Elliott and Dorothy Allison, sponsoring student presentations at conferences, establishing the annual Alma College "Take Back the Night" event, and creating a student handbook on sexual assault prevention and intervention.
During the 2007-2008 school year, the program was chaired by Dr. Janie Diels, assistant professor of Communication, and Dr. Jamie A. Smith, assistant professor of History. Drs. Chih-Ping Chen and Joanne Gilbert resumed co-directorship for the 2008-2009 year. The Women's Studies program focuses on studying issues from a feminist perspectives. Professors work closely with students to help design effective studies covering such topics as gender issues, feminist theories, and historical contributions of women, as well as the realities that face women in today's society. The Women's Studies program also collaborates with the Women's Issues Advisory Board and members of the MacCurdy House to promote women's issues, and equality of women, both on and off campus.
Dr. Chen and the women of MacCurdy House.