Students praises women studies course

A different kind of social science is taking Gannon University by storm next semester, and all students are encouraged to consider participating in this unique experience.

Gannon has been offering its Introduction to Women’s Studies course for several years now, but it’s only within the past two years that Ellie Walsh – an assistant professor in the history department – took the reins.

She said the course can be beneficial for all students, which is why she so adamantly encourages as many students as possible to take the course.

“No matter what work you go into, understanding women’s history and what it means to be a woman is useful,” she said. “We are everywhere.”

Walsh said that women’s issues didn’t even exist as an area of study until the early 1970s, with the second wave of the feminist movement. The movement pursued legal equality for women and pushed for the academy – meaning colleges and universities – to incorporate the study of women.

She said teaching a course on women’s studies 40 years after the movement provides for a totally different perspective because “it’s hard for many people of the younger generation to remember what it was like.”

She said the course changes a little bit from year to year, but the basic pretense is always the same: the goal is to get rid of inequalities.

Walsh attempts to do this in the class by getting the students involved in heated discussions. “It’s the only class that I teach that I never have to worry about whether there will be discussion,” she said.

She said the topics discussed are often provocative. The students explore what it means to be male or female, as well as the roots of inequality and how issues such as equal pay, education, political power, etc. can be changed.

“There’s always differing opinions,” she said, “but I try to create a respectful environment where people can argue about their beliefs, think about their opinions and consider others.”

Walsh said one of the things she would most like Gannon students to be aware of is that Introduction to Women’s Studies fulfills the university’s liberal studies social science requirement. So, instead of taking sociology or political science, students can take this course.

Senior English major Tomee Barnes, who took the course in Spring 2011, said she would definitely recommend it.

“The most valuable lesson was empathy,” she said, “and to consider other cultural views on issues.”

Walsh said the course can be beneficial for male students in addition to females, though she said she has not seen as big of a male student population as would like in the class.

“I really encourage men to take the course,” she said, “but we have to pitch it.”

One male student, first-year English graduate student Vincent Bruce, said he would recommend all students to consider taking the women’s studies course, just to get their feet wet.

“Surprisingly my Y-Chromosome didn’t make things feel particularly awkward,” he said.

Barnes also said there’s nothing to fear in taking it. “The course doesn’t show you how to wear flannel and roar about female power,” she said. “It identifies areas we tend to overlook as feminist issues.”

Overall, Walsh said, the course provides for a great learning experience.

“It’s all about bringing issues of women to the public,” she said.

KELLY MORELAND

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