Pitt’s Women’s Studies Program, One of First in Nation, Marks 40th Anniversary

Issue Date: 
October 15, 2012

The University of Pittsburgh Women’s Studies Program, established in 1972, has grown from three faculty members teaching a handful of courses to a vital interdisciplinary arm of the University, where undergraduate and graduate students pursue certificates and degrees through the lens of issues impacting women and gender. About 100 courses are now offered, taught by a wide range of faculty. The program was among the first in the nation and it has  served as a model for many of the women’s studies programs around the country that have followed.

The program, part of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, will mark its 40th anniversary Oct. 18 and 19 with a full slate of speakers, luncheons, readings, music, and theatrical performances. All are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested, wstudies@pitt.edu.

“The launching of the Pitt’s Women’s Studies Program urged the academy to connect more integrally with the community and with social change in the world outside,” said Jean Ferguson Carr, the program’s current director. “It upset the hierarchical arrangements between teachers and students, as well as academic knowledge and experience.”  Carr noted that the program was launched at a time when Pittsburgh was a hub of feminist activism, including the founding of the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (1967); the establishment of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (1972); and the first Take Back the Night protest (1977).

Pitt’s Women’s Studies Program has focused intensively on the place and position of women and now also addresses masculinity, queer theory and gender inquiry. Its new Pitt in China program allows students in China to blog, for example, with students taking the same courses on the Pitt campus. The program offers a robust array of lectures, conferences, prizes for student research, and teaching fellowships.

“Women’s Studies courses provide a productive atmosphere for educational inquiry and advancement,” added Carr. “They allow all students and scholars to be thoughtful about how knowledge is gathered and assessed, about who gets to speak up and be heard, and about which questions are addressed.”

All 40th-anniversary events will be held in Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Rooms 2500-2501. They include:

October 18

2-3 p.m., “Getting (and Staying) in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution,” Deborah Brake, Pitt professor of law

October 19

9:30 a.m., Introduction by Jean Ferguson Carr, director of Pitt’s Women’s Studies and professor of English

9:45 a.m., “Thoughts on the Early Years of Teaching in Women’s Studies,” Irene Frieze, Pitt professor of psychology

10 a.m., “Pedagogy and the New Women’s Studies Classroom”Moderator: Jean Ferguson CarrPanelists: Frayda Cohen, senior lecturer, Pitt Women’s Studies, and former Women’s Studies teaching fellows Julie Beaulieu, Candi Carter Olson, Kimberly Creasap, and Sarah Krier 

12:30 p.m., Keynote Lecture“Thinking Power/Doing Femininity: A Journey Through Women’s and Gender Studies,” Mimi Schippers, associate professor of sociology, director of Women’s Studies, Tulane University

2:30 p.m., Keynote Lecture“Toward the Future, Together: Girls’ Studies and Women’s Studies,” Mary Celeste Kearney, associate professor of radio-television-film, University of Texas-Austin

4:15 p.m., “The Future of Women’s and Gender Studies”Moderator: Kathleen Blee, Pitt Distinguished Professor of SociologyPanelists: Mary Celeste Kearney, Mimi Schippers, and Katie Hogan, professor of English, director of Women’s Studies, Carlow University

6 p.m., Dinner and RemarksJames Knapp, senior associate dean, Pitt’s Dietrich School; Mary L. Briscoe, Pitt professor emeritus of English and Women’s Studies

7 p.m., Theatrical performances from Her Hamlet by Lisa Jackson-Schebetta, Pitt assistant professor of theatre arts, and Theo Allyn Kelley, Pitt teaching artist in residence, and from In the Still of the Night: Andromeda’s Dark Stuff by Pitt theater arts PhD student Vivian Appler

Musical performance by Pitt’s Carpathian Ensemble, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Adriana Helbig.

Additional information can be found www.wstudies.pitt.edu