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2010.09.02 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

New Name, Same Mission: Women’s and Gender Studies

Omaha - The Women’s Studies Program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) has changed its name to the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

“Simply put, the name change reflects where the field is today,” said Karen Falconer Al-Hindi, program director.

Women’s Studies programs and departments were founded across the nation in the 1970s alongside the second wave of the feminist political movement, Falconer Al-Hindi said. In recent years, the program names have been updated to reflect the inclusion of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) experience and scholarship.

“Academic work in this field has become more inclusive. It has widened to include gender and sex, to gender orientation, sexuality and so on,” Falconer Al-Hindi said.

At UNO, courses have been continually added to keep up with the changing field, including:

• Women in Islam
• Language in the Minority
• Geography, Gender and Work
• Health Concepts in Sexual Development
• Institutional Racism and Sexism
• Sociology of Gender

More than 50 UNO faculty members, who have appointments in home departments across campus, give of their time for the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

“The change to Women’s and Gender Studies marks an important evolution in the history of Women’s Studies programs, and marks a change that has been made in Women’s Studies programs across the country,” said David Boocker, College of Arts and Sciences dean. “A significant result of this change is that students will be able to explore more broadly how gender, race, nationality and other socially constructed identities shape their personal identities, beliefs, opportunities and behaviors.”

Falconer Al-Hindi said the name change validates UNO courses and bolsters what is offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Faculty member Jody Neathery-Castro agrees: “It is the best of both worlds: honoring women as a historically underrepresented academic voice and subject while extending analysis and understanding to the broader spectrum of gender. We don’t just study women; we examine the consequences of gender as a social construct.”

Neathery-Castro offered the examples of investigating the low educational achievement of American boys, or understanding why transgendered adolescents have higher rates of depression and suicide.

“These topics always were part of our interests, but this name change will hopefully reflect the breadth of our interests better,” Neathery-Castro said. “We hope that students and faculty see their own interests as something encompassed by this program more clearly.”

Faculty member Jay Irwin suggests that the name change enables new conversations about gender, gender expression the challenging of restrictive gender roles.

“One of the struggles in teaching courses on gender is that sometimes the students come into the conversation thinking we are only talking about women, as if women are the only people in society who have a gender,” Irwin said. “The name change will remind students that each of us have a gender, a gender expression and that our lives are impacted by our gender. I also hope that it empowers students – female, male and other students who may not fit into a bi-gendered framework – to challenge prejudice and discrimination that continues to occur in our lives as it relates to gender, class, sexuality, age and race.”

Visit www.unomaha.edu/wmst call (402) 554-3834 for more information on the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UNO.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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