HSU Offers Women's and Gender Studies Minor


Henderson State University’s minor in women’s and gender studies offers students an interdisciplinary program that challenges perceptions and encourages critical thinking regarding women’s and gender issues. 

“Women still don’t get paid as much as men, and women are still discriminated against and most medical studies are still done on men and then applied to women,” said Dr. Angela Boswell, associate dean of the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences and director of the women’s gender study program. “These reasons are why this minor is necessary at Henderson, a public liberal arts university.” 

To receive a minor in this program, students must complete 15 semester hours with no more than nine hours from any one discipline. Courses cover a range of topics from women’s literature to gender and race in American theater. 

Five steering committee members represent several departments across campus and help achieve the program’s interdisciplinary focus and increase the number of topics students have the opportunity to explore. 

“By studying sociology, philosophy, religion, written literature, the theater, and the history of women in society, students are offered a very broad knowledge base,” Bowell said. 

Henderson is one of two universities in the state of Arkansas that offers a minor in women’s and gender studies.
Committee members for the 2013-2014 academic year were: Dr. Angela Boswell, social science; Dr. Stephanie Barron, English, foreign languages and philosophy; Dr. Shannon Clardy, physics; William Henshaw, communication and theatre arts; Dr. Joyce Shepherd, sociology.

For fall 2014, Dr. Malcolm Rigsby, sociology and human services, and Dr. Emily Gerhold, art, will join the steering committee.

Professors in this minor each share a passion for gender studies and a desire to understand a female’s role in society. Clardy, who has faced gender issues in the past, was the first female professor hired in Henderson’s physics department. 

“The number of women in physics is very low. There is this presumption that women’s brains do not function that way,” Clardy said. “Women’s and gender studies fills an important role in helping people realize that we don’t all fit into the cookie cutter mold.”

In high school, a teacher told Clardy she would never pass his physics class. She passed the class and started the second half of the course the following year. The teacher was “very hard” on her and difficult to work with, so she gave up. She tried again in college, and the professor was frustrated by her asking questions about where specific equations originated from. He told her that physics was not the major for her, and suggested she steer towards something more artistic. Clardy took this as a sexist remark, associating what was said with the assumption that women are more drawn to the arts. 

“I took it as a challenge,” Clardy said. “I graduated with honors in physics and received several awards. At the time, it was just to show the people in my past that I was capable of receiving this degree.”

Clardy said her primary motivation for joining the steering committee was to help students understand that stereotypes do not define who you are or who you can be.

Focused study on women’s and gender issues can be applied to careers in psychology, media relations, or politics.
Students who complete this minor can expect to learn the cultural conditions crucial to understanding the construction of gender and the experiences of women cross-culturally.

“One thing I’ve learned from studying history is things change, they can change and human beings make them change,” said Boswell. “Until you’ve got the knowledge base, you can’t make changes or understand why you are where you are.”
This program offers students the knowledge to go out into the world and really make a difference regarding women’s roles in society. 

“I’ve always heard people say, ‘you throw like a girl,’ ‘you hit like a girl,’ said Clardy. “I won’t accept that.”
“I think like a human being, not a gender.”

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