Chapter Eleven

a. Teaching a Gender Studies course

The Program in Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary program that offers a 15-credit minor and a 24-credit second major to Notre Dame undergraduates. Between the minor and the second major there are usually about forty students enrolled in the program at any given time. With occasional exceptions, all are required to take the two courses that Gender Studies operates under its own rubric. As soon as possible after declaring a minor or second major, students take a wide-ranging Introduction to Gender Studies, and in their senior year they enroll in the Gender Studies Practicum, in which they complete a significant project that often involves field work and/or scholarly research. Beyond those two classes, the program consists entirely of cross listed courses from almost every department in the College of Arts and Letters as well as some from the Law School and the Business School. There are some distribution requirements in the more extensive second major, including one course each in humanities and social sciences, one dealing with feminist and gender theory, and one dealing with the relation between gender and other forms of difference such as race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. However, students can take innumerable different tracks through the program, emphasizing gender-related courses closely related to their first major or using the classes to carve out a largely unrelated field of interest.

Notre Dame's Program in Gender Studies was founded in the late 1980s, and has always existed under that name; unlike most such programs, it was never called "Women's Studies." Though feminism and women's studies have traditionally been its central focuses, it has also emphasized gay/lesbian/queer studies, and many of its courses encourage students to take a critical feminist approach to the study of masculinity as well. Under all of its directors - including Ava Preacher, Kathleen Pyne, Mary Rose D'Angelo, Kathleen Biddick, Barbara Green, and Glenn Hendler - the Gender Studies office (325 O'Shaughnessy) has been a haven for what one might call "gender and sexual dissidents" on campus, and so the Program attracts some of the university's brightest and most interesting students to its classes. Thus, crosslist ing your courses with Gender Studies not only helps build and sustain the Program; it can also enliven your class discussion. You get very smart students, often from outside your discipline, who bring at least the rudiments of an distinctive intellectual and political perspective to your topic. I try to get any course I teach that has some focus on gender cross listed, as it just plain makes the classes better.

Getting a course cross listed is quite simple. You can either ask the person in your department who does the scheduling to crosslist the course with Gender Studies, or you can call the Gender Studies office and ask the Administrative Assistant to make sure the course gets cross listed. It's probably best to do both, and to do it quite early, when courses are first getting scheduled for the following semester. And please check, each time you offer a class, that your course is getting cross listed; turnover in departmental undergraduate studies offices can cause a course to fall through the cracks. Occasionally a department administrator will resist crosslist ing, claiming that the department needs those slots for its majors. We most often defer to those needs, though if a course seems ideal for our students, we'll encourage you to make a case for that with your department.

If your course title has an obvious gender focus - for instance, "Women in Islam" or "Gender, Race, Class, and Sexuality in Music" - the crosslist ing will be nearly automatic. If it's less obvious - e.g. "Political Movements in Eastern Europe"-you may get a phone call or e-mail from the Director or Assistant Director asking you roughly what portion of the course deals primarily with gender issues, feminist analysis, and the like. This is not an attempt to police your course content. Rather, the program is trying to make sure that its students are getting what they expect from courses that get the program's imprimatur. Students have told us that they expect a Gender Studies course to deal centrally with gender for at least a third of the semester. No one will count weeks on your syllabus or anything like that, and the Program is always eager to bring in new faculty and encourage them to incorporate questions of gender into every possible course. But, to give an example, my course on Realism and Naturalism, while it includes several women writers is not primarily focused on feminist approaches or gender issues, and thus probably should not be cross listed.

I should probably briefly explain what crosslisting is. It entails reserving a certain number of spots - anywhere from 3-15, depending on the size of the class - for Gender Studies students. To DART into those slots in your class, students have to come to (or call) the Gender Studies office and get an authorization number. Those students will appear on a separate attendance sheet, as officially they will be enrolled in a different course number. At a certain point in the process, if all the Gender Studies slots are not filled, we can open those up to others, so if you have another student who wants to get into your class and there is room on the Gender Studies list, just call and we'll pass on that authorization number to the student in question.

Even though the Gender Studies students appear on a different class list, they are of course part of your class, and expect to be treated like anyone else in the course. As I've said, often they will stand out in a positive way, and they may challenge other students (and, at their best, even the professor!) to incorporate gender more fully into their analyses. Often, as well, they will choose topics for essays and research projects that are focused on gender issues. The one thing we ask of you is that you encourage Gender Studies students to do exactly that. If you can suggest a gender-related topic for a final project, or steer students toward the feminist approaches that are part of your syllabus, you will be helping our students have an experience of the Gender Studies major or minor with the kind of intellectual coherence that a feminist perspective can provide.

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b. Gender Studies activities

In addition to the classes, Gender Studies offers to its undergraduate minors and majors, the Program also organizes, sponsors, and funds a range of activities. I'll describe those in some detail below, but the most important thing for you to do - if your work is feminist and/or gender-related or even if you're just interested in keeping track of such activities on campus - is to get on our e-mail list for announcing Gender Studies activities. Contact the Director, the Assistant Director or the Administrative Assistant to get on that list, and you won't have to peer at posters trying to pick out the feminist and gender-related events.

The most frequent event we organize is the Gender Studies Faculty Forum, which takes place a couple of times each semester. The Faculty Forum is an opportunity for faculty across the disciplines to share their work and ideas with others who work on gender-related issues. The format has recently shifted from the presentation of a single faculty member's work to multidisciplinary panel discussions, but we are quite flexible. If you are interested in presenting your work in such a format or in helping to organize a discussion of a particular topic, contact the director or assistant director; we may steer you to work with the Program's Intellectual Activities Committee.

The Program by no means has a massive budget, but we do occasionally sponsor speakers of our own; please feel free to make suggestions, so long as you're willing to help organize and raise money for the event. We are putting special effort into supporting faculty applications for grants to bring in outside speakers and to organize conferences. We want to apply every year for at least one of the Provost's Distinguished Women Lecturer grants and probably at least one Henkels grant, sponsored by ISLA. We've had tremendous success with such speakers in the past, bringing in major figures in such diverse fields as Law (Lani Guinier), History (Joan Scott) and Biology (Anne Fausto-Sterling). We're keeping our eyes out for funding sources for other events. For instance, this year we succeeded in getting approved one of our applications for ISLA's "Young Scholars" award, aimed at bringing to campus junior women who are members of a minority group and/or are Catholic. If you have suggestions for these or any other speakers, performers, again please contact the Gender Studies office.

If you are organizing a speaker, performance, film screening, or other event related to the concerns of the program, Gender Studies may be willing to provide a bit of funding, co-sponsorship, or help with organization and publicity. Again, our resources are quite limited, but if a small infusion of money can help, don't hesitate to ask. At the very least, please e-mail the Administrative Assistant to make sure that your event announcement gets sent out to our e-mail lists of students, faculty, and others.

At the end of each year, the Gender Studies majors and minors who are taking the Practicum course present their work in an afternoon symposium that features interesting presentations and excellent refreshments. This is one of the highlights of the year for students, their advisors, and everyone involved in Gender Studies, and is a great way to get a sense of the range and depth of gender studies at Notre Dame. Please keep your eye out for that event; you'll be sure to be notified if you're on our e-mail list (see above). And while I'm on the topic of the Practicum, don't be surprised if a student asks you to advise her or him on their practicum project. The Practicum course, like the Program as a whole, is so wildly interdisciplinary that it depends upon scholars in specific disciplines to provide most of the guidance for its students. After all, no one person hired to teach that course could possibly have the expertise to advise all of the fourteen students doing radically different kinds of work. Also at that Symposium, Gender Studies gives out two awards for best essays on a gender related topic, one for a graduate essay and one for an undergraduate essay. Please keep your eye out for strong essays, and encourage your students to submit their papers when you get the announcement each spring.

Last but not least - though it's not strictly an "event" - you can get involved in Gender Studies by running for our Executive Committee. You become part of the Gender Studies electorate, and therefore eligible to run for the committee, by cross listing your courses or otherwise contributing significantly to the program. The Committee is a group of faculty, elected in staggered two-year terms, that is charged with helping to hire the Director and Assistant Director, providing guidance and policies for the program, and otherwise keeping it going and growing. Elections for the Executive Committee - unlike those for committees in many departments-are often quite competitive, but those who don't get elected or don't want to serve in that capacity can also get involved by joining one of the subcommittees, chaired by members of the Executive Committee. These include the Intellectual Activities Committee mentioned above, as well as a committee for reviewing the undergraduate curriculum, another charged with outreach and publicity for recruiting new majors and minors, another that acts as liaison with the Women of Notre Dame program, and another that is formulating an Advisory Committee made up of alumni, major scholars in the field, and others. You can contribute to the Program by joining one or more of these committees.

It's worth saying that it's also refreshing to have a group of people to work with other than one's own department, a group that may have more of a shared sense of purpose than the average department does, and one that performs such an important function in the university. Depending on your department's attitude toward Gender Studies, the efforts you put into the Program may count more or less toward the record of "service" one needs to get tenure. As a junior faculty member, I found that the Gender Studies community provided me with intellectual interlocutors from perspectives my department alone could not provide, and that the sense of common purpose provided by a feminist perspective (and even by the sense of solidarity one gets from being part of a somewhat marginal and sometimes beleaguered and underfunded program) provided me with more energy than it took away from me. So please: get involved in the program; use what resources we can offer; contribute your ideas and energy.

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c. The Gender Studies Executive Committee

The Gender Studies Executive Committee runs the program in conjunction with the director, and is one of the most important avenues for sharing in and influencing the lives of women students and faculty at Notre Dame. The committee's tasks include: overseeing curriculum and requirements for the major and minor; lectures and public events sponsored and co-sponsored by the program, insuring its continuance and growth. This work is done through regular meetings of the Committee and through the following working subcommittees:

Curriculum oversees the structure and design of the Program's undergraduate curriculum, including the internship program. It is in the process of looking at other models and making recommendations for a possible reconceptualization of the degrees we offer.

Intellectual Programming considers a range of issues concerning our special events and regular offerings, including Gender Studies programming that serves our various audiences. It is currently taking up the discussion of our engagement with graduate education.

Undergraduate Outreach designs strategies to make more students aware of the Gender Studies Program and its offerings and to enhance the appeal of the Program to undergraduates. It also examines the ways in which the Program might better reach out beyond Arts and Letters to undergraduates in Business, Architecture, St. Mary's, etc.

Advisory Board considers models for the composition of a (proposed) Advisory Board and will locate and recommend candidates for the Board.

Women of Notre Dame Project acts as a liaison with the ISLA project that brings successful women alumni back to Notre Dame to talk with students and faculty. It will serve as a springboard for the work of the Advisory Board subcommittee.

The Director, Assistant Director and Gender Studies librarian are ex officio members of the Executive Committee. Other members of the executive committee are elected by ballot once a year (or if needed, more often) and serve for two or three-year terms. Subcommittees are chaired by members of the Executive Committee; volunteers to serve on subcommittees from faculty outside the Executive Committee are welcome, in most cases at any point during the year. Service on these committees is service to the university, though not always so recognized.

Gender Studies is an academic program, but its intellectual and pedagogical issues and concerns require that the program addresses (through academic means like fora and roundtables) political issues that are central at Notre Dame — like the treatment of women students and faculty; the treatment of gays lesbians and other sexual minorities; campus gender relations; childcare; sexual and reproductive health; rape, and so on. Given the official position of Roman Catholicism on many of these issues, the program must draw largely on secular and alternative Catholic positions. As a result, institutional support for the program is at best variable. Faculty choosing to serve on the Executive committee or subcommittees must see themselves as advocates.

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6/15/02 12:47 AM
2007 University of Notre Dame