My term as Director of the WGS Program at Iowa State University is coming to an end after seven years in this position. This milestone has given me the opportunity to reflect on my journey and the status of women’s and gender studies at ISU, and in society as a whole.
It has been a privilege to lead this program since 2015. What a tremendous experience to work with this talented and dedicated group of colleagues, students and staff. Issues related to gender identities, sexual orientation, racial justice and intersectionality are key to this field of study and very relevant in today’s political and social climate. I want to share some of my own perspectives on these issues and how people in this program engage with them on a daily basis.
When I was in college, a woman’s right to choose if and when to have children was taken for granted. This constitutional right is under attack with serious medical, emotional, and financial implications for women in the U.S. In some states, ‘trigger laws’ will ban most abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade.
Mobilization of and support for the LGBTQIA+ community is also highly visible in the field of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies. We are experiencing a growing amount of scholarship, curriculum, and activism in this area in the face of some chilling hostility and legislation to curb education about sexual orientation and gender identities in our schools.
In addition, higher education is undergoing a transformation that affects the status and role of faculty, budget cuts and student wellbeing. An increasing proportion of instruction in academia is done by contingent faculty. This shift impacts interdisciplinary programs such as women and gender studies. The COVID pandemic has only exacerbated many of these inequities and challenging work conditions for faculty and women in particular. Rising tuition costs have made college unaffordable for many students as evidenced by recent declines in enrollment, especially among women, Black students, and economically marginalized young people.
Given these challenges and the continuing relevance of a field such as women’s and gender studies, colleagues and students challenge these injustices and display remarkable courage, optimism and hope.
Thank you for the opportunity to lead these efforts and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at ISU. I am grateful to the many colleagues who support the program and offer inspiration now and into the future!
Have a great summer!!
Ann M. Oberhauser