Center for Women’s and Gender Studies BA celebrates anniversary

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Over the weekend, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies celebrated the 10th anniversary of the inception of their bachelor’s degree program.

Alumni panels, keynote speakers and discussions were held all day on Saturday and Sunday to share experiences and advice about gender, sexuality, diversity and equity. While the center has offered a Master’s on the subject since 2001, the B.A. in women’s and gender studies was first offered in 2007.

Jackie Salcedo, undergraduate academic advisor for women’s and gender studies, said the number of current B.A. majors is more than the total number of M.A. majors they have ever had. Salcedo said the recent influx of students into the B.A. program was spurred by recent national politics.

“When we started the major in 2007, I think we had seven students that first semester,” Salcedo said. “It kind of leveled off at 60 until after the election. It nearly doubled.”

Gabrielle Posada, English and women’s and gender studies senior, said she attended the events because they create a safe environment for people to share experiences.

“(I attended) mostly just to feel empowered and gain a little hope in a really horrible political state right now,” Posada said. “And to feel all of these people gathering to celebrate things that need to be celebrated right now.”

Salcedo organized a panel of alumni who worked in the nonprofit sector after graduating. Salcedo said most students tend to be interested in advocacy and helping people after getting their degrees.

Shannon Doyle, history and women’s and gender studies honors sophomore, attended the panel hoping to learn about career opportunities. Doyle worked for a nonprofit in London before starting at UT and said she wants to continue helping women.

“I was working with women who had been in very vulnerable situations,” Doyle said. “Overall it was a very great opportunity, and I’d like to do something similar here in Austin.”

Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, said although the program has more people than ever and continues to grow, every director faces obstacles.

“The primary difficulty has always been that we don’t have faculty of our own,” Heinzelman said. “Sometimes we’re very lucky, sometimes it’s been an incredible struggle. If you’re a center, you cannot have full-time faculty (teaching the courses).”

Heinzelman said the center has been allowed to hire two new faculty members for the 2018 fall semester.