On Aug. 28, 2011 students began to return to Keene State College filled with excitement and electrified energy for the start of the new year. With 1,400 freshmen roaming the campus, KSC went into full swing with the start of classes, the hustle and bustle of students trying to get there on time, and the addition of two new majors. One of the most popular so far is the women and gender studies major.
This program was first started in 1989 only as a minor and began with the Women’s Study Council. Sara Hottinger, the chair of the women’s and gender studies department, she said, “The major was officially approved at the Senate System Academic Planning Committee in February of last year.” Faculty had to draft up a document to meet the goals of liberal arts that was then pushed through to the Senate Curriculum Committee in order for the college to make it an official major.
The gender studies aspect of this new major revolved around sexuality studies and queer theory. “It was anecdotal really.” Hottinger said.
There are a number of students that decided to pursue this major as an individualized major, taking specific classes of their choice in order to proceed with their career and future goals.
Hottinger’s goal is to add at least 15 new classes per year, which include Intro to Women’s Studies, Theory, and the Capstone senior project. Her hope is that these classes will provide tools that students can use on their resume.
Senior at KSC, Jon Donais, is a women and gender studies major and customized it to fit his needs.
“Women and gender studies has challenged me to reexamine how I see the world and to make changes in my life to make my actions more fair,” Donais said.
With the program at KSC for his last two semesters, he hopes that these classes will become more diverse. As an aspect of his feminist practices class, he was able to create a Facebook page, a website, and will recruit for events by going into the first-year student 100 level courses and informing them about different events and activities that occur on campus.
“It was a completely different viewpoint of the world,” Donais said of getting involved with the major.
Emile Netzhammer, provost of academic affairs, defined the women’s and gender studies program as a crossing of many disciplines, and is for those students that are interested in these different intersections.
“I think it’s looking at the humanistic and social sciences, the way in which gender has an impact on various aspects of our lives,” Netzhammer said.
Netzhammer hopes that students who decide to pursue this major in the future will have an interest and input on increasing the amount of co-curricular programming and wants to see what they will do with the newly acquired knowledge and how they apply it to their daily lives.
According to the Keene State College website and Academic Catalog, the women’s and gender studies program is “an interdisciplinary field that examines the feminist and queer theoretical perspectives on the intersections of race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, and other identities.”
Not only has women’s and gender studies been newly added to the Keene State curriculum this year, but a new nursing program has been added as well. Netzhammer and faculty have been working for the past 18 months for a budget to build the curriculum and for the first time in years, hire a completely new faculty to teach this major.
Additionally, potential new students to KSC have written letters and asked frequently at college fairs if Keene State will add a nursing program. Current students in the nursing program will be able to graduate in four years, but are required to take 16 credits of summer coursework, including clinical experience with local hospitals, such as Cheshire Medical Center.
For the future, there is hope to have an applied liberal studies major at the college and may be proposed within the next year.
Jason Abisch can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org