IUPUI Women’s Studies Program Celebrates Thirty-Fifth Anniversary

Although January 30, 2014, was the thirty-fifth anniversary, the history of the IUPUI Women’s Studies program stretches back to the mid-1970s. During this period, classes focusing on Women’s Studies themes had been offered, but no established, coherent program had yet been established at IUPUI. All that changed, however, in 1977 when a School of Liberal Arts Sub-Committee on Women’s Studies was established in October. This committee was tasked with debating the relevance of, need for, and creation of a Women’s Studies program on the campus of IUPUI. Some notable members of this sub-committee were Dr. Miriam Z. Langsam (History), who would later become Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the School of Liberal Arts; Dr. John Barlow (German), who would later become Dean of the School of Liberal Arts; and Dr. Linda Haas (Sociology), who remains an Adjunct Professor of Women’s Studies.

Throughout the remainder of 1977 and all of 1978, meetings were held, a survey was distributed, and a budget for 1978-1979 was drawn up. The results of the survey, distributed early in 1978, showed that 15% of the IUPUI faculty had experience with or was interested in Women’s Studies. By the end of 1978, the sub-committee had determined that there was enough interest among students and faculty to prepare a proposal for a minor in Women’s Studies.  

This proposal was presented to the School of Liberal Arts curriculum committee at the end of January 1979, after one final sub-committee meeting to finalize all the details for the proposal and the program. It was at this meeting in January 1979 that Dr. Kathy Klein was unanimously voted to be the first Coordinator (the position would later be renamed "Director") of the Women’s Studies program. Following this meeting, the proposal was formally presented to the curriculum committee. On January 30, 1979, the curriculum committee voted in favor of creating a Women’s Studies minor and program.

From January 30, 1979, until May 1979, the Women’s Studies program was quite busy. In only four months, the program had received five formal applications for the minor. Toni Wise-Hackett, who graduated in May 1979, was conferred the first Women’s Studies minor. The second conferred minor followed in August 1979.

Since 1979, the Women’s Studies program has successfully continued its mission of "offer[ing] ... students a new way of looking at the world and themselves with the introduction of the forgotten and neglected material which influences and encompasses the female experience [...]." Each new student who takes a class or completes a 16 credit hour minor in Women’s Studies is continuing a proud tradition that was started over thirty-five years ago by some of the School of Liberal Arts’ most influential faculty members. We look forward to the next thirty-five-plus years!