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                            CHAPTER 8

                        FOR WOMEN'S SAKE 


     The University of Missouri-Columbia investigates three
     areas: personal transformation, pedagogy, and difference.
     The three principal questions of their assessment plan
     are: What kinds of personal transformations occur in
     students who take women's studies courses? Do students
     think women's studies courses are taught differently than
     other courses? And, do students in women's studies gain
     a new understanding about the connections among gender,
     race, class, and sexual preference?

The University of Missouri was established in Columbia in 1839 as
the first public university in the Louisiana Purchase territory. In
1870, the university was approved as a land-grant university under
the Morrill Act of 1862. It is the largest of the four campuses in
the University of Missouri system, with a residential campus and
statewide extension program. The University of Missouri-Columbia is
located in the middle of the state, halfway between St. Louis and
Kansas City. More than 85 percent of the undergraduates are
Missouri residents. The majority of out-of-state students come from
adjacent Illinois and Kansas. Each year, about 25 percent of the
undergraduates are new students, freshmen, or transfers. The
student body numbers twenty- three thousand and includes seventeen
thousand undergraduates.

Data gathered in the Missouri Undergraduate Panel Study (MUPS)
provides information about the student body and an important
context for interpreting the responses of the women's studies
graduates to our questionnaire. The MUPS study drew a
representative sample constituting 30 percent of the students
entering as freshmen in 1982 and 1985. The students are
overwhelmingly white and midwestern: In 1982, 92 percent identified
them- selves as white/Caucasian, 5 percent as black, and one
percent as Asian American.

Less than 10 percent of the 1985 sample came from a distance of
more than five hundred miles. In the 1985 sample, about 20 percent
of the fresh- men had pledged a sorority or fraternity, and a
quarter of the first-year students had full- or part-time
employment (this percentage increases to more than half for juniors
and seniors). When asked about their political views, 57 percent of
the students identified themselves as "middle of the road." Twenty-
one percent identified themselves as conservatives compared to 15
percent liberals, and 1 percent identified themselves as being on
either the "far left" or the "far right."

For such students, women's studies is a challenge. As one women's
studies graduate said:

     I had never been so challenged. I have never worked so
     hard on anything in my life. Women's studies was an
     opening to myself. For the male-identified part of
     myself, this was the greatest challenge of my life. I am
     so pleased because women's studies provided me with the
     strength to never settle for anything that deprives me of
     all that I am worth.

Each of our graduates said that they would encourage other students
to become involved in the Women's Studies Program, but one
cautioned: "I'd tell them to do it. [But] it is not easy, and if
you are not ready to deal [with issues], don't do it."

                  THE WOMEN'S STUDIES PROGRAM 

The initial impetus for women's studies at UMC came from students.
In 1969-70, the Academics Committee of the Association for Women
Students contacted faculty members from a variety of departments
requesting an interdisciplinary course on women. That course was
taught in 1971. Six years later, the university appointed a woman
who was a graduate student in English to be the half-time
coordinator. In 1980, women's studies achieved formal program
status, and in 1981, the first student graduated with a women's
studies degree. After a national search that same year, the first
full-time director with teaching responsibilities in women's
studies was hired.

With the full-time director, the program moved from the "cafeteria"
approach of its early years to a more coherent program informed by
feminist theory. The Women's Studies Committee developed a set of
interdisciplinary core courses taught through women's studies and
also established stringent cross-listing procedures that
distinguished between women's studies courses (guided by feminist
principles) and women-related courses (with significant content
centered on women and gender). The attempt to build an integrated
curriculum occurred in the face of opposition to feminism and
disbelief in women's studies as a scholarly endeavor. -2 In 1983,
a course on the connections among gender, race, and class, which
became central to the program, was added to the core curriculum and
taught by the director. In 1988, when authorized to recruit a
full-time faculty member in women's studies, the program hired a
woman of color with expertise in this area to teach the course and
develop other offerings on race and gender.

Currently the program offers twenty-six courses taught by nineteen
affiliated faculty members. Although faculty concentration is
highest in arts and sciences, cross-listed courses also are located
in nursing, education, and journalism. In part because of this
intercollege teaching program, women's studies has been located
fiscally in the provost's office rather than in any one col- lege
of the university.

More than eight hundred students take women's studies courses each
year. The number of majors, however, always has been small, ranging
from one or two to ten graduating in a year. The majors pursue a
dual degree combining women's studies with another discipline of
their choice. At a university where most students consider
themselves "middle of the road" politically, and only 15 percent
see themselves as "liberal" (and 1 percent as radical), becoming a
women's studies major is a deviant act. Yet because of their small
numbers, the majors form a group supportive of each other within
this relatively hostile environment. They also work closely with
the office staff and faculty members, and most have served on the
Women's Studies Committee. These majors are a central focus of our


In the first year of the FIPSE project, each program was asked to
produce a statement of the goals of the program and to think about
ways of assessing whether or not our goals for student learning
were being met. This task proved to be difficult for us for a
number of reasons.

In the first place, faculty members had negative feelings about
assessment. Our governor had been involved early in the push for
state-mandated assessment and, unfortunately, brought that to
Missouri in a way that pitted state-funded institutions of higher
education against one another. The governor's model--one that has
been endorsed by the board of curators--is a rigid, quantitative,
"value-added" approach. At this institution, then, assessment was
politicized in such a way that many faculty members saw assessment
primarily as a weapon to be used against them.

Second, the project came during a transitional period within the
program: We were discovering that goals and processes clearly
articulated in the early 1980s no longer had consensus backing from
members of the committee. The second half of the 1980s had been a
period of consolidation and institutionalization for the program.
Departments began hiring faculty members with expertise in women's
studies, greatly expanding the course offerings as well as
participation in the program. Yet these women had not been involved
in the development of the program and did not necessarily share the
perspectives of those who had. This became more apparent when the
director, who had provided much of the vision for the program
throughout the 1980s, took a leave of absence in 1988-89 and
resigned from the program the following year.

Finally, even without the particularities of our institutional
context, there are inherent difficulties in the process of
formulating goals. The instrumental approach to assessment often
fostered by institutional exigencies was rejected: No one wanted to
repeat the "assessment process," wherein departments had tried to
figure out what kind of information the administration wanted from
them, and the most efficient way to get it, in order to place the
department in the most favorable light. Yet consensus processing
requires shared interests and a long time frame; it was not clear
that we had either. -3 What we did have was a real passion for
teaching and a long-term commitment to exploring feminist pedagogy.
-4 Pedagogy became, then, the basis for two faculty development
workshops held in the fall of 1990 and 1991, which ultimately gave
focus to our campus assessment design.

In the fall of 1989, we also held a series of potluck dinners
attended by faculty, staff, and student members of the Women's
Studies Committee, to discuss key concerns we had about student
learning. We reviewed some of our documents, including our mission
statement and our cross-listing guidelines, and began to formulate
program goals. Our discussions ultimately led us to how we could do
the following: 

*  support our students as ambassadors of feminism 
*  continue to address the campus wide problems of sexism, racism,
and other injustices 
*  create with our students a setting in which all voices may be
     *  create a safe place for personal growth and for nurturing
     *  create discomfort and introduce risk by shaking core
     unexamined assumptions 

*  transform the self and challenge ideologies as a critical
function, encouraging personal and intellectual transformation and
moving from understanding one's own personal experiences to
understanding others' 
*  maintain self-consciousness about methods, including the ways in
which research strategies presume certain kinds of gender
*  place our studies at the intersection of race, class, gender,
sexual preference, and other categories of analysis, fostering the
understanding that truth is partial 
*  incorporate multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary perspectives in
the course 
*  realize the possibility of the course as a laboratory, open to
risk for students and instructors alike 
*  facilitate the development of self-esteem through the successful
engagement of difficult tasks
*  increase the pool of literature known in our subject areas.

We did not translate these concerns directly into a set of
"assessment questions" formulated in terms of "how can we measure
to what extent are we doing these things," yet they informed
faculty discussions, classroom assessment, and the questionnaire we
eventually administered to graduates.

Rather than developing an assessment plan that would be imposed on
the faculty members teaching in the program, we worked toward a
model of assessment grounded in the activities faculty members
already were carrying out in their classes. We talked in terms of
"faculty development" instead of "assessment," believing that a
good assessment project would, in fact, contribute to better
teaching. Since many women's studies faculty members used Journals,
peer review, and papers as assignments in their classes, the first
faculty development workshop examined how such assignments already
embedded in courses could become a rich source of systematic
feedback about what students learn. Pat Hutchings, from the FIPSE
Project National Assessment Team, led the workshop session on
portfolio assessment. As a result of the workshop, five faculty
members undertook projects in their women's studies classes during

For our second faculty development workshops the following year, we
invited another member of the National Assessment Team, Jill
Mattuck Tarule, one of the authors of Women's Ways of Knowing. She
focused our attention on students as knowers. Combining the
insights and methodologies learned in the two faculty development
workshops with a preliminary analysis of the student responses to
the questionnaires, we began to formulate an assessment design for
our campus. Ultimately we investigated three areas personal
transformation, pedagogy, and difference. Undergirding our
assessment plan were three principal questions: 

* What kinds of personal transformations occur in students who take
women's studies courses? 
* Do students think women's studies courses are taught differently
than other courses and, if so, how? 
* Do students in women's studies gain a new understanding about the
connections among gender, race, class, and sexual preference?

In the process of working with outside assessment experts, we
realized that we had a number of data sources about our students
that we had never used fully. For example, our student evaluation
forms, used in all women studies courses, provide a wealth of
information about women's studies students, including demographic
information as well as responses to courses and teaching. We
envisioned using this data to provide a demographic profile of our
students over the last ten years. The course evaluation form in use
from 1983-1992 also asked extensive questions about classroom
atmosphere. We hoped to analyze that data quantitatively,
separating out responses of relevant subgroups of students, such as
women studies majors from non-majors. Unfortunately, time
constraints prevented us from carrying out this part of the
assessment project.

We were able, however, to compile limited demographic information
about our students. In the ten-year period from 1981 to 1990,
thirty students graduated with degrees in women's studies. Of
these, six (or 20 percent) were African American. We also looked at
those students who had taken three or more women's studies classes
over the last five years.S Of these additional eighty-nine
students, 13 percent were African American, with another 3 percent
Hispanic. In a university where only 5 percent of the entering
fresh- man class in 1985 were African American, the
disproportionately higher percentage of minority students in
women's studies is striking.

We also mailed an open-ended questionnaire to all of the women's
studies majors who had graduated as well as to current majors and
minors. The original questionnaire was based upon one that
Wellesley College's Women's Studies Program developed. -6
Fifty-four questionnaires were mailed out to women who had
graduated between 1981 and 1990 and to current majors and minors.
Eighteen responses were returned. Although small in number, the
responses offer notable interpretations of the experience of the
Women's Studies Program from a core group of students over the
first decade of the program's existence.


Looking at the experiences of graduates gives two kinds of
information not easily available in other ways. First, it is a way
of evaluating the program, as opposed to individual classes.
Second, it is one way to begin to assess education in women's
studies over a longer time frame than a single semester. In the
responses--from people who chose both to major in women's studies
and to answer our questionnaire--students describe women's studies
as unique. Yet it is hard to isolate what it is that makes it
unique. Nonetheless, the sense of connected learning and personal
transformation surfaces repeatedly in these women's accounts, as do
references to women's studies pedagogy and course content.

                    PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION 

Through the UMC women's studies experience, women students
discovered self-empowerment and became more critical about how they
think and evaluate the world. This critical mindfulness accompanied
the women in many aspects of their lives. They developed new goals
for learning and redefined what is intellectual as well as what is
political. Most wrote about coming to understand the social
construction of society. All students--from their very diverse
backgrounds--wrote that they felt validated and transformed.
Women's studies seems to have been particularly important for women
who had a minority status--women of color and lesbians, for
example. The women report that they became angry but also that they
learned to articulate their anger. They came to see themselves as
knowers, and they came to value the support of other women.

The change that accompanied this self-empowerment ranges from women
reporting that they would no longer tolerate racist and sexist
jokes to a reevaluation of the definition of self, knowledge, and
politics. A typical comment was the following: "I watch TV, read
magazines, look at advertisements, and assess movies differently
than I did before taking women's studies courses. I am more aware
of messages about women. I am certainly more critical than I used
to be."

For some majors, recognition and acceptance of their lesbianism was
a very large part of the validation and self-discovery found in
women's studies. The women's studies environment often was the only
place on campus where lesbians felt safe. Accompanying this sense
of safety came empowerment as a woman and as a lesbian. One woman
wrote, "I connected to my woman-self, black-self, and lesbian-self
from taking women's studies courses." Those who spoke of their
lesbianism told how the women's studies experience taught them to
question the "givens" and to trust their own perceptions of the
lives they had chosen for themselves. "One teacher showed me there
was some place to go -- that you could be smart, older, a dyke, and
have a place in the world."

Two-thirds of the majors felt a great amount of anger as they
became aware of systemic oppressions. Some learned to articulate
this newly acquired anger and use it productively. One student
explained how her anger gave her what she called "double vision."
This "double vision" provided her with a multiplicity of ideas as
opposed to one single patriarchal definition. For other students,
their anger made them feel an urgency about changing the world.
Still others were shocked to confront the kind of resistance to
equality they encountered as they attended their other classes,
interacted with friends and family, and saw society through new
eyes. All reported that they were more likely to notice sexism in
courses, texts, and in popular culture, but they also reported they
were better able to verbalize their disapproval and anger.

In addition to discovering how to transform anger into insights and
action' women students spoke of new goals for learning. The
following was a typical comment: "Most positively, I learned to
think and appreciate education for learning's sake." Learning
became more than students wanting to receive good grades. Some
students reported with satisfaction that they carried these changed
expectations into their other classes. Some, however, expressed
frustration as their changed selves encountered the status quo in
other disciplines.

One-fourth of the students reported discovering a new sense of
community with other women. One wrote: "I have put much more energy
into the women in my life...." Another said, "I value my time more
with my female friends." Maintaining friendships with women who
share a feminist perspective was important to almost every major.
"I now don't believe I am the only one fighting these battles,"
said one student, echoing another who said that women's studies
gave her a sense of not being alone.

Women's studies courses radicalized what students perceived as
intellectual beliefs and radicalized how they defined what is
political to them. Their definitions of politics changed. Prior to
taking women's studies, one woman described herself as young and
fairly a political. Through women's studies she came to a different
definition: "All is political, i.e., a reflection of social power
relationships, open to political analysis, and changeable by
political/collective action." 

Another stated, "I stopped being a Democrat because that is what my
folks were. I learned the difference between voting a ticket
because people had a party affiliation and voting for ideas you
cared for deeply." Another proclaimed, "Everything I do as a woman
in a patriarchal world challenges the dominant culture. This kind
of life is political. The courage to speak out in political ways
comes and goes; however, the notion to deeply question... would not
exist if it had not been for my women's studies courses."

The students also attributed changes in their conceptualizations of
feminism to women's studies courses. They learned that feminism
includes many different kinds of feminisms. When addressing these
diverse feminisms, students reported that the wide variety of views
were liberating to them. The kind of expansion of views reported by
the following woman was common:

     I guess before I encountered women's studies I thought
     "feminism" was a small movement for "women's rights . "
     Once I went through the door into women's studies, I
     realized "feminism" is shorthand for a transformative,
     broad, varied upheaval of female thought, activity, and
     power across the planet. Quite a change.

Another reported, "I have realized that feminism means a concern
not only with issues relevant to white, middle-class, hetero-women
but also with issues of race, class, nationality, physical
condition, and sexual preference."

These students perceived that women's studies transformed their
lives. They attributed the transformation to differences in how the
courses were taught and what the course content was. Graduates'
responses to both of these demonstrate the extent to which women's
studies is indeed a risk-taking endeavor that generates questions
rather than proclamations.


We asked students if they felt that women's studies classes were
taught in an alterative pedagogical style and, if so, to describe
one course as an example. For many students, sitting in a circle
symbolized the difference. One of the first graduates of the
program said that most of her women's studies courses offered an
alternative teaching style:

     For instance, in a "Women and Science Fiction"
     class-first off we would sit in a circle (vs. the teacher
     at the front and students behind) we read science fiction
     by women authors and discussed it not only for "literary"
     value but the questions it raised (or failed to raise)
     about our lives. At the end of the class we were asked to
     come up with essay questions for our own exam--an
     exercise that honored our ability to spark thoughtful

Another summarized the differences by saying, "The basic sense of
sitting in a circle and including individual women's personal
experiences as part of any theoretical discussions [typified] my
women's studies experience."

The higher level the course, the more students felt comfortable
sitting in these circles sharing their personal experiences. In the
seminar atmosphere, students felt more at ease learning through
exchanging experiences with classmates. Each student said that the
involvement of personal experience in classroom discussion was a
part of their women's studies encounter. "There is always a place
for those who feel at ease to discuss their experience. The
instructors used journals, personal writings, and diaries to
facilitate the process. That's the difference women's studies
makes." For this student and for half of the respondents, sharing
their personal experiences was comfortable, and their women's
studies classes were the only places on campus where they felt able
to do so.

A few, however, felt discomfort sharing their experiences. One
student said that any situation ruled by academia cannot always be
safe for students. Although another woman explained she generally
profited from sharing experiences, she also said she sometimes felt
pressured to share when she did not want to. Self-disclosure also
was referred to in some of the responses as "show- and-tell"
sessions, perhaps implicitly referring both to pressures to perform
and risks of public disclosure. One student offered the following

     People started telling stories and trusting that it was
     the right kind of atmosphere to do this. I thought it was
     good to finally hear people talking about their
     experiences and sharing their ideas about them, but I
     believe that some of the topics that were assigned were
     treated too flippantly by the students...because it was
     obvious that most students took it very seriously and
     what they revealed was very incarnate and private, but
     the way people reacted was more like gawking than

Discussion, rather than lectures, was the main vehicle for learning
in women's studies classes. Sometimes the topics were particularly
conflictual. One graduate said, "Students got into it about correct
classroom participation versus the freedom to say what you wanted
and how you wanted." One student remembered times when no one in
the room knew how to stop one student from silencing another.
Although the instructors were reported as trying to prevent this
kind of behavior, they were not always able to do so.

Even though the discussions sometimes appeared to be intense
debates one woman explained:
  didn't really feel conflictual, but more like we
     were trying to figure out the truth together. I think
     that trying to figure out the connections among gender,
     race, and class was difficult in all my women's studies

The presence of conflict in the classroom generated a wide spectrum
of responses from students. One woman wrote, "It sometimes seemed
to be the pretense that there were no conflicts when they clearly
were [there]." By contrast, another was distressed by the lack of
debate in the classroom: "In order to get to the center of what is
going on we need to learn to feel that conflict is okay when
communicating with one another."

When asked explicitly if the instructor encouraged different points
of view, every respondent answered "yes." According to students,
instructors themselves often brought up different points of view,
which encouraged students to model the professor's behavior. Over
half said that different political and theoretical points of view
within feminism were introduced, which proved beneficial in
subsequent classes. Beginning with the introductory course,
"Feminism: The Basic Questions," students reported that they were
introduced to traditional thought as well as to liberal, socialist,
radical, cultural, global, and womanist theories within feminism.
One student remarked, "I think women's studies was an excellent
introduction to the broad spectrum of thought because it taught me
to look for the underlying assumptions of writers on various
issues, and I learned how one's conclusions on issues or social
problems are shaped by the vehicles used to arrive at them. This
has been invaluable." Another said that women's studies provided a
place for her political perspectives whereas political science, her
major, did not.

Women's studies professors also encouraged an exploration of
different points of view in part through the great diversity of the
assigned readings. There was, according to students, such a
spectrum of experiences, values, and perspectives that students
gained a new appreciation of the difference in each women's
individual experience. One said, "We heard voices from other 190
students and read books that were non-patriarchal that helped
encourage us to think about issues from other points of view." Many
of the students even responded in the questionnaire with quotations
from a women's studies text that had changed their perspective on
difference, such as Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow,
Alice Walker's The Color Purple, or Audre Lorde's Sister/Outsider.

Respondents reported that women's studies teachers honored
difference as long as a student's comment did not degrade other
people. While tolerance for difference was high in the women's
studies classroom, at the same time students claimed that
instructors pointed out weaknesses in opposing points of view. One
student said, "If one argued for pinko commie liberalism, it was as
valid as conservatism if the arguments were valid." Another
described what she labeled as a radical approach: "One instructor
definitely wanted to hear from everyone. She genuinely found all of
her students interesting, rather than getting something out of
imparting secret knowledge to the masses." That same student also
thought it was radical at UMC to construct a course in which women
were the subjects of the course, not merely tacked onto the class,
as if women's exclusion from textbooks were the only sexism. If the
instructor chose to teach from what students defined as a radical
feminist perspective, she also was said to introduce more notions
of difference into the classroom. According to a student taking
"Women, Race, and Class," breaking down difference begins with the
kind of individual storytelling that typically takes place in
women's studies courses. At such a juncture, a distinctive women's
studies pedagogy overlaps with its distinctive content.


For the past decade, feminist theorizing has been informed by an
emphasis on difference. Our program has sought to move the
connections among gender, race, class and sexual preference to the
center of the curriculum. When asked about their learning in this
area, not surprisingly, all the students wrote about the course
"Women, Race, and Class." One student remembers it as very

     The first few weeks were used to introduce students to
     the "basics" of a women's studies course...such as
     patriarchy, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia,
     physicalism, ageism, and feminism. The class met twice a
     week. The first meeting was a lecture by one of the two
     instructors. I enjoyed the balance between the
     instructors. One was a woman of color and the other was
     a white woman. The second was a meeting of five or six
     students and a former student of the course (the group
     facilitator)...this is where we discussed the course

Another said, "The experience in 'Women, Race, and Class' was more
intense because the [small discussion] groups met every week. We
answered questions about our reading material and confronted one
another on our feeling of race and class."

There were varied responses when students were asked if race,
class, and sexual preference were talked about in their women's
studies courses. All but one student said that race was addressed
more than any other subject. One student said, "We spoke about it
almost every day in class." Others reported that race was in all
women's studies course material. "We read many different
perspectives from Afro-American, Hispanic, North American,
lower-class women, upper-class women, etc." Another confided, "
'Women, Race, and Class' was the greatest attempt by any
instructor(s) to pull theory into experience. Those two women
[co-teachers] will be in my heart forever."

Many courses include race, class, and sexual preference as they fit
into the discipline being taught. "Racism was addressed more in
some classes than others. This did not necessarily reflect some
bias on the teacher's part. For instance, race was not a topic in
'French Women Writers' but was the central topic in 'Black Women:
Catalysts for Change'." One student said, "In 'Chinese Women's
History,' race was the main topic. We focused on trying to learn
from their perspective rather than our own. Race was a minor issue,
but an issue in other classes."

It is possible that part of what the students sense is a difference
between talking about race and talking about racism. In this area,
we also find some criticism of what students refer to as "liberal
instructors" who are not "really dealing with issues of race." In
the way that many of the students used the phrase, "really dealing
with an issue" means connecting it to one's own experience as
oppressed and oppressor. By this standard, an instructor who
incorporated descriptions of experiences of people of different
races might still be accused of "not dealing with race." The issues
of how learning occurs are thus intertwined with the issues of what
is learned.

A surprising finding was that the students felt that race was an
easier topic to address than class. This is not to say that race
was easy, but race is clearly defined in American culture (perhaps
too clearly, given that race often is conceptualized in terms of
two opposing groups--blacks and whites), whereas class is
conceptually muddled. One student wrote the following reflections:

     Everyone could handle race rather than the question of
     class. Black, white, or otherwise, not too many people
     wanted to question the reasons why they were at the
     university. For all, the university is a ladder upward or
     at least a barrier away from what is perceived to be a
     part of what is the lower class. My realization of this
     grew after reading Praisesong for the Widow written by
     Paule Marshall. The main character was a black woman who
     had lost part of her being as she involved herself in
     what Tracy Chapman calls "black upward mobility. "

The students reported that many of their courses examined various
issues involving the impact of class on women's lives. Some
instructors addressed the subject by listing class in their syllabi
and the impact of "labor" and "women and work." Other courses
addressed classism and how it intersects with other oppressions.
Despite such efforts, students reported that class was not
addressed as frequently as race. One woman summed up her remarks by
saying, "class got short shrift. One classmate of mine with a very
blue-collar background thought it was because at college, it's too
scary to question the class structure because everyone's striving
to move upward. It would threaten our reasons for being there,
particularly for black women."

Just as a gap was reported in the coverage of race and class,
students believed that while sexual preference was included it was
discussed even less than class issues. Most students remembered the
extent to which it was discussed and what happened in the classroom
as a result:

     '85 it was scary and cutting-edge: touched on in larger
     classes, some- times to the disgust of some students, a
     larger issue in smaller classes where students trusted
     each other more. Sexual identity and desire, I remember,
     were difficult to theorize about then. Some effort [was
     made] in French Feminisms class--but [it was]

Students reported that lack of attention to sexual preference was
sometimes a result of the instructor's reluctance and sometimes to
the students' inability to accept the diversity of sexual
preferences that existed among the women in the classroom. Several
students noted that often, in history and English classes, "sexual
preference was tacked on like most women's studies courses are
tacked on to mainstream courses."

The women's studies students who responded to our questionnaire
wanted the program to provide an arena in which students of all
colors and cultural backgrounds could understand issues that were
not raised or discussed in depth in non-women's studies courses. It
also was important to them that women's studies provide an
appreciation of each level of a woman's life, culture, and
tradition. Several mentioned that women's studies should provide a
place of "safety" for students who do not feel accepted in other
departments at the university. As we think about the students'
remarks, it is critical to remember that all of these women are, in
fact, double majors. By majoring in women's studies they do not
avoid whatever is offered/required by other departments. Despite
the fact that one of our program goals is "to support students as
ambassadors of feminism," in reading student responses one is
struck by how difficult that task is and the degree to which they
find the university to be a hostile place.


Engagement in this project reflects and enhances an ongoing concern
with pedagogy in our program. The interviews and development
workshops with faculty members demonstrate this commitment in many
ways. The responses of the majors show the fruits of efforts to
promote collaborative learning in women's studies. Yet these varied
pieces of the assessment project also raise some issues for the

It is clear there is no single way of teaching a women's studies
class and that different students respond differently to various
classroom situations. It also seems clear that, in the words of one
participant in our faculty workshop, "We do not learn about justice
in the same way that we learn about the capitals of the states."
Students and faculty members in the program need to continue to
experiment with how to create optimal learning environments.

Yet the data also show some important differences in the
experiences of the graduates of the program and the faculty members
who teach in the program. One way to frame it is in terms of a
contrast between interdisciplinary women's studies and
multidisciplinary women's studies. The data from the majors and
graduates reveal that the program for them consists of the
interdisciplinary core courses. The data from faculty members
reveal a model that is closer to that of a multidisciplinary women
studies program. Faculty goal statements suggest they are most
concerned about doing feminist work in their own disciplines.

In the student questionnaires, by contrast, the majors and
graduates overwhelmingly defined women's studies as the three
interdisciplinary core courses. They described these courses as
"feminist" and "radical." They also associated a distinctive
pedagogy--more discussion and more collaborative learning--where
they learned that they had voices and felt validated. According to
students, the core courses integrated life experience with theory
and made the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual
preference a central concern.

Instructors in the cross-listed courses (which go through an
extensive course approval process and are taught from a "feminist
perspective") are as likely to be concerned about "feminist theory"
as they are about "feminism." The teachers' goal statements include
a more central emphasis on teaching/learning discipline-based
knowledge. Many of these faculty members are doing women's studies
within their disciplines.

The faculty members teaching cross-listed courses see themselves as
modifying their teaching styles to incorporate feminist pedagogy.
A number of them said that teaching women's studies classes allows
them to take risks, but these cross-listed courses are not
identified by the majors as having the distinctive style that
characterizes the core courses. This in part may be because some of
the key factors are out of a teacher's control. Instructors in
cross-listed courses complain of the difficulty teaching when the
women's studies students may not be grounded in the discipline, and
the students from the discipline are not grounded in feminism.7
They also may have little control over the size of the class; the
majors noted that the cross-listed classes were often too large for
the instructor to do much more than lecture. It is possible, of
course, that what we are seeing are the positive evaluations of
particular instructors who happened to teach the core courses.

We were not very successful in executing the quantitative part of
our project, and we want to note here the sheer difficulty we had
getting information from "already existing sources." Quantitative
data, such as the kind the registrar has about all students, would
have been very useful, but we found it virtually inaccessible.
Assessment projects like this one, which try to make use of data
already on hand, might do well to think about their own record
keeping. We found, for example, that we did not have addresses for
our graduates or even class lists for the students who took
cross-listed courses under the departmental numbers. There was a
real sense that we did not know who our students were.

We also underestimated the difficulty of analyzing data that could
be obtained. Both qualitative and quantitative data is
time-consuming to analyze. When we tried to hire a graduate
assistant, we found that the ones with methodological skills
already had research associateships (or did not know anything about
women's studies), and the ones with a background in women studies
had no methodologies training.

After the second faculty development workshop, the women's studies
faculty members decided that they would like to begin a regularly
scheduled faculty discussion group about pedagogy. One issue we
plan to work on is greater inclusion of issues of race, class, and
sexual preference across our curriculum. Another issue is the place
of disclosure--for faculty members as well as students--in the
women's studies classroom.

The differences that the majors describe between the core courses
and the cross-listed courses also raise a question about the
perceptions of those who are not majors. We know now that we have
a significant body of students who take three or more courses but
do not end up majoring in women's studies. We do not know--although
we could find out--whether they are any more likely to take
cross-listed courses rather than core courses. Neither do we know
why they are not becoming majors.

The women's studies committee also was struck by the way students
had validation through a "mirroring process" in women's studies. It
underscores for us the importance of having diversity reflected in
the program faculty. In the fall of 1991 we created a development
fund for a speaker's series that will bring in one speaker each
semester to bring us research and creative works in lesbian
studies, named in honor of our former director who showed many
students that they, too, "could find a place in the world."

1. We are grateful for the help of all the participants in the
Women's Studies Program who took time out in one way or another to
participate in the work of this project. Special thanks go to a
number of them: In the first year of the project Carole Myscofski,
as co-chair of the Women's Studies Committee, participated in
planning the project and wrote the first statement of pro- gram
goals. Elaine Lawless helped plan the faculty development workshop
in September of 1990, and Kay Foley tracked down information about
the institutional context. Barbara Bank contributed data from the
Missouri University Panel Study. Magdalena Garcia-Pinto and )an
Colberr read and commented on a draft of the report. We also
appreciate the support of Jeff Chinn, Vice Provost for Instruction,
who helped fund the Women's Studies Assessment Workshop and paid
the salary of Graduate Assistant Michelle Gadbois. Michelle's
analysis of the student questionnaire was the heart of this

2. For example, proposals for core courses were turned back by
university curriculum committees for "more documentation" to prove
that such courses were intellectually respectable. 

3. See Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy (Chicago
University of Chicago Press, 1983), for an analysis of consensus
decision making. 

4. In the spring of 1990, as acting director I interviewed all the
faculty members teaching in the program during that first year of
the project. The collective passion for teaching is what kept me
involved in this project. 

5. For cross-listed courses we included students as having taken a
women's studies course whether they registered through women's
studies or through the faculty member's home department. This list
was difficult to construct because women's studies only gets
information on those students who register under the women's
studies course number. 

6. We did this with the intention of comparing responses with
Wellesley, but Wellesley's project report analyzed a different
questionnaire distributed to current students rather than to majors
and graduates. 

7. A few faculty members and students expressed dissatisfaction
with a lack of cumulative structures throughout women's studies
courses. The mix of students in all the courses meant that some
time was always spent retracing basic grounding knowledge. One
faculty member suggested that this problem might occur with regard
to pedagogy as well as course content. In her classroom assessment
project using journals in an upper-level course, she found that
students who had not used them before engaged the task with
enthusiasm, but others who had frequently kept journals in their
women's studies courses responded in more perfunctory ways.