A Committee on Women’s Studies was created in 1972 to address the needs of the College of Arts and Science in the area of Women’s Studies at Vanderbilt University.
While Women’s Studies courses have been officially offered since the spring of 1973, it wasn’t until 1988 that the program appointed its first director, Nancy Walker (English). Professor Walker ably guided the program through its early stages, including getting the minor in Women’s Studies approved in May 1990. In 1997, under the leadership of Ronnie Steinberg (Sociology), the program flourished. With her enthusiastic guidance, the program began to offer a major and a Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies. Student enrollment in Women’s Studies courses increased to over 700, of which 60 were majors and minors.
Professor Steinberg retired as director of the Women’s Studies Program in 2003. Carolyn Dever (English) was the acting director of the program from spring 2004 to spring 2005, while a national search for a new director was launched. Professor Dever saw the program through its transition from the leadership of Ronnie Steinberg to the installation in 2004 of Monica J. Casper (Sociology). Charlotte Pierce-Baker (English) served as director until 2011; the program is now run by Katherine Crawford (History).
Over the years, these directors, working with the Steering Committee, have:
*Changed the program’s name to Women’s and Gender Studies
*Increased the number of Affiliated Faculty to more than 90, including several faculty from outside the College of Arts and Science
*Increased collaborative efforts and networking across campus with units such as the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, as well as the programs in African American and Diaspora Studies and Jewish Studies
*Broadened the WGS Steering Committee to include undergraduate and graduate students
*Created thematic concentrations in WGS including:
Feminisms: Global and Local
Gender, Activism, and Social Change
Gender, Bodies, and Health
Gender, Law, and Policy
Gender, Media, and the Arts
Intersections: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Class, Sexuality